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Data breaches forced governments and enterprises to focus on cyber security

In the first major attack of the year, the world reeled under “WannaCrypt” that locked files on computers.

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Cyber attack has effected millions of people globally. Wikimedia Commons
Cyber attack has effected millions of people globally. Wikimedia Commons
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Mega cyber attacks such as “WannaCrypt” and “Petya” this year forced governments and enterprises globally, including in India, to focus and invest more in bolstering their security networks. In the first major attack of the year, the world reeled under “WannaCrypt” that locked files on computers. Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected with the malware in May. The primary reason for this attack being successful was not the software but human error.

On March 14 this year, Microsoft released a security update which addressed the vulnerability in the 16-year-old Windows XP operating system. Once the patch for the vulnerability was released, hacker group “Shadow Brokers” exploited this loophole and wreaked havoc in 150 countries. Those who installed the update were saved, while several who did not, fell prey to the attack.

Soon after the “WanaCrypt” attack, tens of thousands of computers globally were affected by the “Adylkuzz attack” that shut down SMB networking to prevent further infections with other malware (including the WannaCrypt worm). While Europe and major parts of the world struggled with another big ransomware attack called “Petya”, India also bore the brunt. Some Indian servers were down owing to the Petya attack.

WanaCrypt, Judy, Locky and Petya are some of the malware attacks in the recent times. Wikiimedia Commons
WanaCrypt, Judy, Locky and Petya are some of the malware attacks in the recent times. Wikiimedia Commons

The Shipping Ministry said operations at one of the container terminals at Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) was affected by Petya. Companies like Genesis BM, a public relations firm, had to shut down systems in India after their international servers were attacked. The month of May saw another cyber attack when a malware called “Judy” hit over 36.5 million Android-based phones, making its way through Google Play Store.

In August, the “Locky” ransomware, once considered almost defunct, sent over 23 million emails with the malware to the US workforce in just 24 hours. It scrambled the contents of millions of computers and demanded payment to unlock it.

A group of hackers leaked the “Game of Thrones” script, along with 1.5TB of HBO data that included other popular TV shows. The hacking group demanded approximately $6.5 million worth of Bitcoins from HBO. A group of hackers also penetrated Equifax — one of the largest credit bureaus in the world — and stole personal data of 145 million people. Accountancy firm Deloitte was also targeted by a sophisticated hack that compromised the confidential emails and plans of some of its blue-chip clients and the attack went unnoticed for months.

In November, Yahoo agreed that it was attacked in 2013 wherein criminals had information about all three billion accounts. In another massive attack, hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies. The breach was concealed for more than a year.

Most companies fall victim to cyber attackers either because of unpatched software with known vulnerabilities or because of the human factor like people falling victim to phishing emails, Finland-based cybersecurity firm F-Secure said.

Microsoft's system are effected globally by the cyber threats. Wikimedia Commons
Microsoft’s system are effected globally by the cyber threats. Wikimedia Commons

Later in the year, the enterprise cybersecurity company FireEye said Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) groups that have allegedly been creating cyber havoc internationally will shift their focus in 2018 to countries like India and Hong Kong and groups seen as a threat to Beijing’s influence over global markets.

Slowly becoming aware of emerging cyber threats, organisations worldwide will spend $96.3 billion on security in 2018 — an increase of eight per cent from 2017, according to a Gartner forecast. More than 60 per cent of organisations globally will invest in multiple data security tools by 2020 — up from 35 per cent today, it added.

“Cyber attacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya, and most recently the Equifax breach, have a direct effect on security spend because these types of attacks last up to three years,” the market research firm said. To ward off future attacks, the Indian government set up NIC-CERT centre to monitor, detect and prevent cyber attacks on government networks.

NIC-CERT will work in close coordination and collaboration with sectoral CERTs and CERT-In. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the fifth edition of the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) in New Delhi in November that witnessed top global security experts deliberating on ways to fight cybersecurity. IANS

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Microsoft Extends Education Push With Acquisition of Flipgrid, a Student Video Discussion Platform

Microsoft buys student video discussion platform Flipgrid

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Microsoft Extends Education Push With Acquisition of Flipgrid, a Student Video Discussion Platform
Microsoft Extends Education Push With Acquisition of Flipgrid, a Student Video Discussion Platform. Pixabay

As part of its attempt to win over students and educators, Microsoft has acquired video discussion platform Flipgrid which is used by more than 20 million teachers and students across the world.

“Thrilled to welcome @Flipgrid to Microsoft!” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, tweeted on Monday.

“To bring the power of video-based social learning to everyone, we’ll be making Flipgrid free for all educators and offering prorated refunds to everyone who has purchased a subscription from Flipgrid in the last year,” said Eran Megiddo, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Education.

Representational image.
Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Flipgrid was created with the aim of helping educators recast the role of video in the classroom, from a passive experience to a tool that empowers and amplifies every student’s voice.

“Fans of Flipgrid can rest assured the Flipgrid they know and love, in joining Microsoft, will continue to grow and thrive across the Microsoft, Google and partner ecosystems, all the while retaining its distinct brand, culture and team,” Megiddo added.

Also Read: Microsoft’s Android Launcher Now Lets You Track Your Kid’s Location and App Usage

For Microsoft, which is facing increased competition in the classroom from both Apple and Google in recent years, the acquisition of Flipgrid is the latest in its effort to appeal to students and teachers, The Verge reported.

Microsoft has been improving its Office 365 for education offerings, and also overhauling its web versions of Office to be more modern and faster to use for collaboration, the report added. (IANS)