Ransomware Cyberattacks Attacks Grow – Spotlight #376

1. Good Monday Morning

Batter up! Baseball season starts Thursday. It’s been 32 years since James Earl Jones intoned his famous “People Will Come” speech in Field of Dreams. Get ready for spring with this clip.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,119 words — about a 4 minute read.

2. News To Know Now

a) The Guardian reports that Facebook considers four political ideologies as hateful. When they are found, moderators must take action to remove them. White nationalism, white supremacy, white separatism, and Nazism are the four. According to the newspaper, a leaked 300-page document also indicates whether certain emoji constitute praise for hate speech.

The social media giant also learned last week that a UK government regulator is concerned that its acquisition of GIPHY might lead to anti-competitive behavior in display advertising. Facebook must respond to those concerns this week.

b) Online publisher Medium abruptly announced that it would buy out its editorial staff and appoint a new CEO, reports Axios. Medium is one of the Internet’s biggest digital-only publishers, according to industry reports, with 725,000 paying subscribers. Ev Williams, who previously founded or co-founded Twitter and Blogger, also wrote an open letter to employees.

Separately, Verizon announced that its diverse publications including TechCrunch and AutoBlog will be rebranded as part of a new Yahoo offering. Verizon’s remaining publications have a combined three million subscribers after it sold off HuffPost, MapQuest, and Tumblr.

c) A program that allows game designers to create photorealistic digital humans with hair, clothing, and voices in under one hour has been made available through the game design software Unreal Engine. Have a look at this short video that has delighted designers and been viewed more than one million times.

3. COVID-19 Tech News

Data – Daily Average (7 day trailing)

US Deaths – 983 (higher than Sept & October)
US Hospitalizations – 39,570
US partial or full vaccination – 28%

Great Trackers

Overview — Johns Hopkins
Vaccine Distribution — Washington Post
Vaccine Finder — CDC Project
Risk Calculator — Brown

New York Times tracker that allows you to customize a daily email with multiple cities and towns that you’re monitoring: Click here to configure.

Coronavirus & Tech News

Facebook Flags Venezuelan President’s PageThe Hill

New York Launches Excelsior Pass for Covid Tests, VaccinesSyracuse.com

White TX Republicans Refuse Vaccine More Than Any Other Group Chron.com

4. Search Engine News

Hyphenated words took the spotlight last week after Google admitted that they don’t ignore hyphens in words. We knew that, and we often debate words and spellings in our practice, but it was nice to see Google acknowledge that punctuation matters.

Recently, I reviewed search results for ten different hyphenated keyword phrases. Some keywords, such as “over-the-counter” and “one-half,” have drastically different search results when hyphens are added. We often tell our clients that our keyword research will reveal the difference between the times when it makes sense to use the word “attorney” as opposed to its synonym “lawyer”. Google’s clarification about hyphenated words is welcome.

More welcome news: Microsoft has submitted a new proposal to build software into WordPress that would automatically upload sitemaps to search engines for those 40% of the world’s websites that use WordPress. That is a process that web managers use separate software to address now.

5. In The Spotlight — Ransomware Cyberattacks 

Ransomware cyberattack payouts tripled last year and are increasing again due to wider acceptance of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin that the criminals often demand. Cybercriminals are getting smarter in their attacks though. Insurance giant CNA announced last week it was the latest big name company to sustain a disruption. 

CNA had to disable its web services and email after Bleeping Computer first reported how the attack encrypted more than 15,000 devices on its network. Other high-profile companies that have suffered ransomware cyberattacks in March include the computer company Acer, the University of Miami, and the brewer MolsonCoors. Acer reportedly spent $50 million restoring its systems.

Any company can be a victim of ransomware criminals. A Wichita clothing company was also attacked last week. The Tightwrapz Printshop got a notification that its software and designs had been encrypted and could only be obtained for a fraction of a bitcoin — a little over $550. Criminals typically follow this “easier to pay” ransomware strategy, but Tightwrapz owner Daniel Trantham told KSN that he alerted the FBI and hired an IT expert.

As large and small organizations battle ransomware cyberattacks, there are always new challenges to guard against. Recently, we learned of a researcher who infected 35 tech firms that included Microsoft, Apple, PayPal, Netflix, and Uber while testing a new technique.

Worth your consideration: It’s a crisis when Microsoft and Apple fall prey to an attack. Put appropriate insurance in place and consult your IT team. Criminals who aren’t paid often retaliate by releasing the organization’s files on the internet.

6. Debunked — VP Harris Saluting

Vice President Kamala Harris is taking heat across social media after being criticized by disgraced former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik for not saluting troops while boarding Air Force Two.

As the Pentagon pointed out, civilians are not required to render a hand salute.

7. Following Up — NFTs

NY Times columnist Kevin Roose wrote about a meta-experiment he tried. He would write a column about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and sell an NFT of that column for charity.

The bit was cute, Roose carefully set the minimum price at $800 …

… and the damn thing sold for $560,000.

Want to learn more about NFTs? We covered them here. If you have New York Times access, you can read Roose’s column here.

8. Protip — Avoiding Instagram Scams

Spotlight readers don’t get hoodwinked often, but see above where Microsoft and Apple got nailed by a friendly security researcher and then have a peek at this handy Naked Security list of 8 common Instagram scams.

9. Screening Room – Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz (“we invented the car”) has a gorgeous commercial out this week touting its new sustainable energy initiative. Keep an ear out for the haunting cover of “Come Together”.

10. Science Fiction World — Delivery Robots are Pedestrians

Delivery robots carrying no more than 500 pounds and with a top speed of 12 mph are considered pedestrians under a new Pennsylvania law, reports Car and Driver.

I am simultaneously in love with this idea and wary of sharing the sidewalk with something carrying hundreds of pounds while moving at 12 mph.

 11. Coffee Break — That Big Boat

Shaun Dakin found this hilarious clip of a former traffic reporter guiding ships through the Suez Canal.

Humanity bonds over the strangest things.

12. Sign of The Times

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