December 5, 2016 — Kristina Udice
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Weekly Tech Roundup: December 5


December is here, and alongside online shopping and holiday music, the new month is bringing with it a whole new round of big tech headlines. From new tactics in cybercrime, to ambiguous privacy laws, it can seem like the IT world is getting darker by the minute. But with these stories, also come stories of innovation, emerging trends, and futuristic exploration. And luckily, we’ve searched through these headlines, getting you the tech news we know you want to read.

SFMTA Hacked By Ransomware

A ransomware attack targeted the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) on Black Friday, and riders got free transportation out of it.

Servers were down all day on Friday, screens in transit terminals displaying the message: “You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted,” according to PC World. Ticket machines and fare gates in the Muni Metro subway stations were turned off until Sunday while the SFMTA tried to contain the infection.

The ransomware that attacked is believed to be a subset of the HDDCryptor which encrypts the hard drive and network shares of its victim. Once the system was compromised, attackers demanded an alleged $73,000 ransom in bitcoin.

As a result of outright refusal to pay this ransom, reports surfaced that the attackers were threatening to release 30GB of data that was stolen during the attack. The SFMTA refutes these claims, stating that the attackers didn’t gain access to the data they planned to release.

“The SFMTA network was not breached from the outside, nor did hackers gain entry through our firewalls,” said agency spokeswoman Kristen Holland. The SFMTA has yet to release how the ransomware infected their systems.

RELATED: What is Ransomware?

Uber Wants Your Location, and it isn’t Asking

A new Uber update lets the company track your location even when the app is not running, and users aren’t too happy about it.

The update allows Uber to collect location data from the second you request a ride, until 5 minutes after you’ve been dropped off—even if you have the app turned off. This is a major change from previous privacy policies, which only collected data when the app was running.

“We’re always thinking about ways we can improve the rider experience from sharpening our ETA estimates to identifying the best pick up location on any given street. Location is at the heart of the Uber experience, and we’re asking riders to provide us with more information to achieve these goals,” said an Uber spokesperson, according to TechCrunch.

The company hopes that this update will make the Uber experience safer and more enjoyable—making it easier for drivers to pick up riders, and making it safer when Uber drivers drop off passengers.

Uber users can stop this Big Brother-esque location tracking by turning off location setting in their phone’s settings. They will, of course, be prompted by Uber to turn it on, but users can elect to manually enter their address for pickup.

Blockchain and the Supply Chain

Blockchain is making a name for itself outside the financial sector.

The supply chain, a decades old concept that increased control and visibility in the process of getting goods from point A to point B, is getting an upgrade with the help of blockchain, TechCrunch reports.

Managing this outdated system has become extremely difficult, which is why blockchain technology is now being introduced to make the process safe, efficient and transparent once again.

With blockchain, each link in the supply chain can be managed and seen along the way by all parties. Its decentralized chain of command will allow anyone to see the product from raw material, to the final product. It also makes organizations accountable. Embedding blockchain technology into the supply chain is a secure way to ensure that products are getting where they are supposed to without any human interference and error.

Blockchain technology will also help rid the supply chain of associated illicit activities, environmental damages, and inflated production costs.

This integration has the potential to change the way our market system works entirely.

REALTED: What Is Blockchain?

As Ransomware Evolves, Users Try to Keep Up

It seems like every week there’s another round of news stories about the new ways attackers are infecting victims’ devices, and this week is no different.

It seems that the latest Cerber ransomware variant is moving through the internet via Google redirects and Tor2Web proxies, a new method by cybercriminals to hide in a machine until ready to strike.

According to Threatpost, the change was detected last week. It caught peoples’ attention because of its almost 180 turn in infection method—through spam campaigns, infected attachments, and fake emails.

Researchers at Cisco Talos described the shift as a “potential next evolution for ransomware distribution.”

This ransomware variant relies heavily on hyperlinks that take these victims to Google redirects, bringing them to a page hosted on the Dark Web. Along the way, these cyber attackers connect their victims to a Tor2Web proxy service.

But this redirection isn’t new, as this specific variant has been known to change its tactics every few months.

“This latest distribution campaign highlights how ransomware based threats are continuing to evolve and mature over time, and shows an increasingly sophisticated infection process as attackers continue to implement new methods to attempt to evade detection and make analysis more difficult,” researchers continued in a statement.

REALTED: Ransomware by Itself Is Scary. Ransomware-As-A-Service Is Much Worse

What’s NASA’s Plan for the Final Frontier?

The future of space exploration is in cloud computing.

NASA is moving into the future, and they’re using the cloud to get them there. They’ve already started using the cloud on the Surface Water Ocean Topography mission and the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar mission, and they expect to be receiving this data in massive quantities over the next few years, GeekWire reports.

These large quantities of data require the right kind of storage—they expect 100 terabytes of data per day, and 100 gigabytes of data per second—and the data centers already in place just won’t cut it.

And NASA isn’t stopping any time soon. They plan on sending a spacecraft to Europa—one of Jupiter’s ice-covered moons, to search for hidden oceans, signs of life, and landing spots. And their next stop is the next solar system.

“Can you imagine how much data and simulation that will take? Because it has to be completely automated. Without cloud computing, there’s no way we could do it. We’re using model-based engineering and other interesting goodies, and it’s all starting in the cloud,” said Tom Soderstrom, chief technology and innovations officer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

With plans for exploration expanding, resources, data analytics, and storage capabilities need to grow along with it—which is why cloud computing, which was once a convenience, is now critical for NASA moving forward.

REALTED: Universal Software-Defined Storage (SDS) – A Better Way to Manage Your Storage Infrastructure

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