THE CASARES FORMULA: An Argentinian trick to become a bitcoin millionaire

Crypto-currencies have heralded the 21st century version of the Gold Rush as rising interest in the investment power of these new forms of payment is buoyed by the innate desire of many people to become rich beyond their wildest dreams. While some are very much wary of the newfangled money, particularly given the oft-reported lurches in the value of Bitcoin itself, a crypto-currency pioneer from Argentina claims to have worked out a simple formula to transform yourself into a bitcoin millionaire.

 

Entrepreneur Wenceslao Casares is the CEO of startup Xapo, a company that offers storage, purchase and purse services for bitcoins, and was previously founder of an Internet service provider, a video game company and a bank. Largely based in the tech heartland of Silicon Valley in the United States these days, Casares has long been a vocal defender of bitcoin and played a role in the development of the internet itself, according to online magazine Grandes Medios. His love of crypto and hobnobbing with the technorati even enabled him to convince Microsoft tech billionaire Bill Gates to adopt the currency. Casares also took on a position as an advisor for the compensation board of the PayPal council in 2016.

Being so familiar with the technology of the Net, you would have expected Casares to be quite knowledgeable about crypto-currencies, and indeed he claims to have cracked the binary code behind how to win big with cryptocoins. 

In an address to crypto advocates at the Westin Hotel in Times Square, New York, US, Casares publicly announced his formula to become a bitcoin millionaire, according to Quartz magazine. Casares advised the attendees to take just one per cent of what they owned in money, convert it into bitcoins and then stash the funds away for five years, simply forgetting about it. He said that even though you will lose one per cent of your fortune, within five years the value of bitcoin will have risen enough that you would be a millionaire in dollar terms, he told the audience.

Casares believes that while bitcoin will be on an upward value trajectory, it is still an investment with risks like any other. He warned that the success rate of his formula is fifty per cent and that there was a twenty per cent chance that bitcoin would fall and become worthless, meaning investors would lose all of their initial cash, but Casares also prophesied that within five years a single bitcoin would trade for more than a million U.S. dollars apiece. As of today’s date, one bitcoin is worth nearly USD 7,650 ($7,643.64), or GBP/£ 5,699.32.

Casares also predicted that bitcoin, as a ‘meta-currency’ would bypass central banks and become a new global monetary standard, “If bitcoin is successful, it will be the biggest leap forward in the democratisation of money we have seen, “ he said.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Alexander Ochoa, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AlexanderOchoaQ

“La elemental fórmula con bitcoines que te hará millonario” – Grandes Medios/Grupo Editorial Grandes Medios (24 May 2017) https://www.grandesmedios.com/formula-ganar-millones-bitcoines/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Cryptocurrency Concept Blockchain · Free photo on Pixabay” – WorldSpectrum, Pixabay (23 January 2018) https://pixabay.com/en/cryptocurrency-concept-blockchain-3409725/

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IJNET: Mentoring clinic for MENA media startups launched

Amman – VIJAY SHAH via IFCJ

 

The International Journalists’ Network (IJNet)’s Arabic division has launched a new service from its mentoring centre designed to help journalists in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region set up or further develop their media startups, the International Center for Journalists has reported.

The year-long programme, aimed at entrepreneurs developing the next generation of technologically-rich Arabic media, aims to help develop new startups in the regional news economy by providing face-to-face and virtual training which culminates in a conference and media ‘boot camp’ hosted in Jordan. IJNet Arabic is also offering a lump sum seed fund of USD 4,000 (GBP 3,002) to startups with the most promising projects to jumpstart.

IJNet’s Mentoring Centre has run for several years, boosting the presence of independent media and entrepreneurship in a part of the world where most major media outlets are tightly controlled government mouthpieces and freedom of speech is often a luxury. In previous years, the Centre has helped support the development of a digital museum for women in Egypt, an independent Iraqi news agency site and a Moroccan podcast service. 

The media startup mentoring service is accepting applications from journalists from or located in the MENA region up until the end of this month, with the first round of project selections scheduled for June, followed in November by the ARIJ conference and boot camp in Amman in Jordan. The seed funding will be awarded at the end of the programme in March 2019.

SOURCES:

HEM Journalism Portal, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-journalism-portal

ICFJ, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ICFJ

“IJNet Arabic’s Mentoring Center for MENA Media Startups” – International Center for Journalists https://www.icfj.org/our-work/ijnet-arabic%E2%80%99s-mentoring-center-mena-media-startups

POKEMON GO: International Community Day next month

Tokyo – VIJAY SHAH via RENE RITCHIE and iMore

While the hype around the celebrated Nintendo augmented reality game Pokémon Go has long since died down, perhaps because everyone decided to twaddle with fidget spinners instead, the game still draws a loyal support base. For the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is an interactive game, downloadable to your mobile phone, where you catch animals from the Pokémon kids’ cartoon series in real-life locations, raise them and use them to fight opponents. In 2016, the game’s popularity reached endemic proportions, with people crowding in parks to catch rare and elusive Pokemon, and state authorities such as police, giving out warnings for people to pay attention to their surroundings when immersed in the highly addictive game.

 

Pokémon Go lovers will soon be able to bond and exchange their little friends in a special Community Day event, scheduled for the 17th May 2018 across the world. The Community Day offers game players, known as ‘trainers’ a chance to go out and catch Pokémon together as teams in a special and social bonding experience.The creators of Pokémon Go, in a bid to counteract the perception of gaming as an anti-social hobby, created the events, held monthly, to encourage players to get out, discover new places, and meet new people.

There are many game bonuses being released for the day, according to online magazine iMore. These include extra XP, Stardust, faster egg hatching, lure modules that last three hours, and a special Pokémon with an exclusive move. The featured Pokémon for May’s event (the Community Day occurs for just three hours on one day per month) is Charmander, a small orange fire-breathing cross between a dinosaur and a dragon.

While the event is scheduled for just three hours, start and finish times will vary according to your location. Gamers in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, can start hunting at 12 pm to 3 pm JST (Japanese Standard Time). Participants in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India will have their regional event from 10 am-1 pm UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and those in the Americas (including Greenland) can play from 11 am to 2 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time).

SOURCES:

interactive storytelling, ICIDS, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/icids/lists/interactive-storytelling

Louz Wate, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/LouzWate/

“Pokémon Go Events for April 2018” – Rene Ritchie, iMore/Mobile Nations (22 April 2018) https://www.imore.com/pokemon-go-events

“Pokémon Go Community Day Guide for May 2018” – Rene Ritchie, iMore/Mobile Nations (15 April 2018) https://www.imore.com/pokemon-go-community-day

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Abington Pokemon GO” – Penn State, Flickr (20 July 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/28170409310

GOOGLE, SPEAK TO ME!: Google Assistant now has a voice in smart speakers

Washington – VIJAY SHAH via HEATHER KELLY and CNN

Google Assistant, the voice-activated virtual personal assistant technology widely used on home devices and mobile phones, is destined to make an appearance on new ‘smart speakers’ fitted with screens, reported CNNtech magazine, an imprint of U.S. news network CNN, recently.

The devices, known at Google HQ as ‘smart displays’, are a step up from the current wave of internet connected home speakers such as Alexa/Amazon Echo devices. Instead of just a round box with a speaker and lights, the new technology incorporates a screen for greater user-friendliness and accessibility.

Image credit: www.nextdayblinds.com/

 

Google announced the technology officially at the renowned CES technology show which was held in Las Vegas, USA from the 9th to the 12th of January this year, and the first smart displays packaged together with the Google Assistant are planned to made available in stores and online later in 2018. Not only will the displays be an improvement on current assistant devices, but also remove the need for people to rely on using mobile phones in having to stand them up in, say, the kitchen.

Google has partnered with hardware manufacturers such as Lenovo of China, and has shown some prototypes. According to CNNtech, the smart displays are sleek rectangular devices, much like a tablet, which can be stood up on counters and tables like a picture frame.

The smart displays are expected to have compatibility with other Google products, such as Photos, Duo and searches using the eponymous search engine. There is also the possibility of being able to watch YouTube videos. The company also announced it has grand plans for its Assistant, hinting that it is planning to bring the voice to more smart televisions, headphones and Android Auto, an app that links Android devices with systems in vehicles.

SOURCES:

HEM Newsbreakers, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-newsbreakers

Bangladesh News 24, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/bdnews24

“Google’s assistant now works on smart speakers with screens” – Heather Kelly, CNNtech/Cable News Network/Time Warner (8 January 2018) http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/08/technology/google-assistant-smart-speakers-screens/index.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Google Assistant with notepad and glasses” – NDB Photos, Flickr (16 March 2017) https://www.flickr.com/photos/142305740@N05/33433114166

OUR HIGH-TECH FUTURE: 5 technologies that will shape our tomorrow

Have you ever wondered what kind of technologies will become established in our world in the next 20, 30 or 50 years? Super-thin mobile phones with holographic screens, robot servants, perhaps those flying cars from the Back to the Future films we are still waiting on?. Well I do not keep a crystal ball in my bedroom, but in August 2017, Spanish-language online magazine TecNovedosos played soothsayer and predicted what technologies we might be using and experiencing in our daily lives in the future, perhaps as early as the next decade.

Technology has made leaps and bounds in the past few years. Just remember that only ten years ago, smartphones were just getting on the market, and you can realise the rapid strides we have made in innovation. Here are the five technological developments that could be coming to a house, high street or hospital (maybe) near you.

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and clones

In 1996, the world witnessed the birth of the world’s first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep. Today we have robo-lawyers that can help fill out asylum applications, virtual holographic assistant on the London ‘Tube’ and every other website seems to have a chatbot. Virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant are now a standard feature on many phones. In the future, these ‘e-ssistants’ could become more human-like, perhaps crossing into physical technology as cyborgs, which could talk like us and be almost indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood humans.

Super processors

British scientists are said to be working on a ‘quantum computer’ the size of a sports stadium. This super-comp will have processing power far greater than any current system we have in place currently. It is hoped that this massive hunk of circuitry may unlock cures for diseases that now cannot be treated, solve complex scientific problems and even the enigmas of life.

Smart objects

The ‘internet of things’ is a interconnected setup where electronics like your refrigerator, microwave and heating systems, for example, are linked up via the internet to enable you to run your house and life better. For example, your fridge could tip you off if your milk is about to go off, or if you need to stock up on carrots. An IoT fridge could even place the shopping order for you based on what it detects inside it. In the future, advances in nanotechnology could see microscopic computing systems incorporated into everyday objects such as clothing and hygiene devices, that could even be controlled by your voice. Imagine telling your mop to jump out and start cleaning your kitchen.

Surgical nano-robots

We already have robots that can perform surgery and tiny endoscope cameras that can be swallowed as a pill. Future developments in nano-technology could point the way for microscopic robots that can be delivered into the bloodstream via a simple injection and identify or even obliterate harmful viruses or cells, such as that found with cancer.

A longer life

Some scientists think that within the next century, humans will not find it strange if they make it past their 150th birthday. Researchers in the US working with genetics have found ways to switch off the genes associated with ageing in human bodies. By deactivating them, they could extend the lifespans of certain cells. By 2030, it is hoped that doctors will be able to make their patients live longer just by doing a bit of genetic tinkering, without harming the patient’s health.

What other technological developments do you think will revolutionise our future in the next ten years? Please leave your ideas in the comments section below this post.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Alexander Ochoa, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AlexanderOchoaQ

“Las 5 tecnologías que cambiarán el mundo en los próximos años” – ANews via TecNovedosos (14 August 2017) https://www.tecnovedosos.com/tecnologias-cambiaran-mundo/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Future Connected City: 2086” – JCT 600, Flickr (12 August 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/143789194@N03/28650310590

 

FACEBOOK COMMENTS: Three new comment tricks (tested out by HEM News Agency)

If you are a regular Facebook user, then you are probably really big on leaving comments on pictures, posts and videos you like (or make you want to kick in your computer screen). You have seen all sorts of comments, ranging from the downright weird and the abusive, to declarations of love (finished off with a tonne of hearts and heart-eyes emojis, no doubt), mini essays on intellectual topics and politics, and gushing comments. You probably know your way around Zuckerberg’s pet project very well. Right? Well maybe not! Let me explain.

As you may know, Facebook has recently introduced many major and minor changes to the website experience and interface design, for example adding extra emojis to show reactions to posts (instead of the bog-standard thumbs up like) and introducing Twitter-style round display pictures for personal profiles and public pages alike.  But did you know there are three more ‘Easter eggs’ to be discovered, when you write a comment using certain special words? Well, you are about to find out here (thanks to BetterMe). The author will also be testing them out himself live and giving his own impression, because you know sometimes it has to be seen to be believed.

 

  1. Congratulations!!

This one is really epic and perfect for the party people. So your sister has announced her engagement, your best mate is having a baby, or your housemate has just winged a new promotion at work. What do you say? Well surely a congratulations is in order!. If you type in the word ‘congratulations’ or ‘congrats’ into the comment box, your screen will suddenly be filled with a cascade of cartoon balloons and confetti. It is brief, lasting a few seconds, but it is really cute and contemporary and just adds to the happy atmosphere. While the standard congrats earns a flurry of orange and blue party stuff, if you congratulate the birth of a baby, you get instead pink or blue balloons depending on whether the new bundle of joy is a girl or boy. Mood mode made!

2. Heart-to-heart

Feeling in lurve? Fingers twitching to spread some virtual affection to your bestie, bae, or even bro (nothing wrong in a little bromance!). Give that extra oomph to your affections by typing ‘XOXO’ into the comment box. Your screen will fill with hearts (sadly, I tested this at the time of writing and it appears not to be working) so you can drop some love on your loved ones’ newsfeeds.

3. Give them the thumbs-up

Apparently, if you type in the word ‘Rad’, your screen will become a waterfall of thumbs ups. The unmistakable Facebook fist of appreciation is a highly recognisable symbol that has become a defining moment of social media. Unfortunately at the time of writing, this feature appears to be not working also, so I am a little disappointed. 

 

So while sadly, only one of three of these comment gems appears to be working in the UK at least, do not fret. You can also spice up your comments by inserting an image by clicking on the small camera icon to the right inside the comment box, or to make things really interesting, throw in a GIF by clicking on the GIF icon to the immediate right of the camera one. The GIF feature is one of Facebook’s latest and has proved a huge hit. It makes use of extensive GIF libraries run by GIPHY and tenor, two influential animated image repositories.

You will become king/queen of comments in no time…

SOURCES:

Marie Hiles via Facebook.

“3 Facebook comment secrets that you didn’t know” – Giuzel Sadiieva, BetterMe/BetterMe.tips https://betterme.tips/8381-3-facebook-comment-secrets-didnt-know.html#8381

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Facebook Favourites Menu” – Mixy Lorenzo, Flickr (30 October 2011) https://www.flickr.com/photos/ladymixy-uk/6328712598

EHI LIVE 2017: Two days left until leading healthcare event

Birmingham – VIJAY SHAH

People in the world of healthcare technology are eagerly awaiting the arrival of ehi LIVE 2017 in just two day’s time, as the UK’s leading get-together for experts and users of digital healthcare gets ready at Hall 1 of the NEC Arena in Birmingham on the 31st October and 1st November 2017.

 

ehi LIVE, an event which aims to bridge the gap between medical technology, clinicians and their patients, is a yearly occurrence and is organised by international exhibitions agency Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions. ehi LIVE will look at key developments in the digital healthcare field, such as hospital record keeping, cybersecurity, healthcare innovations and new methods of bringing technology into patient-doctor interactions. The event also plays host to a special ‘Knowledge Hub’ which features experts in the fields of digital health and cyber security, offering their thoughts on the latest developments and concepts such as the cloud, wearables, informatics, ‘big data’ and social media, and how these can benefit patients, doctors, nurses and healthcare providers such as the NHS.

ehi LIVE will host nine individual conferences within the event, alongside an exhibition with a lineup of 150 companies and providers in healthcare. An expected total of more than 4,000 attendees are expected to visit the event over the two days. There will also be a late night drinks bash and an awards ceremony.

Key speakers taking the stand at ehi LIVE 2017 include Will Smart, the chief information officer of NHS England; Claire Murdoch, the National Mental Health Director, also from the English NHS, alongside their colleague Dr. Robert Varnam, head of general practice development. Also speaking will be Prof. Daniel Ray (data director and informatics professor at NHS Digital in Leeds) and Paul Park, a CCIO at Oxfordshire CCG. Exhibitors include Elsevier, Fujifilm, Hospedia, HP, IBM Watson Health and LG Electronics, among many others in household names and new entrants in the digital healthcare field.

DISCLAIMER: The author of this article is employed by Informa.

SOURCES:

“Informa Accounts” – HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/informa-accounts

ehi Live 2017, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/EHILive

“ehi LIVE, UK’s largest ehealth exhibition 31Oct- 1Nov 2017, Birmingham” – ehi Live/Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions/Informa https://www.ehilive.co.uk/en/home.html

“EXHIBITOR LIST” – ehi Live/Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions/Informa https://www.ehilive.co.uk/en/exhibit/exhibitor-directory.html

IMAGE CREDIT:

ehi Live 2017, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/EHILive

 

AN ATM STICKUP: Two methods used to fleece cash machines

Philipsburg – VIJAY SHAH via TecNovedosos

Earlier this year, specialists working at Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab announced at a conference held in the Dutch Caribbean territory of Sint-Maarten that bank robbers have found two new, and quite ingenious ways to target ATMs and relieve them of their cash deposits. The IT experts made a presentation in front of delegates at the Computer Security Summit Summit, held on the 4th of April, 2017, where they warned that thieves were upping their game in their attacks on automated bank tellers and gone were the days when all it took was a rope, a heavy-duty vehicle and a small amount of explosives to break into an ATM.

 

According to a report published in Spanish language online magazine tecnovedosos.com, sophisticated robbers now have two tactics at their disposal, cases of which have already been reported by banks in Russia and Europe. In many of these cases, the robberies only took a matter of seconds.

The first tactic reported by security specialists involves a small hole being drilled into the ATM keypad without triggering the machine’s automatic security sensors. A hacker then uses special equipment to directly access the onboard computer. The hacker then decodes the machine’s electronic signals, essentially forcing the machine to electronically hand over all its cash. The ATM is emptied of its cash reserves by the robbers. This tactic exploits a vulnerability in a certain model of ATM, manufactured by a single company, though which company it was was not mentioned by the Kaspersky Lab researchers.

The second tactic involves a more elaborate and far-reaching approach targeting the bank itself. Malicious cybercriminals target the bank’s IT systems with a powerful virus that targets the part of the network that manages the ATMs. Once the virus is entrenched, it is remotely activated by the criminals using the bank’s own systems. A command is sent out by the virus to the ATMs to release their cash reserves. The robber needs then only to pay a visit to the compromised ATM and withdraw all the money, a procedure that takes only a few minutes and will not arouse the suspicions of bank security staff, and also cuts out the risk associated with traditional bank robberies involving ‘stick-ups’, in the eyes of criminals.

The ATMs are compromised by robbers quite easily and once the heist is complete, the hackers wipe out the virus to cover their tracks. The virus, known as ATMitch, has been reported by banks hacked into in Russia and neighbouring Kazakhstan.

In the UK, no such cases have yet been reported involving these tactics. Most ATMs are zeroued in on by less technologically savvy robbers who resort to blowing up cash machines or ripping them out of walls. In the past few years, some fraudsters have adopted a more scientific approach, involving attaching special skimming devices to the card reader slots of ATMs, which masquerade as part of the machine and catch people’s card details and PINs, which the robbers gather from the device and then empty the victims’ accounts. Others have been caught attaching pinhole cameras which watch people enter their PINs. ATM users are advised to always shield their PINs when using cash machines, and to be wary of people standing over them or observing them using the keypad.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Tecnología GM 🔹‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TecnologiaGM

“Descubren dos ingeniosas tácticas para sacarle el dinero a los cajeros automáticos” – tecnovedosos.com/TecNovedosos (5 April 2017) https://www.tecnovedosos.com/metodos-para-robar-cajeros-automaticos/

IMAGE CREDITS:

“Free photo: Scam, Atm, Security, Bank, Money – Free Image on Pixabay – 2048851” – mrganso, Pixabay (4 February 2017) https://pixabay.com/en/scam-atm-security-bank-money-2048851/

“🇸🇽 Sint Maarten on Twitter Twemoji 2.0” – Emojipedia/Emojipedia Pty Ltd https://emojipedia.org/twitter/twemoji-2.0/flag-for-sint-maarten/

OUTLASTING THE ENERGIZER BUNNY: US researcher creates stronger batteries with cheap materials

Houston – VIJAY SHAH via noticiasdelaciencia.com and AgroAlimentando

Batteries are one of the most important elements of our technologically driven society. We rely on them to energise everything from children’s toys and torches, to cars and lorries, yet often they can be the bane of our lives too. Batteries can have their drawbacks, such as catching on fire, running out too quickly, leaking, and performing poorly in wintry weather.

Recently, researchers led by Dr. Yan Yao at the US’ University of Houston have discovered that manufacturing batteries from a new and inexpensive class of materials may help solve the problem of troublesome lithium ion batteries and the like.

 

Yao and team used quinones, a type of chemical organic compound derived from petrochemicals which are easy to obtain and cheap. These recyclable materials were converted into a stable anode compound, which can be used in the manufacture of water-rechargeable batteries. Water-chargeable batteries contain water-based electrolytes that carry current easily, but unlike conventional batteries, do not corrode. Until recently, these kinds of batteries were only really good in the laboratory environment, as their short shelf life made them impractical for situations where replacing the battery regularly is inconvenient, such as in heavy machinery. Despite their short lifespans, water-rechargeable batteries, also known as aqueous-rechargeable batteries are much safer and are more robust.

The main problem with previous models of water-rechargeable batteries has been their anodes, one of three parts in a battery, that is negative when the battery is discharging, and then switches to a positive charge when the battery is being charged up. The anodes in these previous models were intrinsically structurally and chemically unstable, which means that the battery was only efficient for a relatively short period of time.

Yan Yao and the researchers used quinones, which cost as little as $2 (£1.54) per kilogram. They discovered that anodes made from quinones were effective in both acid and alkali batteries as well as newer water-based models using metallic ions. This diversity of usage means that Yao’s technology could be applied to any battery setting for any technology, including for devices not yet invented.

The quinones also help batteries work at a wide range of temperatures, which gives Yao’s batteries an advantage even over other existing aqueous rechargeable battery technology, which still underperforms in cold conditions.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Alejandro Shammah‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/aleshammah

“Baterías con vida más larga gracias a una clase de materiales baratos” – noticiasdelaciencia.com via Agroalimentando – AgroA http://agroalimentando.com/nota.php?id_nota=7753&utm_content=buffer2de86&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Duracell battery AA type” – Anton Fomkin, Flickr (19 November 2008) https://www.flickr.com/photos/antonfomkin/3046002213

 

WANNACRY ATTACK: NHS, major organisations left reeling by co-ordinated hack

 

Winnipeg – VIJAY SHAH via Winnipeg Free Press and ReportCA.net

Several of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service trusts, as well as numerous large companies across the globe are still recovering from a large-scale ‘unprecedented’ ransomware cyber attack which occurred this weekend, ReportCA.net wrote yesterday.

The ‘cyberextortion’ attack, which involved hackers accessing computers via phishing emails, and locking systems and encrypting company data, also affected numerous firms engaged in the manufacturing, finance and transport sectors. Government agencies were also caught up in the debacle. Technicians at the NHS, which offers subsidised healthcare in the U.K., scrambled to limit the spread of the ransomware, which caused problems with accessing patient data and hospital appointments, among other things. Many companies ordered their employees to disconnect their workstations from the Internet and to avoid opening emails from unfamiliar sources.

Such was the scale of this weekend’s mass attack, Microsoft was moved into changing its cybersecurity policy, making free of charge updates and patches for computers running older packages such as Windows XP, which many small and medium enterprises still rely on, due to the expense of system upgrades or lack of technical knowledge and ICT skills.

 

 

 

Apart from the NHS, Spain’s Telefonica and Iberdrola also reported computers being targeted. The German national railway Deutsche Ban was another victim. ReportCA.net published a photo taken by an eyewitness at Chemnitz rail station, showing a display board for train times. The screen was partly obscured by a red and white pop-up with a padlock logo, a sight reported by other victims of the attack. The hackers locked out users and demanded payment in bitcoin currency to release encrypted data. Other victims included the Russian Interior Ministry, the country’s mobile phone operators MTS and MegaFon, French car maker Renault, and football clubs in Europe. One long-established club, IF Odd, said Saturday that its online ticketing service was crippled by the ransomware.

The British home secretary Amber Rudd said that one in five of her country’s 248 NHS trusts, which manage hospitals and patient services above general practitioner level, had been hit. Thousands of patient appointments and operations, including for serious conditions, were cancelled, as medical staff were frozen out of their databases and systems. According to Rudd, 48 trusts were affected, but quick reaction times by their ICT departments meant that as of yesterday, only six were still reporting issues. The National Cyber Security Centre also stepped in to mitigate the impact of the attack.

Cybersecurity officials urged both individuals and companies to ensure they regularly update their anti-virus and security systems, enact security updates if they are Windows users and to back-up data on a separate server or in the cloud.

The source of the attack is as yet unknown, although Russian and Chinese hackers have targeted companies and governmental agencies in the West in past years. Two cybersecurity firms, Avast and Kaspersky Lab, have said that the ransomware attacked PCs in 70 countries, with Russia the most affected. There have been reports that the hackers used the WannaCry ransomware program, said to have been based on spying technology utilised by America’s NSA (National Security Agency). More than 36,000 infections were detected by yesterday. It is reported that the hackers behind ‘WannaCry’ stole the hacking tools from the NSA, which created the tool to exploit a loophole in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

Ori Eisen, founder of Trusona cybersecurity firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, warned that the WannaCry attack is just the beginning and another more advanced attack could have serious and potentially lethal implications. Speaking with the Associated Press news agency, Eisen said: This is child”s play, what happened. This is not the serious stuff yet. What if the same thing happened to 10 nuclear power plants, and they would shut down all the electricity to the grid? What if the same exact thing happened to a water dam or to a bridge?” he asked.

“Today, it happened to 10,000 computers,” Eisen said. “There”s no barrier to do it tomorrow to 100 million computers.”

Intranational policing agency Europol described the attack as at “an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits.”

The onslaught of WannaCry was successfully halted after a 22-year-old British cybersecurity researcher, known only by his or her tag ‘MalwareTech’ accidently stumbled across a ‘kill switch’ that disabled the ransomware. By entering a nonsensical domain name, MalwareTech was able to stop the malware spreading further. He or she purchased the domain name for around £9, yet this quick thinking decision saved companies millions in potential damage control. The kill switch only worked for those not affected however, and many organisations who were already hit were forced to pay the ransom demand or call up emergency data stocks.

SOURCES:

HEM Newsbreakers, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-newsbreakers

Report 24 Canada, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Report24CA

“Unprecedented global “ransomware” attack seeks cash for data” – Winnipeg Free Press via ReportCA.net (13 May 2017) https://reportca.net/2017/05/unprecedented-global-ransomware-attack-seeks-cash-for-data/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:Wana Decrypt0r screenshot.png” – WannaCry via SecureList, Wikimedia Commons (12 May 2017) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wana_Decrypt0r_screenshot.png