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$2.3 million dollars worth of bitcoins recovered from ransomware attack

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U.S authorities have managed to recover millions of dollars in cryptocurrency, that was paid in ransom to the Colonial Pipeline Hackers.

Last month, America’s key East Coast gas pipeline was taken offline by a Russian hacker group known as “Darkside”.

The investigation was led by the FBI, in association with Colonial, and the Justice Department is expected to provide more details on the matter in the next few hours

“Earlier today, the Department of Justice has found and recaptured the majority of the ransom Colonial paid to the DarkSide network in the wake of last month’s ransomware attack. Ransomware attacks are always unacceptable — but when they target critical infrastructure, we will spare no effort in our response,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference on Monday afternoon local time.

“Today, we turned the tables on DarkSide,”

“By going after the entire ecosystem that fuels ransomware and digital extortion attacks, including criminal proceeds in the form of digital currency, we will continue to use all of our tools, and all of our resources to increase the cost and the consequences of ransomware attacks and other cyber-enabled attacks.”

Colonial initially complied with the $4.4 million ransom demand, due to the impact of the outage, and the uncertainty surrounding when operations would be able to resume.

However, behind closed doors, it’s now apparent that the company was working hand-in-hand with the FBI, to track the cryptocurrency wallet used by the hackers.

The full amount of the seizure from DarkSide, DOJ officials said Monday, was 63.7 bitcoins valued at approximately $2.3 million.

This follows previous reports that U.S officials were looking for holes in the hackers’ operations so they could identify the group behind the attack.

US to treat ransomware attacks with same priority as terrorism

After the cyberattack, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to strengthen cybersecurity defences across the US.

Earlier reports found that internal guidance sent to U.S. attorney’s offices across the America stated information about ransomware investigations in the field should be centrally coordinated with a recently created task force in Washington.

“It’s a specialised process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country,”

SAID JOHN CARLIN, PRINCIPLE ASSOCIATE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL AT THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT.

The cyber hack caused a shutdown lasting several days, led to a spike in gas prices, panic buying and localised fuel shortages in the southeast. 

Joseph Blount is the CEO of the Colonial Pipeline. He told the Wall Street Journal the ransom was a “highly controversial decision”. But he conceded it “was the right thing to do for the country”.

The 8,900 kilometre pipeline carries 2.5 million barrels a day, or 45 percent of the east coast’s supply of critical fuel supplies.

Business

Russia defaults on foreign debt for the first time in a century

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Russia has failed to pay out its overseas debt for the first time in over 100 years

The country missed its Sunday deadline due to challenges in transferring the payments to international creditors.

Moscow has the funds to make the 100 million dollar payment but sanctions have complicated the process.

The country is unhappy with the situation with the finance minister calling the situation “a farce”.

The last time that Russia defaulted on its foreign debt was in 1918 when leader Vladimir Lenin did not pay out debts on behalf of the Russian Empire.

Russia has been hit with sanctions by a number of countries in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

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Instagram introduces new process to crack down on underage users

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The majority of social media platforms have an age limit of 13 years old, but how is this really being regulated?

Instagram is exploring new ways for teenagers to verify their age and comply with platform rules.

The gram is turning to video selfies to crack down on minors editing their date of birth to make them appear over 18.

The Meta-owned app is testing video selfies with facial analysis software as a new age-verification method.

For a U.S. teen who wants to join insta, they will need to upload ID, ask three adult users to vouch for them or take a video selfie.

Meta says it hopes the new methods will ensure teens have an “age-appropriate experience” on the content sharing app.

Video selfies have become a popular way for digital platforms – such as online banking apps – to verify users’ age or identity.

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Business

U.S. firms to pay staff travel expenses for abortions

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Major companies have reassured staff that if they require an abortion, they will cover their travel expenses

Disney, JP Morgan, Amazon and Meta are among the companies to announce similar moves for women.

This comes as millions of US women face restricted access after a landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion.

A growing number of companies have confirmed they will cover travel costs through their health insurance plans for employees who leave their home state to get an abortion.

Disney employs around 80,000 people at its resort in Florida, where the governor has already signed into law a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is scheduled to take effect on 1 July.

Banking giant JP Morgan and another leading US investment bank, Goldman Sachs, also said it would cover travel expenses for employees.

Social media company Meta said it intended to reimburse travel expenses where permitted by law.

Other companies which have indicated they will take similar steps include Vogue publisher, jeans brand Levi and ride hailing companies Lyft and Uber.

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