Locked-up computer systems only part of ‘terrifying’ ransomware scourge



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TORONTO — A shadowy group of cyber criminals that attacked a prominent nursing organization and Canadian Tire store has successfully targeted other companies with clients in governments, health care, insurance and other sectors.

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Posts on their NetWalker “blog” indicate the recent infiltration of cloud-services company Accreon and document company Xpertdoc, although only the College of Nurses of Ontario has publicly acknowledged being victimized.

Experts say NetWalker surfaced about a year ago but its attacks took off in March as the criminals exploited fears of COVID and people working remotely. The ransomware, like similar malware, often infiltrates computer networks via phishing emails. Such messages masquerade as genuine, prompting users to provide log-in information or inadvertently download malware.

Earlier ransomware attacks focused on encrypting a target’s files — putting them and even backups out of reach. Increasingly, attackers also threaten to publish data stolen during their “dwell time,” the days or weeks spent inside an exploited network before encryption and detection.

The intruders promise to provide a decryption key and to destroy stolen records if the organization pays a ransom, often based on what the attackers have learned about its finances, by a given deadline.

To underscore the extortion, NetWalker criminals publish tantalizing screen shots of information they have, such as personnel, financial, legal and health records.

“The data in these cases is extremely sensitive,” said Brett Callow, a Vancouver Island-based threat analyst with cyber-security firm, Emsisoft. “Lots of companies choose not to disclose these incidents, so the individuals and (third-party) organizations whose data have been compromised never find out.”

In an interview, Richard Brossoit, CEO of Montreal-based Xpertdoc, said this month’s attack was a “little terrifying” at first. Fortunately, he said, damage was limited and no confidential client or personal information was compromised,

Computer vision brings shoppable video to life

30-second summary:

  • Computer vision is a long-established segment of AI which deals with a machine’s ability to understand and process visuals and provide appropriate outputs.
  • But as computer vision is developed and refined, it is increasingly being used in retail marketing to understand consumer needs and streamline the purchase process through channels such as shoppable video.
  • Brands and retailers can upload entire catalogs and use computer vision to map all products contained within them. These products can be automatically recognized within video content without retailers having to spend hours tagging or assigning them manually.
  • Shoppable video with computer vision enables the consumer to open and browse curated product selections without navigating away from the video or being redirected through multiple pages and links.
  • AI enables deep and ongoing evaluation of visual content to help brands and retailers refine and optimize their video strategies. It allows them to move beyond generic metrics such as view rate to fully understand viewer experiences.

Green shoots are tentatively emerging for retail, with the latest Barclaycard data showing an upturn in spend. And with the pandemic driving consumers to increase their digital shopping – online retailers currently claim £3 in every £10 spent – it’s vital retailers rethink their engagement strategies to deliver immersive online experiences that really drive conversions. Shoppable video that allows consumers to interact with and buy featured products is proving a popular solution, particularly when enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision, which significantly increases consumer engagement and conversion rates.

So what exactly is computer vision and how can it be used to boost the performance of shoppable video?

Computer vision is a long-established segment of AI which deals with a machine’s ability to understand and process visuals and provide appropriate outputs.

It is already widely used in a variety

How to Securely Wipe Your Computer, Phone, or Tablet

If you purchased your computer in the past few years, it probably has a solid-state drive. SSDs are faster than older, mechanical hard drives and use flash memory instead of magnetic platters. But the downside of the technology is that securely deleting files from an SSD is very hard. SSDs use a technique called wear leveling to prolong life, but a side effect of this process is that data can remain on a drive even after you’ve erased it. Instead of using special software to erase an SSD’s contents, you’re better off encrypting the drive, which employs a mathematical process to muddle up the data using a passkey that only you have. Without the key, files on the drive look like gibberish—even if someone succeeds in recovering files, that person still won’t be able to open them.

The good news: Encrypting your storage drive is simple. This is something we recommend doing for every computer with an SSD, even if you’re not selling it. You can also encrypt mechanical hard drives for the same reason, but the process takes a particularly long time, and it’s easier to do a good-enough job of removing data on mechanical drives.

Chromebooks usually use solid-state storage, but Google enables encryption by default, so if you’re resetting a Chromebook, you can skip this section.

Windows

A Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption specifications screen

If you have a Windows computer, encrypting your storage drive can be a little tricky and depends on which version of Windows your computer has and what components you have installed.

Some Windows laptops have device encryption enabled by default. To check:

  1. Click the Start menu and then select Windows Administrative Tools > System Information (or type “system information” into the search menu in the taskbar).
  2. Look for Device Encryption Support; if you find it, and it says “Meets prerequisites,”

The Best Computer Accessories Under $100: Webcam, Monitor, Speakers


Products featured are independently selected by our editorial team and we may earn a commission from purchases made from our links; the retailer may also receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

Smartphones and tablets have earned their place in the world of tech, but most of us still spend a big chunk of our day in front of a computer. Whether you’re an office worker, freelancer, or student, nothing will quite replace the power of a Mac, or PC.

Pairing your computer with the right accessories can help you get the most out of your machine. That could mean enabling you be more productive, adding, upgrading, or replacing a crucial component, or using your computer for more than just work.

We’ve collected the best accessories for your computer that cost less than $100. All of these accessories will work with a Mac or PC, and most will work with a Chromebook. We’ve also made sure that a majority of our picks can work with both a laptop or desktop, so you’re not limited to one type of machine.

1. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Amazon

If you spend a lot of time listening to music at your desk, Edifier’s R1280T bookshelf speakers will be a huge improvement over the ones built into your computer.

These are powered speakers, which means they have an amplifier inside, and need to be connected to an outlet for power. Each one has two drivers (the part of a speaker or headphones that produces sound): A 4-inch woofer for midrange and bass frequencies, and a half-inch tweeter for treble frequencies. This dual-driver system will make your music sound more balanced, and allow you to hear different instruments (or vocals) more clearly.

The R1280Ts have two sets of RCA (red and white) inputs, so you

1980s computer mystery novel ‘The Trapdoor’ reborn

Lonnie Brown
 |  Special to The Ledger

Today’s topic is the rebirth of a nearly 35-year-old classic computer mystery novel. But for now, a bit of how it was birthed in the first place.

The year was 1980. The year Pac Man debuted. Former Beatle John Lennon was fatally shot. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas burned. Post-It notes appeared.

Electronic technology was starting to make inroads into everyday culture – Pac Man probably being the biggest indicator of that, and the camcorder and fax machines were starting to appear.

That same year, Hal Glatzer was working for a magazine that covered those new-fangled computer machines. The year before, Zenith Data Systems introduced the Z89, a desktop computer with a 12-inch monochrome monitor and attached keyboard. It consumed a large chunk of desk real estate.

Glatzer bought one for $1,600 – the equivalent of $6,200 in today’s dollars.

Six years later, Glatzer had published “The Trapdoor,” a paperback titled after a term used by computer hackers for gaining surreptitious entry into a computer. It became a classic among computer enthusiasts, and also gained traction with readers who were computer users.

Glatzer went on to write about the computer and communications industries and to pen several mystery novels (“Too Dead to Swing,” “A Fugue in Hell’s Kitchen,” and “The Last Full Measure.” He currently lives in Hawaii.

“At that time,” said Glatzer in a recent interview, “email, cellphones and the Internet were years away in the future. What was high-tech in 1980 looks primitive now, but it was the state-of-the-art. And people who mastered it could do some remarkable things with it, both legal and illegal.

“Technology has evolved since those days,” he added. “But as long as loners find their inner strength to overcome bullies, this period-piece will remain an