Getting Mugged By Monkeys | How to Bounce Back From a Hack | Stimulus Standoff
July 28, 2020
We’ve got answers: Click here to see answers to last week’s Daily Pnut Quiz. Out of 327 quiz-takers, 46 people got a perfect score on last week’s quiz. Check your inbox to see if you’re the lucky winner!
The Good News
- California’s Only Known Gray Wolf Pack Has Eight New Pups Giving Hope To The Future Of Their Species (World Animal News). Wolves are a key part of many healthy ecosystems, so this is a welcome return.
- The Glossary of Happiness (New Yorker, $). Learn some new names for those indescribable feelings of happiness.
- Six conservation success stories of 2019 (Open Access Government). While the climate crisis may not be solved yet, people are still working hard to protect the planet.
“All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don’t. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.” ― Robert Kennedy
Bounce Back From the Hack
“I wouldn’t say we could keep the NSA out,” Norsk Hydro’s chief information officer said. “But we were a company with all the normal security in place.”
As a large multinational aluminum manufacturer, with thousands of employees and computers and hundreds of servers worldwide, Hydro had taken steps to protect itself from cyberattacks. The Norwegian company had a cyber insurance policy and tested its networks with “white hat” hackers — consultants who try breaking in to check the company’s defenses. Even so, Hydro was not prepared for the damage a real ransomware attack would cause.
The attack occurred around midnight Oslo time on March 19, 2019. It took two hours for a worker at Hydro’s operations center in Hungary realized what was happening. He followed security procedures, taking the company’s entire network offline — including its website, email system, and payrolls. But by then the damage was already done: five hundred of Hydro’s servers and 2,700 of its PCs had been rendered useless, leaving a ransom note flashing on employees’ screens. The hackers wanted a large sum of Bitcoins in exchange for an encryption key to reverse the damage.
Paying the ransom was too risky, so Hydro disregarded the deal. But 35,000 employees were now locked out of the company’s network and its website was down. An employee used his personal cell phone to post a Facebook message, alerting everyone involved with the company about the attack. Hydro shut down plants in Europe and the US; the ones still operating had to get by without their technology. Access to customer orders was gone, so employees used personal phones to ask customers to send orders to private email accounts.
Ultimately, Hydro survived by improvising, utilizing ancient PCs, fax machines, Post-it notes, and other analog solutions. The six-month recovery was fitful and cost $60 million, much more than the company’s $3.6 million insurance policy. It was a painful lesson that security consultants and law enforcement officials often bring up: Even when you do everything you can to protect against a cyberattack, determined adversaries will almost always be able to wreak havoc. It’s less a question of how to stop hackers from breaking in than how best to survive the inevitable damage.
- Garmin begins recovery from ransomware attack (BBC)
- Blackbaud Hack: Universities lose data to ransomware attack (BBC)
- Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks (The Hill)
Thai Monkey Kings
(Mladen Antonov via Getty Images)
- Lopburi, Thailand is being overrun by its once-revered macaques, a Southeast Asian species of monkey. Tourists and pilgrims who visited the old town, the onetime capital of a Siamese kingdom and repository of ancient architecture, used to feed the monkeys, but now that the pandemic is keeping visitors away, monkeys have begun spilling out of Lopburi’s ancient temples in search of food, accosting people on the street.
- The macaque population is growing, with at least 8,400 in the area concentrated in a few city blocks. Their audacity has decimated parts of the local economy: in recent years, territorial troupes of macaques roaming the neighborhood have forced dozens of businesses — including a music school, gold shop, barber, cell phone store, and movie theater — to close.
- Unless security guards are present, the monkeys rip antennas and windshield wipers off parked cars. Dangling earrings, sunglasses. In areas where the animals are most densely packed, many residents live in fear of the next sneak attack. Local wildlife officials have begun sterilizing the monkeys en masse to control their numbers. More than 300 underwent surgery last month and 200 more will be sterilized in August. (NYT)
Sun-Soaked Second Wave
- With millions of Europeans traveling around the continent on summer holiday has come an increase in COVID-19 infections and the specter of new lockdowns. Officials in Belgium, Spain, France, and Germany are alarmed over recent spikes, and bracing for a dreaded second wave of cases.
- On Monday, Belgium’s prime minister told reporters that a second lockdown may be inevitable, stating: “If we cannot reduce the coronavirus, it will be a collective failure.” At the height of the pandemic in April, Belgium had more than 1,000 cases a day. Between July 17 and July 23, there was a 71 percent rise in what had been the average 7-day number of infections, from 163 cases to 279 cases. The prime minister said that the start of the school year could be undermined without drastic intervention; she “very strongly recommended” the return of home working for those who are able to do so.
- Catalonia is one of the areas of Spain hardest hit by the virus’s resurgence, with 8,000 new cases diagnosed in the past 14 days. Spain had lifted its strict three-month lockdown at the end of June. According to France’s health minister, young people are driving a sharp rise in new cases in France, particularly in the Ile-de-France region. “Clearly, older people are still being careful, while young people are paying less attention,” he said. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Alarm over discovery of hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels near Galápagos Islands (Guardian)
- As the World Gets Tougher on China, Japan Tries to Thread a Needle (NYT, $)
- States Issue Warnings About Seed Packets From China (NYT, $)
- How a Chinese agent used LinkedIn to hunt for targets (BBC) & Singapore man admits being Chinese spy in US (BBC)
- Don’t Ban TikTok. Make an Example of It. (NYT, $)
- If you’re not terrified about Facebook, you haven’t been paying attention (Guardian)
- Microsoft told employees to work from home. One consequence was brutal (ZDNet)
- The Constant Risk of a Consolidated Internet (Atlantic, $)
- A New Solution to Climate Science’s Biggest Mystery (Atlantic, $)
- Almost 3 billion animals affected by Australian megafires, report shows (Guardian)
- ‘You Do the Right Things, and Still You Get It’: A Texas family tried to ward off the virus. But as cases in the state soared and debates about masks and distancing raged, there was only so much they could control. (NYT)
- Coronavirus ‘most severe health emergency’ WHO has faced (BBC)
- Follow up on yesterday’s piece about COVID-19 coming to North Korea: South Korea Confirms a Defector Swam Back to the North (NYT)
- Foreign Office neglected Britons abroad after Covid-19 travel bans, says report (Guardian)
- C.D.C. Calls On Schools to Reopen, Downplaying Health Risks (NYT)
- Trump’s briefings were meant to show him in charge — now they are becoming absurd (CNN)
- The Coronavirus Turns Midtown Into a Ghost Town, Causing an Economic Crisis (NYT)
- Meet the New C.D.C. Director: Walmart (NYT, $)
- From late night Amazon trinkets to groceries for the family, online shopping is here to stay. If you’re into finding the best deals possible, Honey is there to help you save money, for free.
- Honey scans the Internet for any discount codes to help you save money with every purchase, automatically applying the best discounts as you checkout. If you’re not happy with the discounts available one day, you can even add items to Honey’s Droplist, which tracks prices and notifies you when they drop for you to snag. Honey also tracks Amazon prices over time and between sellers, helping you make an informed purchase.
- Honey’s free browser tool is part of the PayPal family and works on over 30,000 sites online, helping you find deals no matter where you shop. Join over 17 million Honey users and start saving for free.
A Storm’s a Brewin’
(Joe Raedle via Getty Images)
- In what can only be filed under “news nobody wanted to hear today”, it appears that 2020 has multiple sets of ecological disasters to throw our way. As COVID-19 touched down in the United States, Colorado State University quietly released their hurricane forecast for the coming fall season.
- The study estimated an “above average” storm season, which predicts four storms bearing at least a Category 3 classification. Of those four, there is a 70% chance that one will strike the US coastline. In other words, prepare for at least one spiraling radar image in the coming months.
- The threat of a hurricane is especially worrisome amidst a pandemic, which has already stretched emergency response resources thin. And the problem isn’t just material resources, it’s humans. As Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, puts it, “the people that deal with disasters are, to put it in plain English, exhausted.”
- One worrying scenario could see a major storm prompting people to evacuate their homes: under normal circumstances, this would not only be encouraged, but required. However, amidst a pre-vaccine health climate where social distancing is paramount, funnelling evacuated citizens into packed shelters could prove deadly. Because of this, coastal state governments may double down on calls for sheltering in place, asking residents to hunker down in even the most extreme weather conditions.
- While the immediate threat of a pandemic hurricane is complicated, its aftermath may be more calamitous. Many government emergency funds, the ones that would usually address storm recovery, have been exhausted in mobilizing against COVID-19. As Congress prepares to spend trillions more on stimulus packages, the prospect of federal assistance seems increasingly unrealistic. With additional fears of FEMA staff shortages in vulnerable states like Florida and North Carolina, fingers are crossed that Mother Nature won’t pour salt in America’s already gaping wound. (The Atlantic)
- After dragging their feet for nearly three weeks, Senate Republicans have finally released their $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal. The GOP proposal includes a $400 cut for enhanced unemployment benefits, a second round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans, a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, and liability protections for businesses, schools, hospitals and non-profits.
- Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he expects “significant resistance” from Republicans to the GOP stimulus bill with another trillion dollars. “The answer to these challenges will not simply be shoveling cash out of Washington, the answer to these challenges will be getting people back to work.” Democrats are unified behind their own opening offer — a $3 trillion proposal that passed the House back in May.
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was quick to denounce the GOP plan, describing it as a “half-hearted, half-baked legislative proposal,” and “too little, too late.” Schumer said: “The lack of any urgency, understanding, and empathy for people who need help from Senate Republicans has led us to a very precarious moment.” He was particularly critical of the reduction in unemployment benefits, saying it was “unworkable.”
- Republicans may have slow-walked their proposal to put Dems in a tough spot — the $600 a week federal unemployment benefits expire at the end of this week, and the federal eviction moratorium expired last week. Hard-fought negotiations are ahead given that the two parties’ proposals are so different. (CNN)
- Democrats pan Republican plan to slash jobless benefits to $200 as ‘totally inadequate’ (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- A Hedge Fund Bailout Highlights How Regulators Ignored Big Risks (NYT, $)
- Revealed: oil giants help fund powerful police groups in top US cities (Guardian)
- We’re Publishing Thousands of Police Discipline Records That New York Kept Secret for Decades (ProPublica)
- ‘That’s an illegal order’: veterans challenge Trump’s officers in Portland (Guardian)
- Garrett Foster Brought His Gun to Austin Protests. Then He Was Shot Dead. (NYT, $)
- Will Trump’s Abrupt Shift on the Virus Re-energize His Campaign? (NYT, $)
- Donald Trump Could Turn Arizona Blue (Atlantic, $)
- Forget Putin, it’s meddling by America’s evangelical enforcer that should scare us (Guardian)
- “I’ve Never Seen Anything like This”: Wall Street Journal Staff Erupts over Race and Opinion (Vanity Fair)
- Maine journalists under siege after false accusations from Fox News’s Tucker Carlson (WaPo, $)
- 10 myths about the racial wealth gap (Axios). Fixing racial wealth inequality is about more than simply bootstrapping oneself or gaining financial literacy: Black Americans face deeply entrenched barriers on the path to financial success.
Getting Paid to Break the Rules
- For expansive social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, the amount of content is just too big for a team of humans to oversee. In order to prevent the spread of inappropriate content, the tech giants rely on a complex system of artificial intelligence to monitor and delete explicit posts.
- But every now and then, human delinquents get the best of robotic counterparts, as evidenced by a recent spread of nude photos on Facebook, which were covered in grids and dots in order to circumvent filters. While these trends can be snuffed out in a matter of days, Zuckerberg and Co. wanted to get ahead of the mischief, so they have formed a team of hackers dedicated to testing the AI.
- The so-called “Red Team” spends their time probing the systems that they themselves helped construct, attempting to use novel methods to sneak hate speech and naughty photos past their digital gatekeeper. The team’s biggest enemy moving forward is the proliferation of “deepfakes,” or computer-generated images and videos that appear indistinguishable from real human faces. By superimposing other peoples faces onto others, misinformation campaigns could become so lifelike that regular users might not stand a chance.
- A recent study revealed that Facebook’s current filter can only weed out deep fakes about 65percent of the time, meaning the AI red team has their hands full in the coming months, especially as political elections raise the stakes of information on the app. (Wired)
- Algorithms have already taken over human decision making (The Conversation)
- Inhaling pure oxygen could keep your brain younger for longer (Popular Science), but if you can’t afford $60,000 for treatments, we’ve still got you covered: How one hour of slow breathing changed my life (Guardian)
- If language began in the hands, why did it ever leave? (Aeon)
- Know sweat: scientists solve mystery behind body odour (Guardian)
- Search for a Cleaner Jet Fuel Leads to Sewage Plants (Scientific American)
- Ever wondered why you can see the moon sometimes during the day? (WaPo, $)
- Try these 5 clever Google Maps tricks to see more than just what’s on the map (CNET)
- Everlane’s Promise of ‘Radical Transparency’ Unravels (NYT, $). Ethical fashion, but a not-so-ethical workplace environment has landed the supposedly progressive country in hot water.
- What My Mother Didn’t Talk About (BuzzFeed)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU