REvil Ransomware Attack Hits Small Businesses – Spotlight #389

1. Good Monday Morning

It’s July 12th and still brutally hot throughout most of the country. The unofficial temperatures in Death Valley reported on Sunday were around 130 degrees. That’s still a few degrees short of the world record and very dangerous. Our friends at Moms Clean Air Force have lots of free extreme weather resources that address women’s health, children’s health, and wildfires.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,197 words — about a 4 minute read.

2. News To Know Now

Quoted: ” … the Infringement increased traffic to the Account, and, in turn, caused Defendant to realize an increase its [sic] advertising revenues and/or merchandise sales.” — a copyright infringement suit filed against pop star Dua Lipa who posted a picture of herself on Instagram that was taken by a paparazzi photographer. Musicians Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande have faced similar suits.

a) Google and Amazon are also facing legal action over entertainment. We learned Friday that the Federal Trade Commission is launching a probe over Amazon’s purchase of MGM. That deal was announced in May, but Amazon critic and new FTC chair Lina Khan recently received Senate approval for her position. That move came only two days after a group of nearly forty states led by Utah filed an antitrust suit against the Google Play Store used to distribute Android apps.

b) Amazon is also facing criticism for conditioning supplier approval based on whether the company will allow Amazon the option of purchasing equity at below market rates. The Wall Street Journal broke the news and reported that Amazon has done “more than 75 such deals.” Those equity arrangements were with diverse companies such as grocery distributors, energy companies, and air transportation firms.

c) TikTok is blaming a programming error for allegations raised by an influencer that the company flagged as inappropriate phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” and “black success,” but allowed phrases like “white supremacy” to be posted. Recode reports that TikTok claimed its “hate speech detector is triggered by a combination of words involving the words “Black” and “audience” — because “audience” contains the word “die” in it.”

3. Search Engine News — Site Appearance Can Hurt Rankings

Google search executive John Mueller doubled down on a 2019 post the company made that suggested a website’s appearance can harm its overall rankings. Search Engine Journal quoted Muller in a recent webinar as saying, “If, for example, you have something that is on a financial topic and people come to you and say “well your information is okay but it’s presented in a way that looks very amateurish,” — then that could reflect how your website is perceived. And in the long run could reflect something that is visible in search as well.”

Google announced last week that business owners can now create posts about events — including details like when and where they are happening — in their business profile. That event information will now be shown in Search and on Google Maps.

4. Spotlight Explainer — REvil Ransomware

REvil Ransomware Explainer: Ransomware is the name for a program that locks up computers and their files. REvil is the name of a Russian crime syndicate that launched a ransomware attack right before the Independence Day long weekend that targeted software that IT companies use. About 50 of those IT companies were compromised. Their customers are mostly small organizations, and about 1,500 were reportedly victims.

How Much Did This Cost?: Initial reportssuggested that the IT companies would have to pay $5 million each and their end customers pay up to $45,000 each to retrieve their encrypted files. That price would double after July 9. Not helping matters: opportunistic scammers who posed as the REvil hackers and tried to steal the ransom.

Who Was Affected?:  A handful of schools in New Zealand, a Swedish supermarket chain, a Norwegian financial services company, and the network of Leonardtown, Maryland, were all reported victims of this REvil ransomware attack.

What’s The Status?:  Many of the affected companies are using backups and workaround systems to operate. By last Friday, fewer than 100 organizations were still affected, which is great, unless you’re involved with one of those hundred. 

Who Are These REvil Ransomware People? Operating under the collective name REvil, this group first made headlines by attacking a law firm with high profile clients that included Madonna. In May, they attacked meat processor JBS S.A. and disrupted food supply chains in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Their other targets this year include Apple and computer manufacturer Acer.

5. Debunked — SBA Grants May Be Real

The Small Business Administration still has COVID relief funds to grant to small businesses operating in low income areas. The money can be up to $15,000 and does not have to be repaid. 

To learn more about the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, you’ll want to start at the SBA’s website instead of some random email.

 6. Following Up — NFTs Still Selling Well

We told you about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) way back in March. They are digital certificates tied to some sort of ephemera like a video highlight or song. They don’t signify ownership. Instead, they’re like a digital trading card.

Celebrities and sports leagues sold a bunch of them for a lot of money. Even toymaker Mattel got involved with auctions around its Hot Wheels cars.

Separately, world wide web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee auctioned an NFT that represented the source code of the web. Berners-Lee insisted that the values of the web were being followed because the underlying structure remains free, and yeah, he’s probably right. An undisclosed buyer spent more than $5 million at Sotheby’s on an image of the code, but techies enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude afterwards when they noted that the code contained an error. 

7. Protip — Recover Cloud Based Documents–Even Edits

Even if you’re working solo, you may be using collaborative software like Google Docs or Microsoft Word that includes a history of all edits. Follow the easy-to-use Gizmodo guide to easily restore previous versions of files stored online.

Screening Room — Air Bubble Playground

I am in love with this spot from nasal spray Otrivin. Along with partner ecoLogicStudio, they created a playground that cleans the air as kids play. 

9. Science Fiction World — The First Virtual Student

Hua Zhibing is a virtual student powered by a one trillion scale model known as Wudao 2.0. We’ve written a lot about Open AI’s GPT-3 model and its scope, which is reportedly less powerful than Wudao by a couple of orders of magnitude. 

Hua is a deep learning model expected to get closer to passing a Turing test than any other previous attempt. The 70 year old Turing test is a measure of a computer’s ability to pass for human when interacting with a human.

10. Coffee Break — Open Puppies

Sometimes you just need to see a bunch of good puppers and doggos who aren’t trying to use deep learning models to pass for human. That’s the whole point of Open Puppies, which you should indeed open whenever you need a lift this week. 

11. Sign of The Times

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