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Huge cyberattack leaves computers across the world reeling

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Update: Organizations and individuals across the UK, Europe and beyond are scrambling to restore their computer systems after a ransomware program called WannaCry caused an unprecedented level of disruption over the weekend.

In the traditional ransomware style, WannaCry demands bitcoin payments before it will unlock files that have been encrypted on users’ machines, as well as spreading itself automatically to other networked computers. It’s believed that the malware exploits a security hole in unpatched, older versions of Windows, including Windows XP.

On Sunday, Europol said 200,000 victims in 150 countries were believed to be hit so far, with another wave of attacks potentially on the way as people begin to switch their office computers back on on Monday morning – giving the ransomware new ways to spread.

Stay on guard

The National Cyber Security Centre in the UK is warning both businesses and individuals to be on their guard, especially those running older versions of Windows. The NCSC site also includes some smart advice for protecting your computers against ransomware of this kind.

The NHS in the UK, Telefónica in Spain, Renault in France and dozens of other companies are believed to be affected, with reports that WannaCry has now spread to more than a hundred countries. Microsoft has taken the unusual step of pushing out a Windows XP security patch for the bug, some three years after official support for XP ended.

As of Sunday afternoom, the scale of the damage was still being assessed, and it’ll be some time yet before affected systems can be cleaned up and put back on their feet. It’s safe to say if you’re struggling to connect with any kind of computer system this weekend, anything from train times to doctor appointments, WannaCry could be to blame.

The NHS in the UK was one of the first organizations to raise the alarm, and our original report continues below.

The NHS has confirmed that a number of hospitals across England have been the victims of a large scale cyberattack, with NHS employees taking to social media claiming that PCs in their hospitals were displaying a message saying “your computers are now under their control and pay a certain amount of money. And now everything is gone.”

Taking over a PC and threatening to delete its data unless money is paid is a classic move of ransomware viruses, and while they can cause anguish and disruption when infecting home and business machines, when it comes to hospitals lives could be at stake.

Affected hospitals are postponing all non-urgent activity and are asking people not to come to A&E. Instead people should dial 111 for urgent medical advice, or 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.

A statement released by East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust, which covers some of the hospitals affected, says that “today (Friday, 12 May 2017), the trust has experienced a major IT problem, believed to be caused by a cyber attack.

“Immediately on discovery of the problem, the trust acted to protect its IT systems by shutting them down; it also meant that the trust’s telephone system is not able to accept incoming calls.”

According to the BBC, the attack has also spread across Europe, hitting mobile brand Telefonica too. It increasingly appears to be a sophisticated, coordinated attack.

Warning signs

Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before a cyberattack of this scale would hit hospitals, with a warning from Andrew Avanessian, vice president at Avecto, a global security software company, circulating a few days ago that said that “hospitals are often targets due to the value of the data they hold. Not only does patient data have a resale value, it’s sensitive enough that NHS Trusts are likely to pay a ransom to get it back if it becomes encrypted.”

While we’d often advise people infected by ransomware to contact the police before paying any sort of ransom – mainly because there’s no guarantee that the malicious users behind the malware will release your data even if they get paid – the NHS doesn’t have that luxury considering lives could be at stake.

Avanessian suggested that it could be outdated software that caused the problem here, saying “outdated systems can often be to blame, and it’s bad news for patients that 90% of Trusts are running old versions of Windows that are riddled with security holes.”

He suggested NHS trusts update their software as soon as possible, but sadly it looks like it’s too late.

Road to recovery

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“We commend NHS England on reacting so quickly, and for being open about this attack,” said Chris Ross, Senior Vice President, International at storage giants Barracuda.

“Healthcare records holding sensitive and personal data are 100 times more valuable than stolen credit card details, so it comes as no surprise to see that NHS England has been targeted in this way.

“Having been attacked the focus now must be to recover with minimal disruption. We would hope that the hospitals that have been hit have already devised and implemented a comprehensive backup recovery plan that will allow them to recover all encrypted files with minimal effort.

“This just goes to prove that cybercriminals don’t care who they target with ransomware, as long as the victim is willing to pay. All sizes of organisations have been targeted, and the impact is far reaching. It’s not just your hard-earned money that is at risk, it’s also your reputation, viability, and jobs.”

source:http://www.techradar.com/news/nhs-hospitals-in-england-hit-by-massive-cyberattack

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SAMSUNG IS BUILDING SOFTWARE TO CONTROL YOUR TV WITH YOUR BRAIN

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Samsung has created smart TV software you can control with your brainwaves.

The research, called Project Pontis, aims to make Samsung’s televisions more accessible for people with physical disabilities like quadriplegia. The company wants to enable “users with physical limitations to change channels and adjust sound volume with their brains.”

Samsung’s Swiss operations started the project three months ago in partnership with the Center of Neuroprosthetics of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. The company demoed its second prototype TV on Thursday at its developer conference in San Francisco.

“How can we provide accessibility to people who cannot move or who have extreme limitations on their movements,” Ricardo Chavarriaga, a senior scientist at EPFL who’s working on the project with Samsung, said during a panel at Samsung Developer Conference.

“We’re making tech that is more complex, that is more intelligent, but we should not forget this tech is being made to interface with humans,” he added.

The first step in making the brainwave-controlled TV software is to collect a sample of how the brain behaves when the user wants to do something like select a movie. Samsung and EPFL combine indicators from both the environment and brain scans to build a model and apply machine learning to let the user select shows using eye movements and brainwaves.

To collect the brainwaves in the prototype, a user wears a headset covered with 64 sensors while looking at an eye tracker. The headset is connected to a computer that’s mirrored to the TV.

The current prototype uses eye tracking to determine when a user has selected a particular movie. The system then builds a profile of videos the user gravitates toward, making it easier to provide lists of content in the future. The user ultimately makes a selection using eye tracking.

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Ricardo Chavarriaga (left), a senior researcher at the Center of Neuroprosthetics of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, and Martin Kathriner, head of public Affairs, Samsung Electronics Switzerland GmbH, have been working on controlling a TV using brainwaves.

Shara Tibken/CNET

Samsung and EPFL are also working on a system that goes further and relies on brain signals alone for users who aren’t able to control their eyes or other muscles reliably, Chavarriaga said.

“One thing we have to take in account is everybody is different,” he said. Currently, the technology has to be tailored to each person because of variations in brains. “We believe we have to do the best for the person, so we have to personalize,” Chavarriaga told CNET.

Samsung this week has been hosting its annual developer conference in San Francisco. SDC reflects Samsung’s big push to get developers to make software specifically for its devices. In the past, that’s meant making apps that work on the edge of Samsung’s curved smartphone displays or take advantage of its S Pen stylus. This year, that focus has turned to Bixby and artificial intelligence. But Samsung also has pushed developers to make apps for its other products, like its TVs and home appliances.

Brain power

While developers aren’t yet making apps that can be controlled with the brain, Samsung’s doing research into the area. And it’s not the only company trying to use brainwaves to control devices. SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in March 2017 launched Neuralink, a company dedicated to creating “neural lace,” which involves installing tiny electrodes in the brain to transmit thoughts.

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Samsung’s Project Pontis collects brainwaves to decide if the user wants to select a particular movie.

Angela Lang/CNET

And neuroscientists around the globe have been researching ways to make a digital interface for the brain. The technology is still early days, but it could one day replace touch screens and voice assistants in devices. Currently, most brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are currently being created only for people who have suffered debilitating injuries that left them partially or completely paralyzed.

While Samsung’s first prototype also is targeted at accessibility, it’s too soon to say whether we’ll all one day be controlling our devices with our brainwaves, said Martin Kathriner, head of public affairs for Samsung Electronics Switzerland GmbH. There are limitations with the current hardware. The sensor helmet requires a layer of gel applied to the head, something consumers likely aren’t going to do at home.

“To us it’s an accessibility idea,” he told CNET after Samsung’s SDC panel. “If it’s applicable to us one day as pro couch potatoes, I have no idea.”

Samsung initially considered building the technology into a smartphone but opted for the TV in part because of its bigger screen and because most homes have a TV, Kathriner said. He added that TVs also can be used as smart home hubs, which could be attractive for the brainwave technology.

Samsung plans to work on its second prototype through the first quarter of 2019 and then start tests in Swiss hospitals “where we start to explore how this situation, currently a prototype, … is perceived by patients,” Kathriner said.

Originally published at 3:05 p.m. PT
Update at 4:30 p.m. PT with additional details and executive comments.

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Source:  https://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-is-making-a-tv-you-control-with-your-brain-at-sdc-samsung-developer-conference/

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FACEBOOK RAMPS UP EFFORTS TO REMOVE TERRORIST CONTENT

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Facebook says it’s been trying to do a better job of finding and pulling down terrorist content, and on Thursday the world’s largest social network said it’s seen signs of success.

Facebook said that in the third quarter, it pulled down 3 million posts related to terrorism, a drop from the 9.4 million posts Facebook removed in the second quarter. The median amount of time terrorist content stayed on the platform after users reported it also dropped, from 43 hours in the first quarter to 18 hours in the third quarter, the company said.

Social networks are under pressure to remove terrorist content before violence spills into the real world. As they increase their efforts, though, bad actors are constantly changing strategy to evade detection, the companies say. Some terrorists try to create new accounts or break up their messages, Facebook said.

“We can reduce the presence of terrorism on mainstream social platforms, but eliminating it completely requires addressing the people and organizations that generate this material in the real world,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s global head of policy management, and Brian Fishman, the company’s head of counterterrorism policy, wrote in a blog post.

Facebook relies on machine learning to detect terrorist content its reviewers should prioritize. Sometimes the company will automatically pull down posts, if the system determines there’s “high confidence” the post contains support for terrorism. The company has also been expanding some of its tools to more languages.

In the third quarter, about 99 percent of content related to ISIS and al-Qaeda was pulled down by the tech firm before a user reported it, Facebook said.

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FACEBOOK BANS PAGES LINKED TO FAR-RIGHT PROUD BOYS GROUP AFTER ARRESTS

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Facebook is banning individual accounts, pages and groups linked to far-right extremists the Proud Boys.

People started reporting the takedown on Twitter on Tuesday, according to Business Insider, in the wake of Proud Boys members’ arrests following a brawl on Manhattan’s Upper East Side earlier this month.

The group and its founder Gavin McInnes were removed from Facebook and Instagram, the social network confirmed, highlighting its policies on hate groups.

“Our team continues to study trends in organized hate and hate speech and works with partners to better understand hate organizations as they evolve,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We ban these organizations and individuals from our platforms and also remove all praise and support when we become aware of it. We will continue to review content, Pages, and people that violate our policies, take action against hate speech and hate organizations to help keep our community safe.”

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The Proud Boys’ main US page and McInnes’ personal page are offline, but some smaller pages linked to the group are still up at time of writing.

McInnes, who co-founded Vice Media and left in 2008, created Proud Boys during the 2016 presidential election, and was suspended from Twitter in August. The self-described “western chauvinist” group was designated as a hate group by extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center.

These bans come months after far right commentator and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was kicked off multiple online platforms for hate speech.

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