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Ransomware Outbreak In Arizona Shuts Down Businesses

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FBI warns Arizona of ransomware outbreak

The world has seen multiple data breaches in the past few years, and the problem appears to be escalating. However, there is another type of attack that starts to become one of the most prolific cyber attacks, one which forces companies, small business, and government systems to suspend their operations or even collapse – ransomware.

Last month, the famous American beverage brand Arizona Beverages has been attacked by ransomware that effectively paralyzed its operations, leaving the company in recovery mode until today. The company, famous for their iced tea drinks, is still rebuilding its compromised network two weeks after a malicious email has installed a ransomware on its server, wiping hundreds of Windows computers and servers and forcing the company to shut down sales operation for days until a team of responders is called in to fix the issue.

According to people familiar with the matter, more than 200 servers and networked computers displayed the same message: “Your network was hacked and encrypted.” The company’s name appears in the ransom note signifying that the attack was targeted towards the company and not random, as other ransomware attacks are.

Staff and employees of the company were instructed to not “power on, copy files, or connect to any network” through a company memorandum saying that their “laptop may be compromised.”

The company called in an incident response team to handle the outbreak, after which it was discovered that many of the back-end servers were running old and outdated Windows are no longer supported. Furthermore, most of these servers had not received security patches in years.

Signing a response team to mitigate the effect of ransomware can cause a hefty amount of money. The staff from Cisco, the company hired to respond to the attack, had to rebuild the entire network from scratch effectively. Since the outbreak, Arizona Beverages spent “hundreds of thousands” on new hardware, software, and other recovery costs.

“Once the backups didn’t work, they started throwing money at the problem,” a person familiar with the incident said.

According to the investigation conducted to determine the source of the attack, the ransomware infects, understood to be iEncrypt, was triggered overnight on March 21, weeks following the alert sent by the FBI to warn Arizona of an apparent Dridex malware infection. Incident responders believed that Arizona’s systems had been compromised for at least a couple of months.

No response from the FBI was yet released after asking for the details of the warning the agency sent to Arizona.

There has been a swath of ransomware attacks that have been investigated in recent months. Only last week, the social services of Albany, New York were paralyzed following apparent ransomware attacks that targeted the servers of the city.

The extent of the damage caused by the ransomware is still unknown, and officials have been working over the weekend to respond to the incident appropriately. According to a press release available on the official site of the city, all city services will be open to the public except birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates.

The city also said that all employees are tasked to report during regular business hours and operations, except those identified above, will be regularly available for anyone.

“All City employees will report to work during normal business hours on Monday, and City buildings will be open to the public at noon. City Court services will operate during normal business hours,” the city announced in a press release on its official website.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said that their IT experts and the rest of the response team are determining the exact extent of the damage and will consistently update the public for any developments as soon as they become available. She tweeted:

“The City of Albany has experienced a ransomware cyber attack. We are currently determining the extent of the compromise. We are committed to keeping you informed and will provide updates as they become available.”

Norsk Hydro, one of the biggest aluminum producers worldwide, was previously forced to shut down a part of its manual operations because of a cyber attack that targeted its computer systems and internal servers. After an investigation regarding the incident, it was concluded that a LockerGoga ransomware attacked the company.

Furthermore, just last week, the parking garage computer system of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), a non-profit organization managing the .ca country code top-level domain (ccTLD) and represents the Canadian domains internationally, was infiltrated by a ransomware attack that allowed employees (and practically anyone) to use a parking space for free.

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Neuralink Will Allow You To Control Things With Your Mind

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Source: Neuralink

Neuralink is a 100-man team of researchers that are developing cutting-edge brain implants that will ultimately allow paralyzed patients to perform everyday tasks just by simply thinking about it.

The startup company is another project by Elon Musk, who continuously breaks the ceiling on how technology can be pushed farther. Now, he’s aiming to accomplish tasks such as typing on a computer, scroll through a smartphone, and even send emails through a sensor attached within a person’s brain.

“This is going to sound pretty weird, but ultimately, we will achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” Musk says at a news conference Tuesday night in San Francisco. “This is not a mandatory thing. It is a thing you can choose to have if you want. This is something that I think will be really important on a civilization-level scale.”

The year is literally 2077, like Microsoft’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 featuring Keanu Reeves, where people can now have the option to enhance their physical capabilities technologically. However, we’re not jumping into anything too complex. The idea, for now, is to help paralyzed patients be more adept in everyday life.

Furthermore, Neuralink won’t function as instantly as one would think. “All of this will occur actually quite slowly,” Musk says. “It’s not going to be like suddenly, Neuralink will have this incredible neural lace and start taking over people’s brains. It will take a long time, and you will see it coming.”

How will Neuralink allow people to control things with their mind?

The basic idea of Neuralink is by attaching sensors within a person’s brain, where they can effectively pick up brain signals compared to non-invasive devices. The sensor will then send the message that the brain signals are trying to perform over to the desired device, and voilá, the paralyzed is now casually scrolling through his or her phone’s web pages.

Primarily, the brain sensors are equipped with 3,072 electrodes per array that constantly picks up signals in the brain’s neurons and synapses. The device is called “threads,” according to Neuralink. Furthermore, the “threads” are thinner than a human hair at only one-third of which in width and are barely perceptible with the human eye.

Significantly, “threads” is a breakthrough technology because similar devices have tried to achieve similar results. However, others are far larger compared in size and diameter—requiring more invasive procedures to implant in the brain. As a result, most of these devices are prone to causing more detrimental side effects in a person’s brain function, which made it achieve little success in the past.

Additionally, another key factor that allowed Neuralink to achieve its success is the development of their robotic arm that provides the extreme precision and care needed to implant this extremely small device.

Particularly, the robot is about the size of a barbecue grill, and it uses high-end optics to drill 8mm holes in the skull and then place the wires precisely. 

The lenses and computer vision software help the robot avoid hitting blood vessels, reducing damage to the brain and formation of scar tissue. “Because these things are so thin and flexible, the idea is that they move with the tissue instead of tearing the tissue,” says Neuralink researcher Philip Sabes.

When will Neuralink be available for public use?

As of the moment, the device Neuralink has created only been found effective in mice and even primate subjects. In a research paper released on Tuesday evening, Neuralink said it has performed at least 19 surgeries on animals with its robots, and successfully placed the “threads” about 87% of the time.

In the experiment, the test rat was able to move around a large rectangular plastic cage filled with wood shavings and Parmesan cheese. “We definitely need to address the monkey in the room,” Musk says. “This is a sensitive subject. A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain.”

Sabes says the amount of data being gathered from the rat was about ten times greater than what today’s most powerful sensors can collect.

However, Neuralink’s scientists told The New York Times in a briefing on Monday that the company still has a “long way to go” before it can get anywhere near offering commercial service, but as early as now, Neuralink is trying to secure approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in order to allow them to conduct human clinical trials as early as next year.

“We will painlessly laser-drill the holes into the skull, place the threads, plug the hole with the sensor, and then you go home,” Max Hodak, the President and co-founder of Neuralink say. “It’ll basically be an experience like getting Lasik.”

Shortly, the company is eyeing for the technology to help not only the paralyzed but also amputees by attaching the sensor receiver to prosthetics, or it could be used to treat epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and even provide “rich visual feedback to the blind.” They also went as far as to be able to insert new languages into the brain, but then again, the technology is still has a long way to go.

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India Chandrayaan-2 Postponed Due To Technical Difficulties

India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission delayed but its historic first landing on the moon will still push through but at a different date

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Chandrayaan-2 | ISRO | Twitter

India was set to perform the first step toward its historic first moon landing with it its launch of the Chandrayaan-2 today. However, the move was otherwise postponed due to technical difficulties.

Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to launch at 02:51 local time on Monday (21:21 GMT Sunday) from Sriharikota space station in India’s eastern coast. The launch was stopped minutes at 56:24, only 36 minutes away.

“A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at T-56 minute. As a measure of abundant precaution, #Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today,” the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said in a tweet momentarily after media was blocked.

Furthermore, the agency told that the delay was due to an abundance of precaution. ISRO Chief, K Sivan, said this was “the most complex space mission ever to be undertaken by the agency.”

Although a new launch date is set to be announced soon, the 10-minute backup window on Tuesday would seem most likely for the ISRO to opt for the Chandrayaan-2.

So far, India’s Chandrayaan-2 is touted to be the country’s most ambitious space mission to date with its goal of making a soft landing on the moon along with a lander and orbiter aboard its most powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III), which weighs 640 tonnes and stands at 44 meters (144ft).

To achieve such goal, India has devised its hardware and technology that would allow them to explore the moon’s hardly-explored south pole. This serves as an interesting location for space exploration since it was theorized that the craters on that side of the moon are permanently shadowed, which could hold water ice — a vital resource for future space exploration.

Through a team of nearly 1,000 engineers and scientists, the team developed their lander, orbiter, and rover aside from its powerful GSLV Mk-III launcher — a task that the United States is currently developing.

Initially, the ISRO plans to get the Chandrayaan-2 into the moon’s orbit by September by which it will deploy its lander called Vikram, named after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai who was considered as the Father of the Indian space program. Vikram is also designed to function for one lunar day.

After then, it will make a soft landing of its rover, which a 27 kilogram, six-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan that can travel up to 500 meters and leverages solar energy for its functioning.

There will also be the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter that will be able to communicate with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu, Karnataka as well as the lander Vikram. The mission life of the Orbiter is one year, and it will be placed in a 100X100 km lunar polar orbit.

Overall, the mission costs about $150 million to complete, which is largely encouraged by the first lunar mission by the ISRO back in 2008 with the Chandrayaan-1.

Though the Chandrayaan-1 did not make a lunar landing, it was able to provide one of the most in-depth probes on the existence of water on the moon’s surface and a first using radars.

If successful, India will join the other three countries who achieved the feat, including the United States, Russia, and China. Furthermore, aside from national pride and achieving a new milestone for the ISRO, successfully completing the unmanned mission will allow the agency for manned flights as early as 2022.

Interestingly and historically, the Chandrayaan-2 is led by women namely Vanitha Muthayya, head of the mission as Project Director, and Ritu Karidhal as the mission director. 

Specifically, both women have proved their capabilities in the past. Vanitha has worked with the Chandrayaan-1 with her data-handling expertise and has effective managerial skills. This time, she is overseeing the mission from start to finish. While Karidhal has worked with India’s Mars Orbital Mission in 2013 and will now oversee the spacecraft’s insertion into the lunar orbit.

On the other hand, it is quite interesting since India continues to be a very sexist country whereas they are known to have very misogynist culture. “Women power is powering India’s Moon ambitions,” Dr. Sivan said, adding that at Isro, “women and men are all equal. Only talent matters – not the gender.”

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FDA Says That Grain Free Dog Food Linked To Heart Disease

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Photo by Mike Burke on Unsplash

The US Food and Drug Administration recently published a statement that they are looking into particular dog food formulations responsible for potential heart failure in dogs. Furthermore, the report indicated specific brands that reflected the frequency of heart failure.

Although the FDA has been looking into dog food labeled as “grain free” since 2018, the most recent June 2019 statement is the first time that the agency has specified brands that appear to be linked more than others with canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

Reports gathered between January 2014 and April 2019 totaled to 515 reported cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Among the 515, there are 222 proclaimed cases between December 2018 and April 2019.

Notably, the FDA is looking at the connection between the significant presence of grain-free diets amongst those with dogs who experienced fatal heart disease.

“As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen,” the FDA describes.

Furthermore, DCM is recognized as a genetic condition in dogs, typically in large or giant breeds, such as the Doberman pinscher, Great Dane, and the Irish wolfhound. But many of the reported cases were of breeds not previously known to be genetically disposed to the disease, the FDA said.

In particular, the condition started to manifest on much smaller breeds who required less work from the heart—another factor that led the FDA into conducting its research on the grain-free diet.

Grain free dog foods contain a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and/or potatoes in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as primary ingredients.

According to the FDA, there were 16 significant grain free dog food brands linked to DCM in dogs. These brands are ordered by the number of cases linked to them, ranging from highest (67) to lowest (10).

16 Grain Free Dog Food brands linked to DCM cases:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

The FDA received an additional 13 other brands that link to DCM in dogs but were deemed “not significant” since reported cases are low compared to the ones mentioned above.

Furthermore, most of the reports were associated with dry dog food formulations. However, it also includes raw food, semi-moist food, and wet food.

In light of the recent report, the FDA noted that their findings are only “based on reports that included brand information and that some reports named multiple brands” and that the agency needs to conduct more research on the connection between the grain-free diet and dogs’ susceptibility to the potentially fatal heart disease.

“We’re not saying don’t use these brands; we’re just telling pet owners to work directly with their veterinarians because we’re still investigating,” Lindsay Haake, an FDA spokesperson said.

However, ahead of the FDA’s report, some vets have already expressed their sentiment against grain free dog foods.

Knowing there had been studies showing that diet could play a role in the development of heart disease in dogs, Dr. Anna Gelzer, a veterinary cardiologist and an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine states that they’re “making investigations into what each owner was feeding,” via NBC News.

Currently, uncertain reasons are leading to explain why grain free dog food became a trend. Some say that it’s because pet owners believe that it’s a healthier version to feed their furry pets. Gelzer debunked this claim and said that “there’s no scientific reason for going without grain.”

“They are trying to do what they perceive as the right thing for their dogs unless the dog has a documented sensitivity to grains, it’s probably not worth the risk at this point to feed these products,” said Dr. Bruce Kornreich. Kornreich is a veterinary cardiologist in the department of clinical sciences at the Veterinary College of Cornell University and associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center.

“What we don’t know is if [the foods] used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem,” adds Kornreich. “It’s also possible that could be some kind of toxin.”

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