In what’s quickly becoming a trend, another city in Florida found its computers infected with ransomware. With most of its computer systems encrypted, outside Police and Fire departments, the city agreed to pay a ransom of 42 bitcoins—about $500,000.
It’s not a great time for cities and counties. In addition to the Lake City, Florida this week, and Riviera City, Florida last week, Jackson County, Georgia, Cartersville, Georgia, Lynn, Massachusetts, and Baltimore, Maryland have all been hit by ransomware this year. In each case, essential data is encrypted, and the cities often cannot continue operations. Some cities choose to pay, others like Baltimore refuse. It’s hard to say which is the better choice.
On the one hand, sending money perpetuates the problem and runs the risk that hackers won’t provide a decryption key. On the other hand, starting over from scratch is enormously complicated and incredibly expensive. Baltimore, which has seen two attacks in a year, has estimated the cost to recover will approach $18 million.
Ransomware developers continue to adapt and improve their methods. In the case of Lake City, IT staff detected the malware within ten minutes of infection and rushed to disconnect systems to stop the spread of damage. But even that fast response was too slow. Only the Fire and Police departments escaped the malware, and only because they run on a separate network.
Lake City has a population of 65,000, and it will probably feel the loss of $500,000, but city administration likely felt it had little choice in the matter. Given the cat and mouse game that is Ransomware and AntiVirus products, unfortunately, the weakest link is people using computers. Vigilance is the best safety method now: don’t click on links in emails, even from trusted senders, and think twice before opening attachments. [ZDNet]
In Other News:
- YouTube Music now offers smart downloads: If you frequently travel and want to listen to music without gobbling up your data plan, then downloading your music ahead of time is a must. YouTube Music wants to take care of that for you, and now offers to download music for you automatically based on your listening habits. Try not to be embarrassed when your app downloads ten versions of Baby Shark. [9to5Google]
- Verizon gets to lock its phone for 60 days: Normally, due to spectrum rules, Verizon is required to sell its phones unlocked. Now the company has permission from the FTC to lock its phones for 60 days after activation. The company says this will deter thieves from buying phones with stolen identities. [Ars Technica]
- You can use the Windows calculator on Android, iOS, and the Web: Microsoft open sources its calculator app and posted the code for anyone to use or even add new features too. Uno, the makers of a cross-platform development app, took the code and ported it to other platforms. Because, why not? [Liliputing]
- Twitch is testing subscriber only streams: Normally, subscribing to a Twitch channel gets you small extras like special chat room access or fun emoji. The company is beta testing a more prominent feature now, subscriber streams. It’s just what it sounds like—if you don’t subscribe you can’t watch the stream. The company is limiting the feature to streamers who haven’t violated guidelines in the last 90 days, as a precaution. [Engadget]
- Google now lets you auto-delete location and web activity data: Google previously announced options to automatically delete your location and web data after set periods of time. Those options are rolling out to everyone now. Huzzah for privacy! [The Verge]
- Soon you can pick up your Amazon package at local retailers: Amazon announced a new service called Counter that allows you to pick up your packages at local retailers. The service works a lot like Lockers, and lets you choose a convenient place to get your package if your home isn’t a good option. The first retailer you can choose is Rite Aid, but Amazon is working on adding other retailers. [GeekWire]
- Signify’s new Hue Light Bulb is Bluetooth, bypasses the hub: Hue bulbs are bright, colorful, and expensive. Part of that expense is buying the required ZigBee hub. But now, if you’re a first-time buyer, you can skip the hub. The latest Hue bulbs add a Bluetooth radio and can pair with some voice assistant devices. You can still pair them with Hue hubs too, so everybody wins. [Review Geek]
Crocodiles are giant reptiles full of dangers with powerful jaws for feeding their carnivore diet—except when they weren’t.
By studying fossils, scientists Keegan Melstom and Randall Irmis at the Natural History Museum of Utah, have discovered that at specific points in history crocodiles were herbivores. The proof is in the teeth.
Carnivores have relatively simple teeth: pointy, sharp, and typically conical shaped, they’re perfect for ripping and tearing into flesh. Herbivores, on the other hand, have much more complex teeth, more flat, but with crevices and texture that aid in grinding, as opposed to tearing. Omnivore teeth, naturally, are somewhere between.
The scientists measured and studied nearly 150 fossilized teeth from 16 different extinct crocodile species, and discovered in at least three periods, potentially six; some crocodiles had complex herbivore teeth. According to Keegan Melstrom: “The herbivores lived on different continents at different times, some alongside mammals and mammal relatives, and others did not. This suggests that an herbivorous crocodyliform was successful in a variety of environments!”
Just when you thought all crocodiles were dangerous—well they still are. Stay away from crocodiles. But learn from their past.