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Scale, details of massive Kaseya ransomware attack emerge – CTV News

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BOSTON —
Cybersecurity teams worked feverishly Sunday to stem the impact of the single biggest global ransomware attack on record, with some details emerging about how the Russia-linked gang responsible breached the company whose software was the conduit.

An affiliate of the notorious REvil gang, best known for extorting $11 million from the meat-processor JBS after a Memorial Day attack, infected thousands of victims in at least 17 countries on Friday, largely through firms that remotely manage IT infrastructure for multiple customers, cybersecurity researchers said. They reported ransom demands of up to $5 million.

The FBI said in a statement Sunday that it was investigating the attack along with the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, though “the scale of this incident may make it so that we are unable to respond to each victim individually.”

President Joe Biden suggested Saturday the U.S. would respond if it was determined that the Kremlin is at all involved. He said he had asked the intelligence community for a “deep dive” on what happened.

The attack comes less than a month after Biden pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop providing safe haven to REvil and other ransomware gangs whose unrelenting extortionary attacks the U.S. deems a national security threat.

A broad array of businesses and public agencies were hit by the latest attack, apparently on all continents, including in financial services, travel and leisure and the public sector — though few large companies, the cybersecurity firm Sophos reported. Ransomware criminals break into networks and sow malware that cripples networks on activation by scrambling all their data. Victims get a decoder key when they pay up.

The Swedish grocery chain Coop said most of its 800 stores would be closed for a second day Sunday because their cash register software supplier was crippled. A Swedish pharmacy chain, gas station chain, the state railway and public broadcaster SVT were also hit.

In Germany, an unnamed IT services company told authorities several thousand of its customers were compromised, the news agency dpa reported. Also among reported victims were two big Dutch IT services companies — VelzArt and Hoppenbrouwer Techniek. Most ransomware victims don’t publicly report attacks or disclose if they’ve paid ransoms.

CEO Fred Voccola of the breached software company, Kaseya, estimated the victim number in the low thousands, mostly small businesses like “dental practices, architecture firms, plastic surgery centers, libraries, things like that.”

Voccola said in an interview that only between 50-60 of the company’s 37,000 customers were compromised. But 70% were managed service providers who use the company’s hacked VSA software to manage multiple customers. It automates the installation of software and security updates and manages backups and other vital tasks.

Experts say it was no coincidence that REvil launched the attack at the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, knowing U.S. offices would be lightly staffed. Many victims may not learn of it until they are back at work on Monday. The vast majority of end customers of managed service providers “have no idea” what kind of software is used to keep their networks humming, said Voccola,

Kaseya said it sent a detection tool to nearly 900 customers on Saturday night.

John Hammond of Huntress Labs, one of the first cybersecurity firms to sound the alarm on the attack, said he’d seen $5 million and $500,000 demands by REVil for the decryptor key needed to unlock scrambled networks. The smallest amount demanded appears to have been $45,000.

Sophisticated ransomware gangs on REvil’s level usually examine a victim’s financial records — and insurance policies if they can find them — from files they steal before activating the data-scrambling malware. The criminals then threaten to dump the stolen data online unless paid. It was not immediately clear if this attack involved data theft, however. The infection mechanism suggests it did not.

“Stealing data typically takes time and effort from the attacker, which likely isn’t feasible in an attack scenario like this where there are so many small and mid-sized victim organizations,” said Ross McKerchar, chief information security officer at Sophos. “We haven’t seen evidence of data theft, but it’s still early on and only time will tell if the attackers resort to playing this card in an effort to get victims to pay.”

Dutch researchers said they alerted Miami-based Kaseya to the breach and said the criminals used a “zero day,” the industry term for a previous unknown security hole in software. Voccola would not confirm that or offer details of the breach — except to say that it was not phishing.

“The level of sophistication here was extraordinary,” he said.

When the cybersecurity firm Mandiant finishes its investigation, Voccola said he is confident it will show that the criminals didn’t just violate Kaseya code in breaking into his network but also exploited vulnerabilities in third-party software.

It was not the first ransomware attack to leverage managed services providers. In 2019, criminals hobbled the networks of 22 Texas municipalities through one. That same year, 400 U.S. dental practices were crippled in a separate attack.

One of the Dutch vulnerability researchers, Victor Gevers, said his team is worried about products like Kaseya’s VSA because of the total control of vast computing resources they can offer. “More and more of the products that are used to keep networks safe and secure are showing structural weaknesses,” he wrote in a blog Sunday.

The cybersecurity firm ESET identified victims in least 17 countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Indonesia, New Zealand and Kenya.

Kaseya says the attack only affected “on-premise” customers, organizations running their own data centers, as opposed to its cloud-based services that run software for customers. It also shut down those servers as a precaution, however.

Kaseya, which called on customers Friday to shut down their VSA servers immediately, said Sunday it hoped to have a patch in the next few days.

Active since April 2019, REvil provides ransomware-as-a-service, meaning it develops the network-paralyzing software and leases it to so-called affiliates who infect targets and earn the lion’s share of ransoms. U.S. officials say the most potent ransomware gangs are based in Russia and allied states and operate with Kremlin tolerance and sometimes collude with Russian security services.

Cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank said that while he does not believe the Kaseya attack is Kremlin-directed, it shows that Putin “has not yet moved” on shutting down cybercriminals.

——

AP reporters Eric Tucker in Washington, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Jari Tanner in Helsinki and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.

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Jeff Bezos' very negative rocket launch: One minuscule fix could have avoided it – Inverse

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A tsunami of dunks arrived in the wake of Jeff Bezos’ 11-minute rocket ride in a questionably shaped New Shepard launch vehicle earlier this week.

It seemed that large percentages of highly-online people were of the opinion that the world’s wealthiest man had just squandered enormous amounts of cash on a pointless joyride and that the reportedly $10 billion he’s invested so far in Blue Origin, his aerospace company, could have been better spent elsewhere.

Even reporter Soledad O’Brien got in on the pessimistic hot takes:

The question is, did Bezos and Blue Origin miss an opportunity to better shape the narrative around their media event? And, if so, what could they have done?

Revelations that Bezos might only pay a true tax rate of 0.98 percent — far less than the average American — and his moves to squash unionizing efforts at his company Amazon, certainly didn’t help the matter. The cowboy-hat-wearing CEO’s own comments thanking “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all of this,” were similarly tone-deaf, drawing condemnation from U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.

But in some ways, those issues are orthogonal to the matter of what kind of value a suborbital flight like Bezos’ can bring to the world.

To put it another way, there is one tweak that Bezos could have made to improve the public’s perception of space travel and science, which undoubtedly took a severe beating because of his clumsy approach.

It’s something that Elon Musk — who is, no doubt just as big a huckster as Bezos — does with ease, and claims an army of space-loving fans because of it: Musk merely often explains there’s a larger purpose at play than just a rich boomer going to space.

The technology developed for the dick-shaped rocket can be used for good here, and the scientific discovery and research that tech may enable is potentially good for all humanity.

“People didn’t understand why it was important that commercial companies replicate something government did decades ago,” Laura Forczyk, owner of the space consulting firm Astralytical, tells Inverse.

“I like to talk about how money spent in space isn’t really spent in space; it’s spent on Earth. All the technologies created in spaceflight are useful to society.”

Forczyk saw the jaunt in terms of its potential for scientific discovery. New Shepard has already carried experiments for universities, NASA, and private companies on previous uncrewed flights and intends to continue to do so. Along with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which has also started taking experimental payloads into suborbital space, a larger market could develop for research opportunities in this region, Forczyk says.

Yet Blue Origin’s ham-handed attempts at self-promotion haven’t always been the finest. The company, which did not respond to a request for comment from Inverse, sent what appeared to be an extremely petty tweet aimed at their competitor, Virgin Galactic, shortly before the latter’s launch a week earlier:

“They were perhaps trying to point out, from a marketing standpoint, that their product and service had superior features,” Chris Lewicki, an engineer and space entrepreneur, tells Inverse. “In retrospect that was clearly a bad idea.”

Lewicki thinks that the misstep was relatively minor and likely to be soon forgotten. “But it creates a bit of a predisposition for people to be less receptive to the message that follows,” he said.

Perhaps Blue Origin won’t ultimately pay much of a price for such lapses in judgment. Research has shown that even negative word-of-mouth can increase public awareness of a brand and help sell goods, Jessie Liu, a marketing professor at Johns Hopkins University, tells Inverse.

“Compared to [Elon Musk’s] SpaceX, Blue Origin was born with far less hype and publicity in the game of space travel,” she writes via email. “So even criticism about Jeff Bezos that gets people to talk about Blue Origin and create awareness is not necessarily a bad thing for the company.”

There might be an opportunity for the aerospace company to identify and covert the most engaged consumers through negative word-of-mouth, Liu added, since such comments tend to stem from people’s emotional investment, and passion can lead to activity.

Though he understood where some of it was coming from, the negative commentary frustrates Lewicki: “There seems to be a lot of attention on two or three individuals, and a wish that they shouldn’t be that wealthy or that they should be using their wealth in some different way.”

Both he and Forczyk point out that the fact that Bezos and other billionaires aren’t paying as much as they might to the U.S. government in taxes is more a matter for legislators to try to solve, and that Bezos is taking active steps to donate parts of his vast wealth to causes he deems valuable.

“For me, it’s an opportunity for self-reflection,” says Lewicki. “If I’m complaining that Bezos isn’t using his resources to charitably solve problems, then how do I rank up with using my time?”

For us standing at this moment in history, it can be hard to know what future results will come from something like this first passenger launch of New Shepard. Comparing Blue Origin to Amazon, Lewicki says that Bezos seems particularly adept at creating never-before-seen kinds of infrastructure to, say, routinely deliver packages quicker than anyone thought possible.

In the end, the haters are going to say whatever they want about Bezos and his pursuits. It’s possible (probable, even) that even if Bezos was clear about the loftier ambitions of Blue Origin — “millions of people living and working space” is the tag line — the launch would still be received poorly.

But the billionaire’s passion for space travel is deep-seated, and Lewicki says Bezos has personally told him he’s never planning to give up on that dream.

“Right now, the message he’s talking about is building the road to space,” he said. “That’s the theme he’s employing.”

Advocates for space exploration and the advancement of science and technology can hope that the road to space is a well-thought-out one, with the no-good optics and naked commercialism of this past week’s 11-minute flight quickly replaced with efforts that more clearly serve the greater good.

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COVID-19: Ottawa adult vaccinations at 69 per cent; Ontario reports 192 new cases – Ottawa Citizen

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Ottawa Public Health reported Friday that 69 per cent of adults in the capital are fully vaccinated.

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According to the OPH vaccination dashboard, updated Friday morning, 591,639 people aged 18 and over have the two shots.

In all, 83 per cent of the population 12 years and older has received one dose.

Seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa on Friday, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 27,268.

The death toll remains unchanged at 593.

Ottawa Public Health knows of 41 active cases in the region. However, there are no COVID-19 patients in hospital.

In indicators of interest, the rolling seven-day average of cases per 100,000 residents is 3.9, while the populations per cent positivity in testing is 0.5.

The reproductive number, the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, is 1.28.

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Latest COVID-19 news in Ottawa

Ontario reported 192 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday.

While it’s the second week the province’s numbers have been below 200, confirmed cases have climbed significantly from Monday, when 130 new cases were reported.

Currently, there are 137 people in hospital in Ontario, with 136 in ICU due to COVID-related illness and 84 on a ventilator. (Ontario Public Health statistics of ICU hospitalizations and ventilator cases contain some patients who no longer test positive for COVID-19 but who are being treated for conditions caused by the virus.)

There have been 548,986 confirmed cases and 9,308 deaths since the pandemic began.

In health regions in the Ottawa area, Renfrew and District reported three new cases. There were no new cases reported in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Kingston or Leeds, Grenville and Lanark units.

Latest COVID-19 news in Quebec

Quebec reported 101 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death Friday morning.

Hospitalizations in the province declined by four patients, for a total of 67. The number of cases in ICU were unchanged at 21.

The province administered 94,624 additional vaccine doses were administered over the previous 24 hours.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 376,530 cases and 11,239 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Latest COVID-19 news in Canada

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam reported Friday that 46.7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Canada, and more than 60 per cent of people over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.

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Dutch Teen Who Went to Space With Jeff Bezos Told Him He’s Never Bought Anything on Amazon – Gizmodo

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New Shepard lifts off from Launch Site One in West Texas with four humans on board. (July 20, 2021)

The award for “Best Small Talk on a Flight to Space” goes to Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old from the Netherlands who was part of Blue Origin’s inaugural crewed flight to space earlier this week. On the roughly 10-minute flight, Daemon told Amazon founder Jeff Bezos what probably sounded like blasphemy to his billionaire ears: He had never bought anything on Amazon.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Daemen recounted his first flight to space, from when he got the call asking him if he was interested to the conversations he had with his crewmates, which included Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk. Daemen, whose father is the CEO of a private equity firm in the Netherlands, became the youngest person to ever fly to space, while Funk became the oldest.

The teen also holds the distinction of surprising Bezos, whose Amazon empire has made him one of the richest men in the world.

“I told Jeff, like, I’ve actually never bought something from Amazon,” Daemen told Reuters. “And he was like, ‘oh, wow, it’s [been] a long time [since] I heard someone say that.’”

Considering that Bezos thanked “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer” for making the flight possible after he and the crew returned to Earth, Daemen’s comments may have been a little awkward. However, it’s nice (and kind of funny) to hear that someone was frank with him. Bezos no doubt has enough people telling him that Amazon is God’s gift to humanity, so it’s cool to see one of the youths set him straight.

Daemen wasn’t originally supposed to go on the flight with Bezos and crew. He was offered the opportunity after the winner of the online auction for the seat, whose identity is still unknown and who paid a whopping $28 million for it, said they couldn’t go because of “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen, who was a participant in the auction and had already secured a spot on the second flight, was then moved up on the list. His father, Joes Daemen, paid for the seat.

According to Daemen, his family didn’t pay anything near what the mysterious bidder paid for the opportunity.

“We didn’t pay even close to $28 million, but they chose me because I was the youngest and I was also a pilot and I also knew quite a lot about it already,” he said.

The teen, who will begin his studies at Utrecht University in September, said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally, but would consider focusing on space travel. He also told the outlet that his fellow travelers were “super fun and all down to Earth.” Well, considering Daemen’s referring to a man that wants to stupidly move all polluting industry into space, I’m not sure I’m sold on that.

Congratulations on the award for that great small talk, though.

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