Security

Fresh virus misery for Illinois: Public health agency taken down by... web ransomware. Great timing, scumbags

Not like anyone is looking for medical advice right now


As the world tackles the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, ransomware creeps have knocked offline a public health agency's website that served nearly a quarter of a million people in the US.

The Champaign Urbana Public Health District (CHUPD) in Illinois, covering 210,000 folks, including the state's biggest university, said today it has had to set up an alternate website as it deals with a ransomware infection that took down its primary site. "We are working to get our website up and running," the district said in a post to a Facebook page that has now become its preferred outlet.

A spokesperson for the district also confirmed an earlier report from Mother Jones that the outage, which began Tuesday morning, was caused by a ransomware infection rather than a crush of traffic. "CUPHD can confirm that our system was attacked by a ransomware virus [called] Netwalker," El Reg was told.

Also known as MailTo, the Netwalker ransomware emerged earlier this year in targeted attacks.

Maersk prepares to lay off the Maidenhead staffers who rescued it from NotPetya super-pwnage

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At the time of writing, the district's alternate website was operational and displaying some basic contact information about the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The organization's Facebook page remains active with advice on how to prevent and report further infection.

The Urbana-Champaign area in particular will be affected by the outbreak as the area is home to the University of Illinois, which brings in students from all over. The school, currently on its Spring Break, said yesterday that when classes resume, they will do so online.

The horrible timing of the ransomware attack – right as people turn to state officials for advice and information on a biological virus outbreak – is likely a coincidence, as ransomware infections have for months been spreading on various local government networks.

Ransomware masterminds in particular have found local governments to be easy prey due low IT staffing and a lack of basic security protections. Places as sparsely populated as Nunavut, Canada and as large as Baltimore, Maryland have had to deal with ransomware hijackings that shut down critical city services. ®

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For the nth time, China bans cryptocurrencies

Coin prices drop after People's Bank reiterates crackdown

China has once again banned cryptocurrencies.

It's not even the first time this month Beijing's done so, let alone the first time ever, yet word of the reiterated crackdown sent coin prices tumbling, which may have been the ultimate goal.

Bitcoin fell by 5.5 per cent, Ethererum by 7.4 per cent, and Dogecoin by 14.9 per cent, for instance, after this latest announcement and have since rebounded somewhat.

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Frustrated dev drops three zero-day vulns affecting Apple iOS 15 after six-month wait

Security Bounty program scolded for broken promises

Upset with Apple's handling of its Security Bounty program, a bug researcher has released proof-of-concept exploit code for three zero-day vulnerabilities in Apple's newly released iOS 15 mobile operating system.

The bug hunter, posting on Thursday to Russia-based IT blog Habr under the name "IllusionOfChaos" and to Twitter under the same moniker, expressed frustration with Apple's handling of vulnerability reports.

"I've reported four 0-day vulnerabilities this year between March 10 and May 4, as of now three of them are still present in the latest iOS version (15.0) and one was fixed in 14.7, but Apple decided to cover it up and not list it on the security content page," the researcher wrote.

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Yugabyte's double-decker DBaaS follows Cochroach in distributed RDBMS

Hopes to lure users with promise of relieving operational burden

Distributed relational database Yugabyte has launched a database-as-a-service product following a rush of inspiration from Facebook, Google and the world of FOSS.

While the open-source DBaaS impressed one analyst, it will have to cope with competition from well-funded CockroachDB, which has had its DBaaS on the market for nearly three years.

Yugabyte is sort of a double-decker database. It is inspired by Google Spanner underneath and compatible with PostgreSQL on top. As Yugabyte founder and CTO Karthik Ranganathan, a former Facebook technical lead, explained to The Register earlier this year:

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EurekAI... Neural network leads chemists to discover 'four new materials'

All said to conduct lithium atoms, may be useful for electric car batteries

Chemists have discovered four new materials based on ideas generated from a neural network, according to research published in Nature.

Uncovering new materials is challenging. Scientists have to search for combinations of molecules that lead to useful compounds that can be manufactured.

Traditional methods rely on fiddling around with known materials, and although these techniques narrow down the search for materials that work well, they don’t always produce something useful, according to Matt Rosseinsky, a chemistry professor at England's University of Liverpool who co-wrote the research paper.

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Scientists took cues from helicopter seeds to invent tiny microchips that float on wind

'Microfliers' could carry sensors to monitor air pollution and more

Video As autumn arrives in the northern hemisphere, scientists have shown how tiny connected semiconductors can be distributed on the wind in a similar way to the seasonal spreading of airborne seeds.

Researchers led by Professor John Rogers of the US's Northwestern University designed printed circuits able to manifest rotational behaviours, as seen in helicopter and spinner seeds, that enhance the stability and flying behaviour.

In a paper published in Nature this week, they argue that simple electronics can be integrated into the designs, with one example containing a circuit to detect airborne particles.

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With just over two weeks to go, Microsoft punts Windows 11 to Release Preview

What's that coming over the hill? Is it new hardware? Is it new hardware?

Microsoft has followed up a lacklustre Surface hardware event with a Windows 11 Release Preview for Windows Insiders.

Assuming, of course, those Insiders are possessed of an "eligible PC" – for Microsoft does not appear to be backing down on its vendor-delighting and customer-frustrating hardware requirements for the new operating system.

The build in question is 22000.194, which emerged last week in the Beta Channel to the disappointment of users trying to run Windows 11 on a virtual machine that is not to Microsoft's liking. Its arrival in Release Preview yesterday, just over two weeks from general availability on 5 October, is an indicator that fans should expect little more than patches and updates until then.

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Fukushima studies show wildlife is doing nicely without humans, thank you very much

Biodiversity increasing, endangered species gradually returning despite radioactive terror pig presence

Studies of biodiversity around the former Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan have shown that a decade after the nuclear incident there in March 2011, the local wildlife, at least, is mostly thriving.

The incident at the Fukushima Daiichi site – in which three of the site's six reactors suffered meltdowns due to damage from an earthquake-induced tsunami – was one of only two events in history to be rated at level 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (the other being Chernobyl).

This scale is not related to the quantity of radioactive material released (although that was considerable), but by the number of people affected by the event. Following the incident, 154,000 people were evacuated from the area surrounding the plant due to the risk of radioactive contamination, a number second only to the 335,000 evacuated from the environs of the Chernobyl plant in 1986.

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HPE campaigns against 'cloud first' push in UK public sector

Because HPE does not do public cloud? No, no, it is 'for the good'

Comment Hewlett Packard Enterprise has posted a "UK Public Sector Manifesto" with nine themes, alongside a campaign hyping the value of hybrid cloud.

The bugbear for HPE is that UK government introduced a "cloud first" policy in 2013.

The current version was revised in 2017 but it mandates that central government, when buying new IT services, must consider a cloud solution – and specifically a public cloud, rather than "a community, hybrid or private deployment model" – before any other option.

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Tech contractors fume over payday outage at Giant Pay after it sniffs 'suspicious activity'

Technical difficulties, please stand by

Giant Pay – an umbrella company used by contractors across the UK – has confirmed "suspicious activity" on its platform is behind a days-long ongoing outage that has left folk fretting about whether they'll get paid this month.

In an update on its website today, the firm said: "Upon detection of suspicious activity on our network on 22nd September 2021, we immediately assembled a response team including IT data experts and specialist lawyers, and we are currently working with the highest priority to resolve this issue.

"As part of the investigation and as a measure of caution, we have proactively taken our systems offline and suspended all services temporarily." It also confirmed it had contacted regulatory authorities and assured contractors they would get paid.

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Parking is expensive. It can cost an arm, a leg, and a Windows licence

Activate Windows and put up a parking lot

Bork!Bork!Bork! Sometimes only the freshest of borks will do, and sometimes the best laid plans of administrators can go awry.

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'Nobody in their right mind would build a naval base here today': Navigating in and out of Devonport

Twisting and turning like a twisty-turny thing

Boatnotes II As HMS Severn continues hosting the Royal Navy's Fleet Navigating Officer's course, The Register has taken a closer look at the precision demanded of naval officers conning their ships in and out of one of the most cramped ports where the Navy routinely operates.

Entering and leaving Plymouth, home to Devonport naval base, is a tricky operation under naval rules as we observed.

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