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Fearful of extortion, businesses are stockpiling bitcoins

SAN FRANCISCO U.S. corporations that have long resisted bending to the demands of computer hackers who take their networks hostage are increasingly stockpiling bitcoin, the digital currency, so that they can quickly meet ransom demands rather than lose valuable corporate data.The companies are responding to cybersecurity experts who recently have changed their advice on how to deal with the growing problem of extortionists taking control of the computers. It s a moral dilemma. If you pay, you are helping the bad guys, said Paula Long, chief executive of DataGravity, a Nashua, New Hampshire, company that helps clients secure corporate data. But, she added, You can t go to the moral high ground and put your company at risk. A lot of companies are doing that as part of their incident response planning, said Chris Pogue, chief information security officer at Nuix, a company that provides information management technologies. They are setting up bitcoin wallets. Pogue said he believed thousands of U.S. companies had prepared strategies for dealing with hacker extortion demands, and numerous law firms have stepped in to facilitate negotiations with hackers, many of whom operate from the other side of the globe.Symantec, a Mountain View, California, company that makes security and storage software, estimates that ransom demands to companies average between $10,000 and $75,000 for hackers to provide keys to decrypt frozen networks. Individuals whose computers get hit pay as little as $100 to $300 to unlock their encrypted files.Companies that analyze cyber threats say the use of ransomware has exploded, and payments have soared. Recorded Future, a Somerville, Massachusetts, threat intelligence firm, says ransom payments skyrocketed 4,000 percent last year, reaching $1 billion. Another firm, Kaspersky Lab, estimates that a new business is attacked with ransomware every 40 seconds. If you re hit by ransomware today, you have only two options: You either pay the criminals or you lose your data, said Raj Samani, chief technical officer at Intel Security for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We underestimated the scale of the issue. Hackers often send out email with tainted hyperlinks to broad targets, say, an entire company. All it takes is one computer user in a company to click on the infected link to allow hackers to get a foothold in the broader network, leading to hostile encryption. At least one employee will click on anything, said Robert Gibbons, chief technology officer at Datto, a Connecticut company that offers digital disaster recovery services.Law enforcement counsels U.S. businesses not to succumb to ransom demands, urging them to keep backup copies of their data in case of hostile encryption. The official FBI policy is that you shouldn t pay the ransom, said Leo Taddeo, chief security officer for Cryptzone, a Waltham, Massachusetts, company that provides network security. Until 2015, Taddeo ran the cyber division of the FBI s New York City office.But practical considerations increasingly are dictating a different approach. It s an option to pay the ransom to get back up and running. Sometimes it s the only option, Taddeo said. But it has downsides, he added. Paying ransom just invites the next attack. Moreover, 1 in 4 companies that pay ransoms never get their files restored, Gibbons said.The idea of rewarding extortionists with payment makes some technologists see red. That makes me super mad, said Lior Div, chief executive of Cybereason, a Boston-area cybersecurity company. There are things that are unacceptable, and we need to fight them. Div and his company have done something about the extortion epidemic. They built a product called RansomFree that claims to detect 99 percent of all ransomware strains.So far, the free software has been downloaded 125,000 times, the company says.As extortionists get more sophisticated, researchers say, they are modifying their malicious code, their infection strategies and the way they collect payments.Once they weasel their way into your network, they now take a look around. They ll actually explore your system to see how much money they can squeeze from you, said Andrei Barysevich, director of advanced collection at Recorded Future.And they won t offer any sympathy, no matter how valuable the encrypted data, even if lives are at stake, say, in a health care network. They may even say they are doing nothing evil. They actually think they are on the moral high ground. They think the companies should have paid more for security, said Barysevich, who spoke at a presentation last week at the annual RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco, which bills itself as the world s leading gathering of cybersecurity specialists.One of the reasons midsize and large companies are storing bitcoin for emergency use is that extortionists, once they succeed at penetrating a system, commonly give a deadline for payment before destroying data. But victims can t rush out and buy bitcoin in a day or two. It takes at times a week for (brokers) to process you, Barysevich said.Setting up the wallet ahead of time, Pogue said, allows businesses an option that is quick, although perhaps repugnant. If they need to go to it, they are not spinning their wheels standing up a bitcoin wallet, Pogue said.

Two D. Webster hoops players charged after fight at game

Posted: Feb. 19, 2017 8:00 am

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) Police have charged two members of the Daniel Webster men’s basketball team after a fight during a game that required 25 officers to restore order. Nashua authorities say guard Marquise Caudill assaulted a player from the opposing team Saturday and threatened an officer working a security detail who tried to stop him. They also said teammate Antwaun Boyd appeared to be inciting an already hostile crowd that had surrounded the officer. According to its website, Southern Vermont was playing Daniel Webster, which forfeited the game.

The 22-year-old Caudill, of Windsor, Connecticut, is being held on $50,000 cash bail on assault, criminal threatening and disorderly conduct charges. The 23-year-old Boyd, from Stamford, Connecticut, was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and released after bail was posted. It wasn’t immediately known if either is represented by a lawyer.

One other person, 43-year-old Elizabeth Morris of Malden, Massachusetts, also was charged in connection with the disturbance. She was released after bail was posted.

Around The Dial: Broadcast & Media News Today

News about media and the regulatory environment both inside and beyond Canada’s borders.

IN THE NEWS

Murder Broadcast Live

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Feb 15 Two journalists were shot dead during a live radio broadcast in the Dominican Republic, police and media said. Unidentified attackers burst into the 103.5 FM studio as presenter Luis Manuel Medina was reading the news on air on Tuesday and shot him dead, station employees were quoted as saying by local media. Moments before that the station s director, Leonidas Martinez, was killed in his office, they said.

In a video of the broadcast, which was streamed on Facebook, gunfire is heard as Medina reads the news and a woman s voice is heard calling shots, shots! — Agence France Presse[1]

Radio Has Its Domain Name

In the midst of over 500 activities around the world in celebration of World Radio Day, a major event took place on 13 February in China. Hosted by the Shanghai Media Group, the World Radio Day Forum gathered over 150 participants from 23 countries and regions to celebrate the importance of radio as a medium. The event was also the occasion to launch the first level domain name .radio, which will allow radio stations worldwide to have unique and memorable website names.

India Censors Radio Newscasts

The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Centre (ruling party) why it was shying away from allowing community radio and private FM radio stations from broadcasting news and asked the government consider to permit them to air news and current affairs programme on the basis of information available in public domain. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar, Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud said that it might not be feasible to give free hand to private radio stations to broadcast their own news as it might create “havoc” in sensitive areas like North-East and Jammu & Kashmir but they should be permitted to take contents of news from newspapers and TV channels to broadcast them. At present 281 private FM channels are operational in 84 cities and the government told the court that it has decided to e-auction 839 more channel in 294 cities. The Centre has so far granted permission for 519 community radio and out of which 201 are operational.

Justifying its decision to ban private FM and community radio stations to broadcast news and current affairs programme the government told the bench that granting permission could endanger “national security and public order”.

“Broadcasting of news by these stations/channel may pose a possible security risk as there is no mechanism to monitor the contents of news bulletin of every such station. As these stations/channels are run mainly by NGO/other small organisation and private operators, several anti-national/radical elements within the country can misuse it for propagating their own agenda,” senior advocate Ashok Panda, appearing for centre, told the bench. He said that the centre could not permit telecast of news as it might be misused by anti-national and radical elements and there was no mechanism to monitor news contents all radio stations. He said that the government has recently framed new guidelines allowing community radios to broadcast news contents sourced exclusively from All India Radio (AIR) — The Times of India[2]

Howard Stern Sued For Broadcasting IRS Phone Discussion

Donald Trump never did sue The New York Times for revealing he took a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns. He threatened, but to date, no lawsuit has come. That leaves some unanswered questions about the legality of a media outlet disclosing tax information since there are many statutes that broadly guard the confidentiality of tax returns. Can Howard Stern fill the void? Last Monday, Stern was sued by a woman named Judith Barrigas, whose tax information was disseminated in the oddest way.

According to her complaint filed in Massachusetts federal court, she called the IRS on May 19, 2015, to discuss how the tax agency had applied prior year liabilities to her tax refund. She got connected to Jimmy Forsythe, an IRS agent. Before the two connected, Forsythe had called into The Howard Stern Show using another phone line. While on hold, Forsythe took Barrigas’ call and proceeded to spend 45 minutes with her discussing her tax case. Apparently, during this conversation, someone at Stern’s show heard what was happening and decided to air the discussion live on satellite radio — The Hollywood Reporter[3]

Evanov Flips Winnipeg FM To Hot 100.5

Jewel 100.5 flipped over to Hot 100.5 on Friday, hours after the station released longtime broadcaster, Norm Foster. Evanov Radio Group pulled in a 2.9 ratings share in the fall under the Jewel banner and the switch is expected to have a more positive impact in the spring sweep.

We wanted to flip the script on what Winnipeg is currently being offered, said program director Adam West. We feel that this is the type of station that is totally lacking from the current market, but that continues to be requested by listeners” — Chris D.ca[4]

RIP

William Bill Kelly, a Newfoundland and Labrador journalist and longtime host of CBC’s Land & Sea, died Feb. 15, aged 71 CBC News[5]

Fighting Isis With Sarcasm

Raed Fares is the station manager at Radio Fresh FM, a station in northern Syria that’s standing up to militants who have banned them from playing music or broadcasting women’s voices. After being kidnapped and surviving three attacks on the station, Fares has found an ingenious way to play by the rules and mock militants and extremists

The banned female newscasters have been replaced with one 23-year-old woman whose voice has been severely distorted, so it sounds almost like a robotic man, and instead of music, the station now broadcasts Arabic song lyrics over a mix of sounds that could be emanating from sheep, birds, frogs, dogs, chickens — CBC, As It Happens[6]

References

  1. ^ Agence France Presse (www.capitalfm.co.ke)
  2. ^ Times of India (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
  3. ^ The Hollywood Reporter (www.hollywoodreporter.com)
  4. ^ Chris D.ca (www.chrisd.ca)
  5. ^ CBC News (www.cbc.ca)
  6. ^ CBC, As It Happens (www.cbc.ca)
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