While this is not the first time the government has been able to get some money back to victims, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during a press conference that this was a first for the new Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force that was created in April to address the growing number of cyberattacks.
Monaco explained that the Justice Department and FBI seized 63.7 Bitcoins — now valued at $2.3 million after a large dip in the cryptocurrency market — of the 75 Bitcoins that the CEO of Colonial Pipeline admitted to paying. Despite paying for the ransom, the encryption tools handed over did not work or help the company’s efforts to restore its systems.
The Justice Department obtained a warrant from a California district court on Monday in order to seize the money.
“Following the money remains one of the most basic, yet powerful tools we have,” Monaco said. “Today’s announcements also demonstrate the value of early notification to law enforcement; we thank Colonial Pipeline for quickly notifying the FBI when they learned that they were targeted by DarkSide.”
Monaco and FBI deputy director Paul Abate explained that the seizure was part of a larger effort to impose more costs on ransomware gangs, who have spent years holding hospitals, schools, businesses and government systems hostage.
Both begged companies to be prepared for attacks and focus on contingencies in case of an eventual attack and reiterated much of the guidance that was handed down by the White House last week.
“Cyber criminals are employing ever more elaborate schemes to convert technology into tools of digital extortion. We need to continue improving the cyber resiliency of our critical infrastructure across the nation, including in the Northern District of California,” said Stephanie Hinds, acting US Attorney for the Northern District of California.
“We will also continue developing advanced methods to improve our ability to track and recover digital ransom payments.”
Colonial Pipeline faced significant backlash for paying the ransom but the FBI and Justice Department said they were able to use the Bitcoin public ledger to trace the payments back to “a specific address, for which the FBI has the ‘private key,’ or the rough equivalent of a password needed to access assets accessible from the specific Bitcoin address.”
“There is no place beyond the reach of the FBI to conceal illicit funds that will prevent us from imposing risk and consequences upon malicious cyber actors,” Abbate said.
“We will continue to use all of our available resources and leverage our domestic and international partnerships to disrupt ransomware attacks and protect our private sector partners and the American public.”
Despite the success in this instance, Abbate and Monaco stressed that they would not be able to retrieve all ransom payments from now on and urged companies to take measures to protect themselves while also notifying the FBI as soon as possible in the event of an attack.
“What we are saying today is that if you come forward, as law enforcement, we may be able to take the type of action that we took today to deprive the criminal actors of what they’re going after here which is the proceeds of their criminal scheme,” Monaco said.
“We cannot guarantee and we may not be able to do this in every instance.”
Amazon’s Fire HD 10 Productivity Bundle review: This isn’t the work tablet you’re looking for
- ✓Affordable tablet
- ✓Solid battery life
- ✓Affordably priced
- ✓Includes keyboard
- ✕Lack of productivity apps
- ✕Keyboard feels somewhat cramped
Amazon’s tablets are known for being cheap, somewhat slow, but good enough to access your Kindle library, stream shows in Prime Video or browse the web. The tablets aren’t known for being fill-in for your work laptop, but Amazon is looking to change that perception.
The company announced the new $149 Fire HD 10 and $179 Fire HD 10 Plus tablets, complete with new kids editions, back in April. Alongside the refreshed design and new components, Amazon also announced a new productivity bundle. The bundle adds $70 to the cost of either Fire HD 10 model and includes a 1-year subscription to Microsoft 365 as well as a Bluetooth keyboard built specifically for the tablet.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been testing the standard Fire HD 10 and the productivity bundle — a kit that would cost you $219. As someone who uses the iPad as my main computer and laptop replacement, I was eager to see how the Fire HD 10 compared to the iPad Pro.
I don’t want to fully spoil it, but the experience fell short in a lot of areas. Namely app availability and performance.
Amazon debuted a new design with the Fire HD 8 last year, and that same aesthetic has carried over into the Fire HD 10 and HD 10 Plus. The edges and corners are now rounded, the front-facing camera is now centered when the tablet is horizontal — it’s a welcome design change.
When the tablet is docked in the included case, you’ll find the volume and power buttons to the right of the screen. That’s also where you’ll find the USB-C port that’s used for charging (another welcome change), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
I really enjoyed the design of the Fire HD 8, and found that it translated well to the slightly larger Fire HD 10. It’s comfortable to hold and use as a standard tablet, tapping and swiping on the screen when browsing the web, the Amazon store or looking for a new book to read.
On the bottom of the tablet is where you’ll find the MicroSD card reader, where you can add up to 1TB of storage.
To be clear, the keyboard/case combo that comes in the productivity bundle isn’t made by Amazon. It’s made by Finite, a company I hadn’t heard of until I received the review unit.
The keyboard uses Bluetooth to connect to the tablet, and is also charged via a USB-C connector.
The keyboard doubles as a protective case for the Fire HD 10. You can detach the tablet, leaving the back of the case installed, and carry the Fire HD 10 around, and then easily place it back into the hinge that’s sturdy and holds the tablet in place when you want to use it in a more traditional laptop mode.
The keyboard itself is small, an expected side effect of a smaller tablet. There are shortcut keys to open apps in split screen mode (handy if you need to copy notes to an email), but I found the keys somewhat awkward to activate due to the size of the keyboard and the keys.
Amazon boosted the specs of the Fire HD 10 with an octa-core 2.0GHz processor and 3GB or 4GB of memory (a 50% increase compared to the previous version). The Fire HD 10 Plus, which costs $30 more, has 4GB of memory, a different finish on the tablet’s housing, and will wirelessly charge on any Qi-compatible pad. Or you can purchase the Amazon wireless charging dock built for the tablet that turns it into an Echo Show.
The 10.1-inch Full HD display is slightly brighter (10% according to Amazon) than the preview Fire HD 10’s screen. You’ll get about 12 hours of battery life out of the Fire HD 10 or HD 10 Plus, which is a little higher than what I saw during my testing and use. But a normal workday’s worth of battery life isn’t out of the question.
You have two options when it comes to storage: 32GB or 64GB. Regardless of your choice, both models support expandable storage up to 1TB via a MicroSD card.
Performance has never been a Fire tablet’s highlighting feature, and that’s still true with the HD 10. There’s a slight delay when navigating through the interface, apps open slower than what you’d find on, say, an iPad or Galaxy Tab.
App availability in Amazon’s own Appstore have always been a problem, and that hasn’t changed. Because all of Amazon’s Fire HD tablets are running the company’s own forked version of Android, forgoing any Google services including the Play Store, developers have to list their apps in Amazon’s Appstore. The result is that many of the key Android apps that users have grown to rely on are nowhere to be found on a Fire tablet.
For example, Slack, a key app for productivity for many of us, isn’t listed in the Amazon Appstore. You can still access Slack using the built-in Silk browser, but it’s not the same experience as a dedicated app. 1Password, a popular password managing app for consumers and business users alike, is also missing.
As I already mentioned, you won’t find any Google apps available on the Fire HD 10, so that leaves you with using services like Gmail, Google Workspace or Docs through the included browser.
Zoom is available in the App Store, as is nearly all of Microsoft’s mobile apps, including Teams, Outlook, Word, Excel and the rest of the Office suite.
Effectively, you have an Amazon tablet that gives you direct access to all of the company’s apps and services, combined with a dedicated tablet for those who are entrenched in Microsoft’s Microsoft 365.
At the end of my time using the Fire HD 10, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a tablet that’s better left to serve as an entertainment device, with the occasional email or document typed out on the keyboard.
It can work, in a pinch, if your main laptop or computer is being repaired, or you’re looking to do light work while traveling. But there are just too many concessions, with apps and performance, for it to truly earn its productivity namesake.
Bullitt Group announces Cat S62 rugged smartphone, available from T-Mobile
Last fall Bullitt Group released the Cat S62 Pro outside the US and then in April 2021 the S62 Pro launched in the US. The S62 Pro launched at $699 with a focus on the integrated thermal imaging camera that I will be testing this coming week in a shipyard.
The new Cat S62 does not have a thermal imaging camera, but many of the same features and specifications match the S62 Pro. Some of us work in areas known as hazardous zones so it was great to see the S62 certified for use in Class 1, Division 2, Group A-D, and T4 hazardous locations, which is something I haven’t seen with other phones.
The Cat S62 will be released exclusively from T-Mobile for $498, as part of its Connecting Heroes initiative. This is a solid price for a rugged phone with all of these features and should be appealing to field workers and enterprise customers that need a phone that can withstand almost all elements.
Cat S62 specifications
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
- Display: 5.7-inch, 2160 x 1080 pixels resolution, Corning Gorilla Glass 6
- Operating system: Android 10 (Android 11 update advertised for this fall)
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 128GB with microSD card slot
- Rugged ratings: IP68 dust/water resistant, MIL-STD-810H shock resistant, -22 to 167-degree temperature resilience
- Cameras: 48MP and 2MP rear cameras. 8MP front-facing camera.
- Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/GLONASS/BeiDou, NFC
- Battery: 4000 mAh non-removable Quick Charge 4.0 and wireless charging support
- Dimensions: 157.5 x 76.2 x 12.7mm and 260 grams
- Colors: Black
In addition to the key rugged specifications, the Cat S62 passed a bleach wipe test with 3000 cycles, pressurized alcohol abrasion test at 55gF per square centimeter over hundreds of cycles, six feet drop testing onto steel, and more. The phone is built to last and is Android Enterprise Ready. The display also supports wearing gloves and using it with wet fingers.
In addition to typical power and volume buttons, a programmable key is present so you can customize it for Google search, flashlight on, or another important app you need to launch quickly and regularly.
Social impact app ImpactWayv aims to connect people for good causes and CSR
New York City-based social impact services platform ImpactWayv intends to connect people and encourage them to do good things. It focuses on social impact and philanthropy with an attempt to drive social good.
The platform — and app launched this week for iOS — wants to focus on topics such as climate change, corporate social responsibility, and renewable energy.
The platform will include organizations that have claimed their profiles and become active on the platform leading up to launch, along with some additional household company and non-profit names.
The platform intends to foster connections between its partners and social organizations. Users can find organizations that focus on climate action, economic development, community development, healthcare, and technology, and follow their social activities.
Users can also check their impact for the topics they care about. They can interact through public and private networks and content feeds, support businesses and non-profits, and follow “Wayvs” to engage with like-minded users, social impact causes, and trends.
ImpactWayv is only available on the Apple app store at the moment, but the company says that the app will be made available on other non-iOS devices later this year. It has received seed funding from its founding team and other private investors from the groups’ personal networks.
Its website says that by using the platform you will have access to up to one million non-profits, over 20,000 companies, and over 750 CSR data sources. It is encouraging businesses to register with the company to claim a ‘dynamic profile’ for the organization, or partner with the platform.
Dan Rubino, co-founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of ImpactWayv Inc. said, “Finally, there is a purpose-built social media platform that gives consumers, brands, businesses, and non-profits a way to explore, create, engage, and transact across all categories of daily life, with more meaning, more purpose, and more goodwill.”
The company was unable to answer whether the platform could prevent children from viewing adult-only content if it is posted, or how it would moderate and eliminate far right groups such as QAnon.
It also did not address whether the app could prevent cyber-bullying, grooming of children, or trolling, instead stating that it will enforce its code of conduct, which “reserves the right to remove any users who violate its code of conduct” and will work “to address misinformation concerns on the platform.”
ImpactWayv is not the first social platform to focus on social good. Social impact scoring platform xocial was launched in 2016, and evolved into an analytics platform that delivers social impact reporting.
The start-up Gainly focuses on corporate social responsibility to help employees track their social impact, and social media company Gravvity wants to create a healthier social media app with a happier news feed.
Hopefully ImpactWayv can evolve into an enterprise CSR platform and partner with large organizations to ensure that the move to make a change for social good continues to progress.
Windows 11: A glorified theme pack we can all live with
Next week, Microsoft is set to unveil the next version of Windows . All evidence — including leaked builds and teaser videos released by Microsoft in anticipation of the event — suggests this new version will be called Windows 11.
Now, we had initially thought that Windows 10 would be the “last” version of Windows; at least, that was what Microsoft had messaged in 2015. So, what we would be getting in the future were more incremental updates instead of the “Big Bang” releases we saw previously.
So, why are we getting a new major version of Windows now?
A history lesson about Windows upgrades
Let’s refresh our memory: Before Windows 10 came out, we had large milestone releases that introduced significant changes to the OS. They were colossal pain points for consumers and organizations upgrading. For example, in the consumer space, Windows 95/98/ME went to Windows XP, which used the NT kernel and systems architecture we are still using now, and that was a huge deal for consumers.
Before that, while some verticals migrated to Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0, most enterprise businesses went from Windows 95/98 to Windows 2000, implementing Active Directory (and moving from LAN Manager and Novell NetWare to NT in the datacenter) and then XP, so that migration was painful and disruptive to them for many different reasons. Then we witnessed that whole imbroglio with Windows Vista, then the migration to Windows 7, and the UX disaster that was Windows 8.
It was a very bumpy 20 years. But when Windows 10 came out in the summer of 2015, it interjected some sanity into the equation. A few years ago, Microsoft switched to a biannual cadence with incremental upgrades to roll out improvements. This became not just a rollup of bug fixes or a service pack but where actual new feature were introduced.
Instead of waiting every five years, give or take, to introduce them, Microsoft did it twice a year. Because of this biannual update regimen, Windows 10 is a very up-to-date OS today, with lots of modern features in it already, as it is.
So, what is Windows 11? Well, if you read Ed Bott’s latest piece, it appears to be more of a fall update for Windows 10, with a new user experience.
What’s with the 11?
Why bother with the branding? Why bump the version number? What’s wrong with calling it Windows 10 21H2 or 2111 or whatever? I mean, Mac OS X was the same top-level version for 20 years — it came out in March of 2001 and did not get the “11” moniker until 2020 when the Apple Silicon change was implemented. And this year’s version, Monterey, is MacOS 12.
So much progress in so little time, Apple!
But this is all marketing; there have been tremendous changes in MacOS in the last 20 years regardless of the “X” branding.
And with Windows, that’s also the same: The Windows 10 of 2015 only superficially resembles the Windows 10 of 2021.
Traditionally, Microsoft has used bumping of version numbers and brand names to wash away the stain of a previous version — like Windows 7 washing away Vista or Windows 10 washing away Windows 8 — or for juicing up the PC upgrade cycle with its OEM partners.
But we don’t have any stains to wash away here. Windows 10 is an excellent OS, the hardware that PCs have today is actually quite impressive, and Windows 10 takes advantage of all of that already.
I mean, come on, we even have a Linux subsystem in Windows now that allows you to run all sorts of cool open source applications, even graphical ones. Did we have that in 2015? No.
Sparking life into the PC upgrade cycle
I think we can make an argument for Microsoft wanting to put a spark in the PC upgrade cycle because that inertia has been slowing down for a while due to a variety of factors — but that’s a whole other article..
Let’s face it, the “stain” we have to wash away here has nothing to do with Windows — and everything to do with theand all the other crazy junk the world has thrown our way for the past four years.
Perhaps this is more of a celebratory moment for Microsoft to say, “Hey, it’s OK to go back in the water; here’s a new flashy-looking bathing suit to get you started. Oh, while you’re at it, shave and get a haircut. And go buy a new PC; your clunker is old.”
I think that there is a natural desire to see some tangible changes, especially if you compare the PC platform to the Mac. Then, of course, there’s going to be the usual grousing from those that feel Microsoft isn’t innovating enough or disposing of legacy things quickly enough.
But we shouldn’t allow that to cloud our thinking about why Microsoft does things the way it does. It’s also not fair to impose the same rules and constraints on Microsoft’s customers and developers as Apple does its own.
The PC is not the Mac, and Microsoft’s customer base is not Apple’s
We can play the usual “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” nonsense, and it makes for fun sound bites, but this is not how the real world works.
Clearly, in the last year, we have seen Apple make significant changes to the Mac. First, it switched chip architectures, which yielded some real performance improvements in CPU and power consumption when it went to Apple Silicon, based on the Arm architecture. Second, it introduced a new x86 emulation layer, Rosetta 2. Third, it introduced Catalyst so that iPad apps can run on the Mac. Finally, it added sandboxing and containerization on Apple Silicon Macs.
A lot of armchair observers hope Microsoft will do something like that. But in the PC’s case, it doesn’t make sense to completely clean the slate and make so many drastic changes all at once.
It’s easy for a company like Apple to toss apps that were written more than 10 years ago; it decided with Catalina, which is two versions back, that it would throw out a lot of old APIs and frameworks. So, if you didn’t upgrade apps as a developer or as an end-user, you were out of luck.
But it doesn’t work that way in the business and enterprise world when you have vertical industry stuff and in-house apps that are 20+ years old. Apple does not have a server OS on the same basic architecture that runs stuff in the cloud or data centers as Microsoft does. Apple also doesn’t have a hyper-scale commercial cloud business that has to run that legacy code as Microsoft does — or a business application unit as with Office 365 — which all still needs to work.
While we can say that Microsoft needs to take a page from Apple, in reality, when Microsoft has to decide to introduce a new version of Windows, there are a whole different set of things it needs to be concerned about.
Changes are coming at a reasonable pace
Microsoft could introduce a new Windows architecture based on ARM, containers, and all that stuff to make Windows behave more like Apple does with iPad and MacOS Monterey on Apple Silicon. But does it have the technical expertise and the ability to implement it?
Yes, but it also can’t afford to break things at the end of the day, or it will be a total disaster.
But the good news is Microsoft has been working on these things for quite some time, even though you might not have noticed them. The company has been openly discussing these sorts of changes at its BUILD conference and with partners. And the infrastructure for these changes — such as for containerized and sandboxed apps that would have been rolled into Windows 10X — are still there.
This will all be coming to Windows 11 down the pike after the novelty of the new bathing suit and haircut wears off. This application sandboxing includes the well-documented open source MSIX package format to make sure app installers don’t overstep their bounds.
But instead of waiting for all these things to mature and roll it out as one big change in Windows 11, Microsoft is opting for the “get customers used to a new look” approach and then incrementally introducing that stuff. Just as we have seen with Windows 10 over the last five years, it will be business as usual.
Can you live with that? Can I live with that? Can businesses and enterprises live with that? Sure, we can.
Really, this is Windows 10.5, but for marketing purposes, Microsoft wants to call it Windows 11. And we have to assume by what appears to be a very short beta and rollout cycle that this will not be a big deal license-wise or upgrade pain point-wise; it’s going to feel like just another fall update. So, presumably, any PC hardware that is already running Windows 10 will get it, and it’s just going to work.
This time, take the upgrade and don’t freak out
It’s not the kind of change that will break apps or orphan the majority of PCs, although there is the outside possibility some older systems, such as 32-bit machines, may be left out — and, frankly, those machines are very long in the tooth.
But, the reality is, for 90% of us, if we have a PC that is running Windows 10 today, at some point in the fall, Microsoft is going to offer us an upgrade through Windows Update, and it will be painless just like any other fall update.
And that’s just fine. I’ve had way too much excitement for the last four years. I can live with predictable, boring, and sane gradual changes in my Windows environment. That would be refreshing.
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