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What Changes Are Coming in the Wake of Last Week’s Colonial Pipeline Hearing?   

The issue of cybersecurity affects all Americans.

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Last week, the CEO of Colonial Pipeline finally had to answer to lawmakers for the May hack that temporarily halted fuel delivery to the East Coast of the United States. One of the main points of interest was the $4.4 million ransom netted by Russia’s DarkSide Ransomware Gang

The decision to actually pay the hackers was criticized in many circles, as it is widely accepted that the payout will only encourage more attacks against critical infrastructure in the future. In fact, paying these ransoms in many cases is not only discouraged, but may actually lead to civil penalties for American businesses.

In October of 2020, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a directive laying out the fact that potential civil damages would be incurred by violators found to have made payments to groups that are already under US sanctions and noted that, “ransomware payments made to sanctioned persons or to comprehensively sanctioned jurisdictions could be used to fund activities adverse to the national security and foreign policy objectives of the United States.”

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In regard to last month’s payment to DarkSide, Colonial CEO Joseph Blount previously admitted to The Wall Street Journal several weeks back that the uncertainty regarding the fallout from the hack compelled him to authorize the massive payout of $4.4 million.

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Blount referenced the OFAC directive in his appearance in Washington last week when he told lawmakers, “I do know that repeatedly throughout the process, the fact of whether DarkSide was on the sanctions list or not was fact-checked repeatedly.” 

Last weeks hearing presented a bi-partisan message to the private sector that additional oversight of matters related to cybersecurity may be coming. Part of the reason may be the increased cost to the intelligence community to bail out companies like Colonial. In just the past few weeks, FBI was forced to invest significant time and resources to help the company recover $2.3 million of the $4.4 million paid to DarkSide.

Although last week’s hearing sent a message globally regarding America’s renewed commitment to cybersecurity, the addition of new protective measures was already well under way. In the wake of the Colonial Hack, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created new guidelines intended to protect American pipeline companies that requires them to immediately report any hacking incidents. 

These measures may help to improve the cyber response within vital American infrastructure, but what about individual Americans who make of the far majority of hacking victims? There are literally thousands of hacking gangs targeting Americans for what is generally considered a much smaller ransom. In some cases, the ransom amount is more than the trouble to most victims, who may simply choose to replace their infected software or hardware. But some of the more experienced ransomware gangs have learned to set their ransom demand in a way that is likelier to produce a payment.

Most of the new attacks cited in the media over the past year have been attributed to members of the STOP/Djvu Ransomware Family. The group seems to produce a new strain almost daily and all of the individual infections are noted by a unique four-letter sequence which is appended to infected files. Some of the more prolific strains of the STOP/Djvu ransomware family are the variants: Nusm, Pahd, Mppq, Paas, Ehiz and numerous others.    

Since the FBI or DHS may not be swooping anytime soon to rescue your $500 dollar laptop, the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to maintain offline backups of your files. This would ensure access as long as you can upload them to a new device. 

The issue of cybersecurity affects all Americans. But the question here becomes, “can an incompetent government that has made a mess of the economy and border actually be trusted to keep America safe from international hacking attacks?” One way or another, we will find out the answer shortly.

Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, the Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by websites including Newsmax, Townhall, American Thinker and BizPacReview.

 

Opinion

As If The Matt Gaetz Case Couldn’t Get Any Weirder…

This case has more twists and turns than snake convention.

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Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz has done something astounding during his brief career in politics:  Come up with a scandal so bizarre that Hollywood would have deemed a fictional re-telling of the tale “too unbelievable”. The story so far, (which has been evolving in perpetuity), is that Gaetz and a friend had participated in the trafficking of underage girls for sex, (albeit unknowingly), and that this story came to light after Gaetz was unable to help an extortionist search for a long-missing FBI agent. Or something thereabouts.  The accounts vary wildly in the case. Now, as if things couldn’t get any stranger, a new angle has emerged in the case. A sugar daddy website linked to the sex-trafficking investigation of Matt Gaetz publicly weighed in on the scandal, saying the lawmaker has never been registered on the site in search of young women. The unusual move by the web site SeekingArrangement puts some distance between Gaetz and the accusation against him. The site had been caught up in the Gaetz case because it had reportedly been used by the GOP lawmaker and another key player in the case to connect with an underage girl for sex. SeekingArrangement, which helps “sugar babies” connect online with men, released a statement because of yet another odd twist in the case: The former mistress of golfer Tiger Woods sued the website claiming it wrongfully terminated her contract as the company’s spokesperson. The plaintiff, Rachel Uchitel, said she was fired because SeekingArrangement was in damage control due to the investigation into Gaetz, which is unrelated to her lawsuit. Gaetz has maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, but a plea deal from one of his alleged accomplices has some wondering if the Sunshine State lawmaker isn’t in some serious trouble.  

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News

George Soros Drops $1M to Defund Police During Major Crimewave

Wow.

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George Soros

If you were to ask around in the farther-flung corners of the conservative internet, you’d not find much high praise for George Soros. The liberal billionaire has been spending much of his time, (and wealth), bullying the sociopolitical system into leaning to the left, and he hasn’t been trying to hide it at all.  This has made him a bit of a boogeyman within conservative circles, and rightly so. His latest bit of “philanthropy” appears to fall right in line with his previous maneuvers. Liberal mega-donor George Soros has directed $1 million to an activist group attempting to defund the police as violent crime surges in major urban centers across the nation. Soros sent the million dollars via his Color Of Change PAC on May 14, according to Federal Election Commission files obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The organization describes itself as “the nation’s largest online racial justice organization” and actively engages in efforts to defund police departments such as spreading an online petition calling for “divesting from and dismantling the systems that unjustly harm Black people.” The group also backed a push by the Milwaukee City Council to defund the police. And they aren’t mincing their words. “Policing is a violent institution that must end,” the group’s president wrote in a statement supporting the move. “We imagine a country where there is enough money to educate our children, care for our sick and feed those who are financially unstable. Defunding the police allows for this vision.” The move comes amid a massive crime spike in liberal cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, and New York.

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