Hackers Could Unleash Ransomware Attacks on US Health System, US Officials Warn

Cyber criminals could soon unleash a wave of ransomware attacks targeting U.S. hospitals and health care providers, according to a statement released by three federal agencies, including the FBI.In the statement, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) warned they had “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers” with the goal of “data theft, and disruption of healthcare services.”Ransomware scrambles data, and it can only be unscrambled if the target pays the attacker a sum of money.Alex Holden, CEO of Hold Security, told the AP he warned federal authorities about the impending attacks Friday after seeing “infection attempts at a number of hospitals.”He added that the hackers were demanding ransoms of over $10 million per target and that he had seen attackers discuss plans to infect “more than 400 hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities.”“One of the comments from the bad guys is that they are expecting to cause panic and, no, they are not hitting election systems,” Holden told AP. “They are hitting where it hurts even more, and they know it.”In a statement reported by AP, Charles Carmakal, chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said the U.S. is “experiencing the most significant cyber security threat we’ve ever seen.”He pointed the finger at a criminal gang called UNC1878, adding it was deliberately targeting and disrupting U.S. hospitals, forcing them to divert patients to other healthcare providers.”  He said the eastern European group is “one of most brazen, heartless, and disruptive threat actors I’ve observed over my career.”Ransomware attacks have risen 40% this year with a particular spike in September, technology website CNET reported, citing data from cybersecurity firm SonicWall.  Last month, a chain of U.S. hospitals run by Universal Health Services was attacked, resulting in doctors and nurses resorting to pencil and paper at 250 facilities, AP reported. Employees said the attacks resulted in emergency room delays and problems with wireless vital signs monitoring equipment.Brett Callow, an analyst with the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, told the AP that “a total of 59 U.S. healthcare providers/systems have been impacted by ransomware in 2020, disrupting patient care at up to 510 facilities.” 
 

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2020 Election Puts Focus on Twitter, Facebook Content Moderation

The nation’s top technology leaders urged U.S. lawmakers Wednesday to keep content moderation protections in place, despite growing calls from Republicans to address perceived bias in the way social media companies handle free speech online.  Online companies are shielded from liability for content on their sites under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.  Those protections apply to companies of all sizes operating online that use third-party content. But some Republicans contend Section 230 is a “carve-out” for larger companies such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing them to censor content based on political viewpoints and use their considerable reach to influence public discourse.  U.S. President Donald Trump called for an end to Section 230 in a Tweet Wednesday, saying “The USA doesn’t have Freedom of the Press, we have Suppression of the Story, or just plain Fake News. So much has been learned in the last two weeks about how corrupt our Media is, and now Big Tech, maybe even worse. Repeal Section 230!”  President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at MotorSports Management Company, in West Salem, Wis., Oct. 27, 2020.At issue is whether or not a company that moderates content is a publisher instead of a platform and if the reach of companies such Facebook, Google and Twitter constitutes a monopoly.  “Companies are actively blocking and throttling the distribution of content on their own platforms and are using protections under Section 230 to do it. Is it any surprise that voices on the right are complaining about hypocrisy, or even worse?” Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker said Wednesday.  Section 230 has received renewed attention during the 2020 presidential election cycle due to online companies’ new approaches to content moderation in response to foreign interference on online platforms during the 2016 elections cycle.  Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pushed back against that in prepared testimony Wednesday, saying, “We should remember that Section 230 has enabled new companies—small ones seeded with an idea—to build and compete with established companies globally. Eroding the foundation of Section 230 could collapse how we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies.”  Dorsey told lawmakers one possible approach that is “within reach” would allow users to choose between Twitter’s own algorithm that determines what content is viewable, and algorithms developed by third parties.Wicker said his staff had collected “dozens and dozens” of examples of conservative content that he says has been censored and suppressed over the past four years by Twitter. He alleged the social media company had allowed Chinese Communist propaganda about COVID-19 to remain up for two months while President Donald Trump’s claims about mail-in ballots were immediately taken down.  Earlier this month, Twitter blocked users from sharing a link to a news story on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Twitter also locked the accounts of President Trump and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany for sharing the story, citing its policies for how hacked materials are shared on its website. Based on these actions, Republican Senator Ted Cruz accused Twitter of attempting to influence U.S. elections.  “Your position is that that you can sit in Silicon Valley and demand of the media that you can tell them what stories they can publish; you can tell the American people what reporting they can hear,” Cruz said to Dorsey Wednesday.  The Twitter CEO has apologized for the decision, tweeting, “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that.”  Facebook also restricted sharing of the Hunter Biden story, saying it would first need a third-party fact check.  The social media company had allowed Russian disinformation to flood the site during the 2016 election, but Facebook instituted new policies this election cycle. According to its website, Facebook’s response includes the removal of 6.5 billion fake accounts in 2019, adding third-party factcheckers to go over content posted on the site as well as removing 30 networks engaged in coordinated, inauthentic behavior.  “Without Section 230, platforms could potentially be held liable for everything people say. Platforms would likely censor more content to avoid legal risk and would be less likely to invest in technologies that enable people to express themselves in new ways,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers Wednesday.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, Oct. 28, 2020, in Washington.Congressional Democrats expressed concern about the growth of extremist groups online as well as continuing attempts at foreign election interference on social media platforms, questioning the timing of the hearing.“I am appalled that my Republican colleagues are holding this hearing literally days before an election, when they seem to want to bully and browbeat the platforms here to try to tilt toward President Trump’s favor. The timing seems inexplicable except to game the referee,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. “President Trump has broken all the norms. And he has put on your platforms, potentially dangerous and lethal misinformation and disinformation.”  In an earlier line of questioning, Dorsey told lawmakers Twitter does not maintain lists of accounts to watch, but bases content moderation based on algorithms and service user requests.   Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer at Google, also stated the company’s commitment toward independence, telling lawmakers, “We approach our work without political bias, full stop. To do otherwise would be contrary to both our business interests and our mission, which compels us to make information accessible to every type of person, no matter where they live or what they believe.” 

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Army of Robots Uses Light to Fight Coronavirus at Airports, Offices and Hospitals

Disinfecting public spaces is a major undertaking but it is essential for a safe return to normal activity. Now an army of robots that uses ultra-violet light to disinfect surfaces and the air, as Matt Dibble reports.
Camera, Producer: Matt Dibble

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Lee Kun-Hee, Force Behind Samsung’s Rise, Dies at 78

Lee Kun-hee, the ailing Samsung Electronics chairman who transformed the small television maker into a global giant of consumer electronics, has died. He was 78.A Samsung statement said Lee died Sunday with his family members, including his son and de facto company chief Lee Jae-yong, by his side.Lee Kun-hee had been hospitalized since May 2014 after suffering a heart attack, and the younger Lee has run Samsung, the biggest company in South Korea.“All of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him,” the Samsung statement said. “Our deepest sympathies are with his family, relatives and those nearest. His legacy will be everlasting.”Lee Kun-hee inherited control from his father and during his nearly 30 years of leadership, Samsung Electronics Co. became a global brand and the world’s largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips. Samsung sells Galaxy phones while also making the screens and microchips that power its rivals, Apple’s iPhones and Google Android phones.Samsung helped make the nation’s economy, Asia’s fourth largest. Its businesses encompass shipbuilding, life insurance, construction, hotels, amusement park operation and more. Samsung Electronics alone accounts for 20% of the market capital on South Korea’s main stock market.Lee leaves behind immense wealth, with Forbes estimating his fortune at $16 billion as of January 2017.His death comes during a complex time for Samsung.A stern, terse leaderWhen he was hospitalized, Samsung’s once-lucrative mobile business faced threats from upstart makers in China and other emerging markets. Pressure was high to innovate its traditionally strong hardware business, to reform a stifling hierarchical culture and to improve its corporate governance and transparency.Samsung was ensnared in the 2016-17 corruption scandal that led to then-President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and imprisonment. Its executives, including the younger Lee, were investigated by prosecutors who believed Samsung executives bribed Park to secure the government’s backing for a smooth leadership transition from father to son.In a previous scandal, Lee Kun-hee was convicted in 2008 for illegal share dealings, tax evasion and bribery designed to pass his wealth and corporate control to his three children.The late Lee was a stern, terse leader who focused on big-picture strategies, leaving details and daily management to executives.His near-absolute authority allowed the company to make bold decisions in the fast-changing technology industry, such as shelling out billions to build new production lines for memory chips and display panels even as the 2008 global financial crisis unfolded.Those risky moves fueled Samsung’s rise.Lee was born Jan. 9, 1942, in the southeastern city of Daegu during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. His father Lee Byung-chull had founded an export business there in 1938 and following the 1950-53 Korean War, he rebuilt the company into an electronics and home appliance manufacturer and the country’s first major trading company.Lee Byung-chull was often called one of the fathers of modern industrial South Korea. Lee Kun-hee was the third son and his inheritance of his father’s businesses bucked the tradition of family wealth going to the eldest. One of Lee Kun-hee’s brothers sued for a bigger part of Samsung but lost the case.When Lee Kun-hee inherited control from his father in 1987, Samsung was relying on Japanese technology to produce TVs and was making its first steps into exporting microwaves and refrigerators.The company was expanding its semiconductor factories after entering the business in 1974 by acquiring a near-bankrupt firm.‘Let’s change everything’A decisive moment came in 1993. Lee Kun-hee made sweeping changes to Samsung after a two-month trip abroad convinced him the company needed to improve the quality of its products.In a speech to Samsung executives, he famously urged, “Let’s change everything except our wives and children.”Not all his moves succeeded.A notable failure was the group’s expansion into the auto industry in the 1990s, in part driven by Lee Kun-hee’s passion for luxury cars. Samsung later sold near-bankrupt Samsung Motor to Renault. The company also was frequently criticized for disrespecting labor rights. Cancer cases among workers at its semiconductor factories were ignored for years.In 2020, Lee Jae-yong declared heredity transfers at Samsung would end, promising the management rights he inherited wouldn’t pass to his children. He also said Samsung would stop suppressing employee attempts to organize unions, although labor activists questioned his sincerity.South Koreans are both proud of Samsung’s global success and concerned the company and Lee family are above the law and influence over almost every corner of society.Critics particularly note how Lee Kun-hee’s only son gained immense wealth through unlisted shares of Samsung firms that later went public.In 2007, a former company lawyer accused Samsung of wrongdoing in a book that became a best seller in South Korea. Lee Kun-hee was subsequently indicted on tax evasion and other charges.Lee resigned as chairman of Samsung Electronics and was convicted and sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term. He received a presidential pardon in 2009 and returned to Samsung’s management in 2010.

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US Judge Denies New Government Bid to Remove China’s WeChat From App Stores

A U.S. judge in San Francisco on Friday rejected a Justice Department request to reverse a decision that allowed Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to continue to offer Chinese-owned WeChat for download in U.S. app stores.U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the government’s new evidence did not change her opinion about the Tencent app. As it has with Chinese video app TikTok, the Justice Department has argued WeChat threatens national security.WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.The Justice Department has appealed Beeler’s decision permitting the continued use of the Chinese mobile app to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but no ruling is likely before December.In a suit brought by WeChat users, Beeler last month blocked a U.S. Commerce Department order set to take effect September 20 that would have required the app to be removed from U.S. app stores.The Commerce Department order would also bar other U.S. transactions with WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.”The record does not support the conclusion that the government has ‘narrowly tailored’ the prohibited transactions to protect its national-security interests,” Beeler wrote on Friday.She said the evidence “supports the conclusion that the restrictions ‘burden substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests.'”WeChat users argued the government sought “an unprecedented ban of an entire medium of communication” and offered only “speculation” of harm from Americans’ use of WeChat.In a similar case, a U.S. appeals court agreed to fast-track a government appeal of a ruling blocking the government from banning new downloads from U.S. app stores of Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok.

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