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Sorta Safe and Secure

With the recent spate of security breaches — at Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, among other places — Ed Silverman at Pharmalot wonders whether the US Food and Drug Administration is at risk.

As he writes, though, FDA has already been subject to a "wide-scale" security breach that affected some 14,000 accounts.

According to a new report from the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, the FDA computer system has a few vulnerabilities.

For instance, it noted that the system has inadequate validation on webpage input, which could allow an attacker to send malicious input to the FDA pages and hijack a user's web browser to install malicious programs or send that user to a malicious site. Additionally, the report found that some error messages the FDA site gives reveals sensitive information such as the version of the software the agency uses that could aid an attacker.

The OIG reviewed the FDA systems last year, at the agency's request, Silverman notes. Not all systems, though, were tested, as the agency didn't want to risk some "mission-critical" ones going offline.

FDA tells Silverman that the agency has resolved these issues, and the OIG says a third party will be performing penetration testing, adding that such testing "will be of use until such time that we can actually perform a retest."

The Scan

Foxtail Millet Pangenome, Graph-Based Reference Genome

Researchers in Nature Genetics described their generation of a foxtail millet pangenome, which they say can help in crop trait improvement.

Protein Length Distribution Consistent Across Species

An analysis in Genome Biology compares the lengths of proteins across more than 2,300 species, finding similar length distributions.

Novel Genetic Loci Linked to Insulin Resistance in New Study

A team reports in Nature Genetics that it used glucose challenge test data to home in on candidate genes involved in GLUT4 expression or trafficking.

RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

A paper in Cell reports that octopuses use RNA editing to help them adjust to different water temperatures.