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Texas Ransomware Attacks, Xbox Eavesdropping, and Fortnite in This Week's Headlines

"Twenty-three Texas towns have been struck by a 'coordinated' ransomware attack, according to the state’s Department of Information Resources. Ransomware is a type of malicious software, often delivered via email, that locks up an organization’s systems until a ransom is paid or files are recovered by other means. In many cases, ransomware significantly damages computer hardware and linked machinery and leads to days or weeks with systems offline, which is why it can be so costly to cities."

"Rishi Chandra has a vision for what a smart home should look like in five years. As the lead for Google Nest products, it's his job to think ahead. He doesn't have all the answers, he admits, but he has an idea of what he'd like to see. Given his role at one of the most influential companies in the world, his ideas about how to push the smart home forward could affect the rest of the industry. Based on what Chandra shared with me at a recent interview in New York, the future of the smart home involves a lot of playing nice, even with would-be rivals."

"'Unfortunately, at the time I ran everything on Instagram, so when that was gone, that was the whole business gone,' she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

At least half of micro businesses - companies with fewer than nine employees - in the UK are victims of cyber-attacks every year, compared to just a third of other companies, according to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE)."

"Cloudflare, a company whose technology helps companies distribute their content and keep it available online, has filed to go public. On Thursday the company’s filing kicking off the process of its initial public offering became publicly available. In the first half of 2019, Cloudflare had a $36.8 million net loss on $129.2 million in revenue, according to the IPO prospectus. That revenue figure was up 48% from the first half of 2018, and the loss was up 13%."

"Location-tracking services from Apple, Google and others let you keep tabs on the whereabouts of your friends and family members. Creepy? Sure, but they also have real benefits. WSJ’s Joanna Stern went searching for the best app... and for a real-life actor named Aldo."

"Contractors working for Microsoft have listened to audio of Xbox users speaking in their homes in order to improve the console’s voice command features, Motherboard has learned. The audio was supposed to be captured following a voice command like 'Xbox' or 'Hey Cortana,' but contractors said that recordings were sometimes triggered and recorded by mistake."

"From the time he was a high school student, Rohit Kalyanpur thought it was peculiar that although it’s possible to create energy from a solar panel, the panels have long been used almost exclusively on rooftops and as part of industrial-scale solar grids. 'I hadn’t seen [anything solar-powered] in the things people use every day other than calculators and lawn lights,' he tells us from him home in Chicago — though he’s moving to the Bay Area next month."

"Cyren, a cybersecurity firm, has discovered that a free game hack tool -- 'Syrk' -- is actually ransomware in disguise. So, basically, anyone who downloads it is putting their computer -- and all its files -- at risk. 'Syrk' masquerades as a cheat tool for the game, promising to help players' aim when shooting. It also gives users 'ESP,' allowing them to know the locations of other players. But its actual purpose is much scarier, Cyren says. When downloaded, the ransomware will first disable any malware defenses set up on the user's PC. It then will attempt to encrypt and then delete files in the Pictures, Desktop and Documents folders, deleting a batch of files every two hours."

"A judge has ordered the confiscation of bitcoin worth more than £900,000 from a jailed hacker in the first case of its kind for the Metropolitan police. Grant West, 27 – previously described as a “one-man cybercrime wave” – had about £1m-worth of the cryptocurrency seized from a number of accounts after his arrest in September 2017, but the value of bitcoin has since fluctuated radically, complicating attempts to compensate victims. Proceedings in Southwark crown court on Friday morning were temporarily stalled as the order signed by West agreeing to the confiscation of the cryptocurrency related to a higher amount than that which was confiscated."

"Every day in airports across America, travelers confront facial recognition technology.

It probably saves time. Federal officials say it’s making us safer. And for the millions whose mobile phones already recognize faces, this would seem nothing new.

But how does old-fashioned privacy square with all these head shots and database comparisons? Where does the data go? What happens if you say no? These and other questions arise at LAX and beyond as government and industry leaders embrace biometric measures — especially facial recognition — and many privacy advocates resist. Some travelers’ questions are easy to answer. Others, not so much. "


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