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US to treat ransomware attacks with same priority as terrorism

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Colonial pipeline

The U.S. Department of Justice is elevating investigations of ransomware attacks

The department now plans to treat ransomware attacks to a similar priority as terrorism in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline hack and mounting damage caused by cyber criminals.

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 latest development comes after a cyber criminal group which is understood to be based in Russia, penetrated the pipeline operator on the U.S. East Coast, locking its systems and demanding a ransom.

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. 

Hackers were paid a ransom, Colonial Pipeline boss confirms

The boss of one of the United States’ biggest fuel pipelines says his company paid a $USD 4.4 million ransom to hackers.

The Colonial Pipeline experienced a cyberattack that shut down its nationwide network on 7 May. As such, millions of barrels of petrol, diesel and jet fuel stopped flowing.

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.

“I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this,”

Mr Blount explained

However, President Biden believes there was evidence that Russian hackers were involved in the attack.

“So far there is no evidence from our intelligence people that Russia is involved. Although, there is evidence that the actors, ransomware is in Russia, they have some responsibility to deal with this.”

The hackers are from DarkSide, who allegedly steal from larger corporations and give the ransom funds to charity.

The group released a statement on the dark web. “From today, we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”

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

Anthony Lucas is reporter, presenter and social media producer with ticker News. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism from RMIT University as well as a Diploma of Arts and Entertainment journalism from Collarts. He’s previously worked for 9 News, ONE FM Radio and Southern Cross Austerio’s Hit Radio Network. 

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Chinese spacecraft captures rare images of Mars

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A Chinese spacecraft has captured images of Mars circling around the planet over 13 hundred times

The crewless shuttle reached the Red Planet early last year… deploying a robotic rover.

Some of the photos captured the south pole… a first for China.

The area is known for its large water reserve… hidden under the south pole ice, which was detected by the European Space Agency’s orbiting probe.

Water is a key element in determining whether a planet has the potential for life.

Other images include a 4,000 kilometre long canyon and impact craters in the north of Mars.

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No more AirBNB parties. Ever

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AirBNB has announced an end to house parties forever, in a move that will impact operations around the world

Airbnb announced a global ban on parties following a temporary restriction it put on parties two years ago at the start of the pandemic.

The company is permanently banning “disruptive parties and events,” which include open-invite gatherings.

“Party houses,” will stay banned as well. That will put an end to people booking a house for a big party for just one night.

Airbnb has struggled with party houses, given the noise caused often leads to a visit by the police.

Airbnb placed a ban on party houses in 2019 after five people were killed in a shooting at one of its bookings.

That was followed by a global ban on party houses just as the pandemic hit.

Airbnb says it has seen a 44% year-over-year drop in the rate of party reports since introducing the ban.

“The temporary ban has proved effective, and today we are officially codifying the ban as our policy,” the company says.

The party continues

But how successful will the ban be?

Guests can sometimes check in to remote properties themselves while the owner is away and can invite as many people over as they want.

Airbnb says guests who attempt to violate its rules will face consequences varying from account suspension to full removal from the platform.

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Why Microsoft could be forced to pay more tax

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Tech giant Microsoft is facing increasing pressure to publish its tax data with investors demanding transparency

Investors who are managing more than $350 billion of the company’s assets want access to further financial information. 

It comes as tech giants globally face growing scrutiny over their tax affairs. 

Investors are demanding that Microsoft publish more transparent tax and financial information, as tech giants face growing scrutiny globally over their tax affairs.

A shareholder resolution on tax transparency had been filed to Microsoft ahead of its annual investor meeting this year.

The organiser of the action is UK-based proxy advisers Pensions & Investment Research Consultants.

FILE PHOTO: A smartphone is seen in front of the Microsoft logo in this illustration photo taken July 26, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Taxation transparency

Investors including Nordea, AkademikerPension and Greater Manchester Pension Fund had backed the resolution.

The resolution calls on the company to publish financial and tax information on a country-by-country basis outside its home market of the United States.

The investors want to know whether Microsoft is paying fair taxes and identify any risks posed by tax reforms.

It also calls on Microsoft to produce a tax transparency report in line with the tax standard of the Global Reporting Initiative, a standards organisation.

Microsoft waa not immediately available for comment.

It comes as Microsoft revealed Russian government hackers carried out multiple cyber operations against Ukraine.

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