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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

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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To Ease The Seattle Housing Crisis, Microsoft Pledges $500Mn

Smith said he views the fund as an acknowledgment of the economic realities faced by low-salary workers at the company and elsewhere in King County.

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Homeless, seattle
A man lies in a tent with others camped nearby, under and near an overpass in Seattle, Feb. 9, 2016. Microsoft pledged $500 million to address homelessness and develop affordable housing in response to the Seattle region's widening affordability gap. VOA

Microsoft pledged $500 million to address homelessness and develop affordable housing in response to the Seattle region’s widening affordability gap.

Most of the money will be aimed at increasing housing options in the Puget Sound region for low- and middle-income workers at a time when they’re being priced out of Seattle and some of its suburbs, and when the vast majority of new buildings target wealthier renters, said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

The pledge is the largest in the company’s 44-year history, and, according to the company, is one of the heftiest contributions by a private corporation to housing, The Seattle Times reported. In comparison, the amount dwarfs the $100 million in annual funding for Washington state’s Housing Trust Fund.

It’s too early to say exactly how much affordable housing will ultimately result from the $500 million, Microsoft officials said. Smith said the company, based in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, hopes to leverage the fund to help create “tens of thousands of units.”

Microsoft, seattle
Microsoft’s Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, speaks at the annual Microsoft shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Wash., Nov. 30, 2016. VOA

Funds split three ways

The initiative comes as Microsoft and other tech giants that have driven the region’s economic boom face increasing pressure to help mitigate affordable-housing shortages. Microsoft is coupling its contributions with a call for other companies to step up, and for Seattle’s Eastside suburbs, of which Redmond is one, to facilitate more housing.

The company, which plans a news conference Thursday, will split the funds three ways.

Microsoft will loan $225 million at below-market interest rates to help developers facing high land and construction costs build and preserve “workforce housing” on the Eastside, where the company has 50,000 workers and is planning for more. The developments will be aimed at households making between $62,000 and $124,000 per year.

Secondly, $250 million will go toward market-rate loans for construction of affordable housing across the Puget Sound region for people making up to 60 percent of the local median income ($48,150 for a two-person household). The remaining $25 million will be donated to services for the region’s low-income and homeless residents.

Typhus, seattle
A homeless man sits at his street-side tent along Interstate 110 along downtown Los Angeles’ skyline, May 10, 2018. Thousands of homeless people sleep on the streets of Los Angeles County.. VOA

Acknowledging the reality

Smith said he views the fund as an acknowledgment of the economic realities faced by low-salary workers at the company and elsewhere in King County.

Also Read: The Plight of India’s Homeless Women Increases As Cities Expand

“At some level we as a region are going to need to either say there are certain areas where we’re comfortable having more people live, or we just want permanently to force the people who are going to teach our kids in schools, and put out the fires in our houses and keep us alive in the hospital, to spend four hours every day getting to and from work,” he said. “That is not, in our view, the best outcome for the community.” (VOA)