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[NEWS] World cybercrime threats increase

The latest 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report announced that ransomware attacks increased by an incredible 105% in 2021. The worst-hit were governments, with a 1,885% increase, and the healthcare industry, with a 755% increase on the previous year. 

Small businesses are most likely to fall victim to ransomware, malware, and DDoS attacks, which are also increasing in frequency. These breaches are most commonly a result of phishing (emails that contain a malicious link), social engineering (gathering personal data from social media and using it for fraudulent purposes), stolen credentials, or outdated computing systems. The average cost of an attack is $352,000, according to a 2021 report by NetDiligence. 

Given the world’s reaction to the situation in Ukraine, there are calls to businesses, particularly those based in the United States, to watch for advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks. Going back a bit, we last saw the potential damage these can cause, with the SolarWinds attack on nine federal agencies and 100 private organizations during the disputed U.S. elections at the end of 2020.  Microsoft President Brad Smith described that breach as the “largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen”. 

Although the Kremlin denied involvement in the Solar Winds cyberattack, Microsoft has since  identified Nobelium, a Russian state-sponsored group, as being responsible. In 2021, US President Joe Biden called a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to enumerate 16 critical sectors that Russian hackers must avoid, or they would be met with reprisals. 

According to media reports, Russia was likely behind recent cyberattacks in Ukraine, as well as in 2014 after it annexed Crimea, and in 2008 when it invaded Georgia, with the goal of destabilizing communications. Politico reports that in recent years, the rise of state-sponsored cybergangs from Russia, as well as China, Iran, and North Korea, continue to cause concern for democratic governments.   

Cybercriminals flourish when governments and individuals are distracted by public health concerns, political divisions, and now, war. In times like these, it’s essential that we all remain mindful of the dangers and stay informed. To help, you can dive into all the latest information and best practices from the experts, in Namecheap’s privacy and security articles.

In other news

  • Tech restrictions continue against Russia. Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine is having multiple effects on the ability of Russian citizens to access the Internet and tech platforms. ZDNet reports that Lumen Technologies and Cogent, two leading Internet backbone providers, are the latest to halt operations which will cause connectivity issues, for Russia and nearby countries like Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

    According to the Verge, Russian Internet users continue to seek information provided by outside news and information sources, in what pundits are coining ‘the splinternet’. CNN reports that Russian users downloaded VPN apps a total of 2.7 million times during late February, a three-fold increase in demand from previous weeks.

    CNN also notes that encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram saw significant growth too. And Lantern, a free peer-to-peer internet tool used to bypass government firewalls, experienced a 2000% increase in Russian downloads in the past two months.

    Meanwhile, Twitter launched a privacy-protected version of its site on the dark web which the Guardian reports can be accessed by anyone in Russia through the anonymous web browser Tor. Sites like Facebook and BBC have had Tor versions of their sites available for several years now.

    Mounting sanctions by international tech companies will continue to disrupt Russian access to hardware and software, so Russia is looking to legalize software piracy in certain circumstances. According to Kotaku, it will allow users to illegally download software if it originates from a country supporting sanctions against Russia.
  • Proof of stake to cut blockchain energy use. Blockchain-based projects have attracted a whole new level of interest, money, and hype recently. But one issue that deters investors is that these projects require huge amounts of energy to power servers, which contributes to climate change. MIT Technology Review thinks there might be a solution: proof of stake. It is an alternative way to set up blockchain networks and is projected to cut energy use by up to 99.5%. Ethereum, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, will test the new technology dubbed “The Merge” on its applications later this year and plans to make a full transition to using it.
  • Tinder wants to be a safer platform. Users of Tinder (you know who you are) often experience bots, fake profiles, and encounter unsavory matches. The last is a more serious concern. Because app users keep information to a minimum, you don’t really get to know someone until you meet them in person. Naturally, many users want to know whether a match is safe to meet up with. TechCrunch reports the site is improving the security of the platform by rolling out in-app access to background checks, powered by nonprofit firm Garbo, which can check for any criminal history. The downside? Garbo is only available to US users for now, and only the first two checks are free.  
  • Music fans, dust off the plastic covers—CDs are back. Perhaps we’re all a bit tired of the multi-directional, multi-play, so-called ‘personalized playlists for you’ offered by musical streaming platforms, or at least Axios seems to think so. Their 2022 report on the sales of CDs shows that CD sales have grown for the first time since 2004 by $100 million (or 25%) in the US. And in combination with increased vinyl sales, overall physical music sales have increased for the first time since 1996.
  • NASA’s ‘Watts on the Moon’ Challenge. In this day and age of big space budgets, it’s rather charming that NASA is funding a crowdsourcing competition. What’s at stake? A solution to extending the life of power available on the surface of the moon. The next human-crewed moon mission requires more energy storage, and more efficient power transmission. And Zdnet tells us prize money for innovations the agency finds useful can go up to $500,000 per invention. Not too bad an incentive for any garage inventors out there. 
  • AI and robotics combination could help spinal injuries. Spinal operations often leave behind debilitating scar tissue, which makes a full recovery impossible. For clients who cannot use their limbs, there is currently no solution to this. Endgadget reports researchers at Rutgers have developed a way to stabilize spinal scar tissue and encourage an enzyme to activate tissue repair. Precision is crucial for activating the healing enzyme, and the promising discovery is the result of AI and machine-learning directing activity inside the scarred cell tissue at the tiniest level.  

Tip of the week

False information is everywhere on the internet. Spotting fake or misleading news is challenging because the creators go to great lengths to make it seem legitimate. To help you spot the truth from the fiction so that you don’t fall victim to propaganda and misleading stories, here are two great tips:

  • If a news headline sounds absurd, there’s a good chance that it is, so check to see if other reputable sites are reporting the same story. Check the internal links and referrals when reading a story from an unfamiliar publisher. If you’ve never heard of those sources, either, you could have a fake on your screen. 
  • Second, check the URL for unusual text sequences. Legitimate news sites have standardized URL structures, while spammers often publish new stories on old pages. A malicious domain name that doesn’t match the site logo or URL extensions that don’t make sense are tell-tale signs of information mischief.
  • Don’t believe your eyes. Many images and videos purporting to be from Ukraine, for example, have been doctored or were actually taken in Syria, during other conflicts, or even from video games. Deepfakes—videos altered with AI technology to look authentic—are also a growing concern. Always double-check your sources before sharing war-time images.
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Robert O'Sullivan avatar

Robert O'Sullivan

Robert has lived and worked in distant locations around the globe and is currently based in the Balkans. In addition to travel, he has a passion for language, writing, technology, and making sophisticated concepts more appealing and understandable for readers, which are talents he puts to good use at Namecheap. More articles written by Robert.

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