Monday, June 21, 2021

June 7, 2021 WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has recovered most of a multimillion-dollar ransom payment made to hackers after a cyberattack that caused the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline to halt its operations last month, officials said Monday.

The operation to recover the cryptocurrency from the Russia-based hacker group is the first undertaken by a specialized ransomware task force created by the Biden administration Justice Department and reflects a rare victory as U.S. officials scramble to confront a rapidly accelerating ransomware threat that has targeted critical industries around the world.

“By going after the entire ecosystem that fuels ransomware and digital currency, we will continue to use all of our tools and all of our resources to increase the costs and the consequences of ransomware attacks and other cyber-enabled attacks,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference announcing the operation.

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the East Coast, temporarily shut down its operations on May 7 after a gang of cybercriminals using the DarkSide ransomware variant broke into its computer system. The ransomware variant used by DarkSide, which has been the subject of an FBI investigation for the last year, is one of more than 100 that law enforcement officials have identified, said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate.

Colonial officials have said they took their pipeline system offline before the attack could spread to its operating systems, and decided soon after to pay a ransom of 75 bitcoin — then valued at roughly $4.4 million — in hopes of bringing itself back online as soon as it could. The company’s president and chief executive, Joseph Blount, is set to testify before congressional panels this week.

In a statement, Blount said he was grateful for the FBI’s efforts and said holding hackers accountable and disrupting their activities “is the best way to deter and defend against future attacks of this nature.

“The private sector also has an equally important role to play and we must continue to take cyber threats seriously and invest accordingly to harden our defenses,” he added.

Cryptocurrency is favored by cybercriminals because it enables direct online payments regardless of geographical location, but in this case, the FBI was able to identify a virtual currency wallet used by the hackers and recovered the proceeds from there, said the FBI’s Abbate.

Though the FBI generally discourages the payment of ransom, fearing it could encourage additional hacks, Monaco said one takeaway for the private sector is that if companies come quickly to law enforcement after ransomware incidents, officials may be able to help them recover funds too.

The Bitcoin amount seized — 63.7, currently valued at $2.3 million after the price of Bitcoin tumbled— amounted to 85% of the total ransom paid, which is the exact amount that the cryptocurrency-tracking firm Elliptic says it believes was the take of the affiliate who carried out the attack. The ransomware software provider, DarkSide, would have gotten the other 15%.

“The extortionists will never see this money,” said Stephanie Hinds, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, where a judge approved the seizure warrant earlier Monday.

Ransomware attacks — in which hackers encrypt a victim organization’s data and demand a hefty sum for returning the information — have flourished. Last year was the costliest on record for such attacks. Hackers have targeted vital industries, as well as hospitals and police departments.

Weeks after the Colonial Pipeline attack, a ransomware attack attributed to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months, disrupted production at Brazil’s JBS SA, the world’s largest meat processing company.

The ransomware business has evolved into a highly compartmentalized racket, with labor divided among the provider of the software that locks data, ransom negotiators, hackers who break into targeted networks, hackers skilled at moving undetected through those systems and exfiltrating sensitive data — and even call centers in India employed to threaten people whose data was stolen to pressure for extortion payments.

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Entertainment

June 15, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — Oprah Winfrey and Hearst Magazines are teaming up for interviews that pair young Black journalists with elders who include civil rights activists, celebrities and others sharing some lessons learned in life. The project, “Lift Every Voice,” will be featured on Winfrey’s OprahDaily.com website and in magazines like ELLE, Good Housekeeping, Esquire, Runner’s World and Winfrey’s own O Quarterly. Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Andre De Shields and the activist Claudette Colvin are among the people featured. While some material from earlier Hearst television stories is used, the interviewers are drawn primarily from the ranks of historic Black colleges and universities, with most of the portraits taken by Black photographers just starting in the field. In one example, 94-year-old community activist Opal Lee, from Fort Worth, Texas, talks to Mariah Campbell, a journalism student at Texas Southern University, about efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Winfrey said she was inspired by her own memories of knowing poet Maya Angelou when Winfrey was young, and how Angelou stressed the importance of sharing stories from the time she grew up.

June 15, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Philharmonic will resume subscription performances in September following a historic 18-month gap caused by the coronavirus pandemic, presenting a shortened schedule of 78 concerts in a season shifted from Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall while the orchestra’s home is remodeled. The Philharmonic said Tuesday its season will open Sept. 17 with music director Jaap van Zweden conducting the orchestra and pianist Daniil Trifonov in Anna Clyne’s “Within Her Arms,” Copland’s “Quiet City,” George Walker’s “Antifonys for Chamber Orchestra” and Beethoven’s piano concerto No. 4. That concert, the orchestra’s first regular event since March 10, 2020, will be the first of 50 at Lincoln Center’s 1,086-seat Alice Tully Hall, a venue more typically used for chamber music and recitals. There will be 28 concerts in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 1,233-seat Rose Theater, located at Columbus Circle, less than half a mile from Geffen Hall, plus four concerts at Carnegie Hall, the orchestra’s home from 1891 to 1962.

June 15, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Rita Moreno emigrated with her mother from Puerto Rico at age five. By six, she was dancing at Greenwich Village nightclubs. By 16, she was working full time. By 20, she was in “Singin’ in the Rain.” In the documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It,” Norman Lear says: “I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever met in the business who lived the American dream more than Rita Moreno.” In the decades that followed, Moreno won a Tony, a Grammy, an Emmy and an Oscar, for “West Side Story.” (Her entire acceptance speech: “I can’t believe it.” ) With seemingly infinite spiritedness, she has epitomized the best of show business while also being a victim to its cruelties. That has made Moreno, who co-stars in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming “West Side Story remake, a heroic figure to Latinos, and to others. “I have never given up,” she said in a recent interview by Zoom from her home in Berkeley, California.

June 15, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — The tragedies of Brian Wilson’s life is a rock ‘n’ roll story well told. The postscript — that he’s a survivor nearing age 80 who appears to be supported personally and professionally in a way he never really had before — is less familiar. Despite some uncomfortable moments in “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road,” that important update is the point of the documentary that premieres Tuesday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The film’s heart is a series of drives around Southern California, where Wilson and Rolling Stone magazine editor Jason Fine talk, listen to music and occasionally stop at restaurants. There’s a comfort level between the two; Fine is a journalist who has become a friend. Wilson, the creative force behind the Beach Boys, has dealt with an abusive, hard-driving father, the mental illness Schizoaffective disorder where he’d hear voices berating and belittling him, and band members often resistant to where he was going musically. Add in years of drug abuse, a quack psychologist who effectively held him, prisoner, for a decade and the younger brothers who died early, and it’s a lot to endure.

Business News

June 16, 2021 WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday installed an energetic critic of Big Tech as a top federal regulator at a time when the industry is under intense pressure from Congress, regulators and state attorneys general. The selection of legal scholar Lina Khan to head the Federal Trade Commission is seen as signaling a tough stance toward tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Khan was sworn in as FTC chair just hours after the Senate confirmed her as one of five members of the commission on a 69-28 vote. Khan has been a professor at Columbia University Law School and burst onto the antitrust scene with her massive scholarly work in 2017 as a Yale law student, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” She helped lay the foundation for a new way of looking at antitrust law beyond the impact of big-company market dominance on consumer prices. As counsel to a House Judiciary antitrust panel in 2019 and 2020, she played a key role in a sweeping bipartisan investigation of the market power of the tech giants.

June 15, 2021  BRUSSELS (AP) — The deal the United States and the European Union reached Tuesday to end their long-running rift over subsidies to Boeing and Airbus will suspend billions in punitive tariffs. It will ease trans-Atlantic tensions. And it will let the two sides focus on a common economic threat: China. But the breakthrough still leaves some trade friction between the U.S. and the EU unresolved. Most prominently, President Biden kept in place import taxes that President Donald Trump imposed on European steel and aluminum, a move that infuriated some of America’s closet allies three years ago. For now, Tuesday’s truce in the Boeing-Airbus dispute goes a long way toward repairing a huge commercial relationship — $933 billion in two-way trade last year despite the pandemic — that came under enormous strain during the Trump years. Among other things, the former president angrily charged the Europeans with using unfair trade practices to sell more products to the United States than they bought and of shirking their responsibility to pay for their own national defense.

June 15, 2021 -A day after her interview for a part-time job at Target last year, Dana Anthony got an email informing her she didn’t make the cut. Anthony didn’t know why — a situation common to most job seekers at one point or another. But she also had no sense at all of how the interview had gone, because her interviewer was a computer. More job-seekers, including some professionals, may soon have to accept impersonal online interviews where they never talk to another human being, or know if behind-the-scenes artificial-intelligence systems are influencing hiring decisions. Demand for online hiring services, which interview job applicants remotely via laptop or phone, mushroomed during the COVID-19 pandemic and remains high amid a perceived worker shortage as the economy opens back up. These systems claim to save employers money, sidestep hidden biases that can influence human recruiters and expand the range of potential candidates. Many now also use AI to assess candidate skills by analyzing what they say.

Fashion News

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