Baltimore: Ransomware Hobbled City’s Dispatch System

A ransomware attack hobbled Baltimore's 911 dispatch system over the weekend, a city official confirmed Wednesday, prompting a roughly 17-hour shutdown of automated emergency dispatching.

Earlier this week, Mayor Catherine Pugh's office didn't specify the nature of the cyberattack. But on late Wednesday afternoon, her chief information officer announced that it was caused by "ransomware perpetrators."

"We were able to successfully isolate the threat and ensure that no harm was done to other servers or systems across the city's network," said Johnson, who described it as a "limited breach."

But the cyberattack in Baltimore prompted a worrying shutdown of automated emergency dispatching from early Sunday into Monday and required the transition of the critical 911 service to manual mode.

"Anything that would disrupt the public's access to emergency services is very critical," said Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association, a Virginia-based organization focused on 911 issues.

Baltimore's difficulties came days after another ransomware cyberattack staggered the city of Atlanta's computer network.

Atlanta officials said their attack included the encryption of some city data and caused outages for numerous city applications, but it did not affect police and fire emergency response systems, water supply safety or the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. On Tuesday, Atlanta city employees were advised to turn on their computers and printers for the first time since the cyberattack hit the city's network last week.

In Baltimore, Johnson said the mid-Atlantic city's network was actually made vulnerable by an "internal change to the firewall" by a technician who was troubleshooting another issue within the automated dispatch system.

Johnson said that no personal data of any city resident was compromised.

Experts say that ransomware exploits known software vulnerabilities, and often organizations that fall victim to such attacks haven't done a thorough job of patching systems regularly.

Baltimore officials said they weren't aware of any specific ransom...

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Oracle Beats Google Big in Court; Debuts Admin-Free Database

Yesterday's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversing a jury decision on Google's use of Oracle's Java API packages "protects creators and consumers from the unlawful abuse of their rights," according to a statement from Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley.

However, advocates of fair use in copyright law say yesterday's ruling could cost Google $9 billion in damages as well as put a deep chill on future tech innovation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights organization, called the reversal "a surprising decision that should terrify software developers."

As Oracle yesterday welcomed the opportunity to revive its original 2010 complaint against Google, it also unveiled a new service that's the first based on its "self-driving" Oracle Autonomous Database. The Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud automates database administration and management tasks for enterprise customers, and is being positioned as a far cheaper alternative to Amazon Web Services, which dominates the "as-a-service" cloud market.

'Upholds Fundamental Principles'? or 'A Travesty'?

Since Oracle first filed suit against Google for using its Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in the development of the Android mobile operating system, the complaint has taken several twists and turns. In May 2012, a Northern California district court jury found there was no infringement, but that verdict was partially reversed and the case was sent back to the district court in May 2014. A second jury trial also found in favor of Google in May 2016, but that decision was reversed yesterday and the case remanded back to the district court.

"[W]e conclude that Google's use of the 37 Java API packages was not fair as a matter of law," the appeals court ruled yesterday. "We therefore reverse the district court's decisions denying Oracle's motions for JMOL [judgment as a matter of law] and remand...

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Zuckerberg Expected To Testify Before Congress After Data Leak Scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to testify before Congress about the company's privacy practices in coming weeks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

This person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Zuckerberg is aware there is intense pressure on him to testify, this person said.

Zuckerberg said last week in a CNN interview that he'd be "happy" to testify, but didn't commit to appear. Facebook is facing unprecedented scrutiny following reports that a data mining firm used ill-gotten data from tens of millions of its users to try to influence elections.

A spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Tuesday that the committee is working with Facebook to determine a day and time for Zuckerberg to testify.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg [pictured above] snubbed a summons from a British Parliamentary committee investigating the rise of fake news, offering to send senior Facebook executives instead.

This would be the first time Zuckerberg has ever testified before Congress. Last fall, the company sent its top lawyer to speak before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Google and Twitter also sent lower-level executives to the three public hearings on the matter.

Separately, Facebook announced a privacy settings makeover on Wednesday. While the move is intended to prepare for tighter European privacy regulations going into effect in May, Facebook said that recent events "underscore their importance."

The changes won't affect Facebook's privacy policies or the types of data it gathers on users. But the company hopes its 2.2 billion users will have an easier time navigating its complex and often confusing privacy and security settings. Facebook says it also wants to give users a simpler way to access and download the data it collects on them.

Chris Cox, Facebook's chief product officer, called the new settings "the first of many...

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Online Advertising Set for Record-Breaking Year in 2018

Online advertisers are expected to outspend TV advertisers by $40 billion this year. That means 40 percent of the world's ad spending is expected to take place online in 2018, according to new forecasts from advertising measurement company Zenith.

Online ad spending first beat out TV as the biggest ad medium last year.

Internet ad growth is being driven by social and video display ads, like those found on Facebook and YouTube. Globally, social media ad spending is estimated to rise 21 percent to $58 billion while video ad spending is rising 19 percent to $32 billion in 2018.

At 42 percent of total spending, search ads like those on Google remain the biggest form of online advertising, expected to reach $95 billion this year. Online search and classified spending is expected to grow less than 10 percent.

No surprise, all of this growth is taking place on mobile, which grew 25 percent this year to 60 percent of internet ad spending and 24 percent of total ad spending. Meanwhile, desktop ad spending declined nearly 4 percent.

As a whole, Zenith predicts global ad spending to rise about 5 percent, reaching $579 billion at the end of the year. That growth was revised upward from the 4 percent Zenith predicted in December and represents the biggest quarterly upgrade the company has made in seven years, thanks to upward momentum from markets in China, the Philippines, Argentina and Ireland.

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Atlanta in Recovery Mode After Ransomware Attack

The city of Atlanta on Tuesday authorized its employees to use their government computers for the first time since ordering them offline last week in response to a debilitating ransomware virus that continues to cause complications across Georgia's capital.

"Today, the City of Atlanta is advising its employees to turn on computers and printers for the first time since the March 22 cyberattack," Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' office said in a statement late Tuesday morning.

"It is expected that some computers will operate as usual and employees will return to normal use. It is also expected that some computers may be affected or affected in some way and employees will continue using manual or alternative processes. This is part of the City's ongoing assessment as part of the restoration and recovery process," the statement said.

Atlanta announced last Thursday that it had been hacked, and subsequent reports revealed that the city had become the victim of an attack involving ransomware, a type of malware designed to hold compromised computers hostage until its perpetrators receive a ransom payment.

The virus impacted "multiple applications and client devices," and city hall employees were advised on Friday against using their work computers while officials assessed the damages, according to a memo circulated by the city's IT office and obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

"This is much bigger than a ransomware attack. This really is an attack on our government, which means this is an attack on all of us and we just want to continue to be thoughtful, and will continue to be thoughtful to make sure that as a city that we are doing all that we need to do to make sure that we are secure going forward, Ms. Bottoms told Atlanta's WSB-TV Monday.

Several computer systems used by the city remained offline as of Monday afternoon,...

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After Data Breach Fallout, Equifax Hires New CEO

Equifax tapped longtime financial industry executive Mark Begor as its new permanent CEO, the company said Wednesday, as Equifax continues to try to recover from fallout surrounding the company's massive data breach.

The 59-year-old Begor will take over from Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who became interim CEO in September when Richard Smith stepped down from the post. Smith's departure followed those of two other high-ranking executives who left in the wake of the hack, which exploited a software flaw that Equifax didn't fix to expose Social Security numbers, birthdates and other personal data that provide the keys to identify theft.

Begor comes to Atlanta-based Equifax from the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, but he spent 35 years at General Electric before joining that firm. Begor ran GE's retail credit card business from 2002 to 2011, which was eventually spun off into a separate company now known as Synchrony Financial. The company is one of the largest co-brand credit card issuers in the country, which is when a company pairs up with a bank to issue a credit card under its brand. He also is on the board of directors for FICO, the company behind the namesake credit score.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Begor said he believed his previous experience working at GE -- which deals with both businesses and consumers -- would help him in the role. Equifax is still dealing with the aftereffects of the breach. A total of about 147.9 million Americans have been impacted by Equifax's data breach, which remains the largest exposure of personal information in history, and the company is under numerous state and federal investigations as well as dozens of class-action lawsuits.

"We didn't have the right defenses in place, but we are investing in the business to protect this from ever happening again,"...

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Department of Justice Wants Kaspersky Lawsuits Dismissed

The Department of Justice defended the government's decision to ban products sold by Russian software vendor Kaspersky Lab, arguing in federal court filings in favor of dismissing lawsuits brought on the firm's behalf.

Justice Department attorneys filed motions in D.C. federal court Monday challenging separate lawsuits initiated by Kaspersky's lawyers in response to both a Department of Homeland Security directive and congressional legislation banning its products.

The DHS issued a binding operational directive (BOD) in September ordering civilian agencies to purge its networks of Kaspersky products, and Congress codified that prohibition by approving the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, an annual spending bill signed into law by President Trump in December that contains a provision barring federal entities from using the company's hardware, software or services.

Attorneys for Kaspersky argued the policies unlawfully singled out their client's U.S. offices, and that the prohibitions have damaged the company's reputation. The Justice Department countered that the bans were proper, however, since U.S. officials have determined that using Kaspersky Lab products may pose a risk to national security.

"By the time this legislation reached the floor, there was broad agreement among lawmakers and cybersecurity officials in the executive branch that the security risks posed by the use of Kaspersky products and services were intolerably high, and strong bipartisan support for taking preventive action against those risks," the Justice Department argued in a motion filed Monday to dismiss Kaspersky's lawsuit against the defense-bill provision.

"Rescinding the BOD would leave the NDAA ban in place, which means agencies still would be required to remove and stop using Kaspersky products, and there still would be law branding the company's software as a security risk," the DOJ responded to Kaspersky's attempt to overturn the DHS directive. "Nothing of practical value would come from a favorable ruling, and whatever...

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Doubling Down on Education, Apple Touts $299 Tablets for Students

Apple is doubling down that the iPad will be the future of education. Apple unveiled a new, cheaper iPad model for as low as $299, aimed at students from elementary school to college. The new 9.7-inch iPads will be compatible with Apple Pencil stylus, feature Apple's second-latest processor chip and support for more than 200,000 education apps, Apple revealed Tuesday morning.

The iPad is available at $299 for schools and $329 for consumers. Students also will get a $10 discount for the Apple Pencil, costing $89. The school-focused price will be the cheapest for any iPad in the market.

Apple unconventionally chose to announce the new iPad outside of its headquarters in Cupertino and its past venues in San Jose and San Francisco, and instead hosted the product event at Lane Tech High School in Chicago. Chicago's public school district partnered with Apple last December to teach nearly 500,000 students how to code using Swift, Apple's in-house coding language.

Apple's latest event was a pushback to the growing presence of Google Chromebooks in classrooms across America. Chromebooks, which can be as cheap as $149 and support Google's software services such as Google Docs and Drive, now make up more than half of all computer shipments to K-12 classrooms in the United States in 2017, according to the data firm Futurebooks Consulting.

"We believe that our place at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts makes it possible to create and amplify our creativity," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. "This is something only Apple can do."

Apple's vice president of product marketing Greg Joswiak touted that the new iPad with its A10 Fusion chip was "more powerful than most PC laptops and virtually every Chromebook."

Google on Monday, a day before Apple's announcement, unveiled its Chrome OS tablet made by Acer. The tablet, like the new...

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NASA Delays Next-Generation Space Telescope Until 2020

NASA is delaying the launch of its next-generation space telescope -- its highest science priority -- until at least 2020.

Top officials said Tuesday that more time is needed to assemble and test the James Webb Space Telescope, which is considered a successor to the long-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

It's the latest in a series of delays for the telescope, dating back a decade. More recently, Webb was supposed to fly this year, but last fall NASA bumped the launch until 2019.

"Simply put, we have one shot to get this right before going into space," explained Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator of science.

For such a highly complex machine designed to "look at the universe in a way that we've never seen it," there can be no shortcuts, he stressed. The telescope will study planets orbiting other stars, while probing the earliest times of the cosmos.

Some mistakes were made while preparing the telescope, which slowed work. At the same time, NASA underestimated the scale of the job, Zurbuchen said.

Unlike Hubble, which was serviced regularly by space shuttle astronauts, Webb will orbit the sun at a point about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth -- unreachable in case of a breakdown. Hubble lifted off in 1990 with a flawed mirror that blurred its vision; spacewalking astronauts had to fix it in 1993.

"You've heard this before, but it rings true for us. Really, failure is not an option," Zurbuchen told reporters in a teleconference.

NASA and its partner, the European Space Agency, will firm up a new launch date, now tentatively targeted for May 2020 from French Guiana. An independent review board is being formed to look into the remaining work and feasible launch dates.

Once a date is actually set, NASA said it will provide a new cost estimate. Officials acknowledge the cost may...

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InfluxData Expands in EMEA with Time Series Database Tools

SAN FRANCISCO -- March 28, 2018 -- InfluxData, the modern Open Source Platform built specifically for metrics, events and other time series data that empowers developers to build next-generation monitoring, analytics and IoT applications, today announced its continued expansion in EMEA to meet growing global demand for its time series database metrics and events platform, including hiring two key EMEA officials.

InfluxData has appointed former Canonical and Rackspace executive Rob Gillam as its new EMEA Sales Director. In addition, the company has named Dean Sheehan, former Apcera and iWave executive as its new Senior Director of Pre- and Post-Sales. The EMEA regional expansion comes on the heels of last month?EU?s round of $35M in funding to expand worldwide Sales, Marketing and R&D and fuel the company?EU?s rapid acceleration internationally, where it has seen a significant rise in revenue and growth.

"InfluxData has experienced a dramatic increase in demand from EMEA enterprises for our purpose-built time series platform," said Evan Kaplan, InfluxData CEO. "The demand is driven by accelerating enterprise investment in IoT and DevOps monitoring and control applications. We are pleased to add Rob and Dean to our executive team to help us rapidly expand our EMEA presence. We will rely on their expertise and experience as we work to support our existing and new customers in the region."

According to DB-Engines' latest results, InfluxData is the overwhelming worldwide market leader, with its InfluxDB user popularity ranking nearly three times more than the nearest competitor. To date the company's EMEA operations account for 40 percent of total revenue, with projections for significant growth. InfluxData is also seeing synergies with important industry organizations in-region, such as its work around IoT and the Eclipse IoT Initiative. Due to popular demand, the company has also expanded its InfluxDays...
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