Tag Archives: Bitcoin

Celebrity Cyber Report – Oprah Winfrey, Akon,

Apple, making a push into the streaming television market, scored a major coup by signing Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year deal to produce streaming content. The Wall Street Journal reported that Winfrey is expected to become part of Apple’s billion dollar push into direct-to-consumer video streaming.  Although what Oprah will produce has not yet been determined the programming is expected to debut in 2019.  

Apple stated to Reuters, “Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

Apple is in stiff competition with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon to produce original streaming content. Apple has signed other big name celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Durant to produce shows for their platform.

Even with this huge deal Apple is in hardball competition with Netflix and Amazon. Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama signed a deal to produce content for Netflix. Netflix and Amazon have both invested heavily in their streaming content by spending $6.3 and $4.5 respectively in 2017 alone.  

Akon

Singer Akon (Courtesy Dagency)

Singer Akon is jumping into the cryptocurrency game. The singer announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity  the launch ofAkoin” to finance his “Akon Crypto City,” a 100 percent crypto-based city in Africa.

According to the Page Six website Akon said  “I think that blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people, and brings the security back into the currency system, and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves, and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down.”

According to the Akoin website Akon Crypto City is being developed in African on land donated by the President of Senegal. The city will be modeled on the fictional country of Wakanda from the movie “Black Panther.” According to Akon the new city will offer everything any normal city would including homes, retail businesses, parks, universities and schools.

The singer, who is of Senegal-descent, has moved his career efforts to giving back to African communities in recent years. In 2015 Akon  launched Akon Lighting Africa in an effort to solve chronic shortages of electricity in African nations.

 

City of Atlanta Hit By Ransomware Attack

The City of Atlanta computer network was hit by a ransomware attack last week. The attack left a portion of the city’s data encrypted. According to city officials the full extent of the attack is still under investigation.  Attackers were successful in shutting down some of the city’s online services, including “various internal and customer-facing applications” used to pay bills or access court-related information. The city’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, urged city employees and anyone who had conducted transactions with the city to carefully monitor their bank accounts in case their personal information is misused.

Ransomware is a software that takes control of a computer or computer network and shuts it down by encrypting the data until the ransom is paid. The attacker will usually threaten to destroy the data if the money is not paid. In Atlanta’s case the attacker has demanded approximately $51,000 in bitcoin. City officials have not said if they will pay the ransom. Experts believe paying the ransom will only encourage future attacks.

According to a local NBC news affiliate the ransomware used in the attack is part of a family of ransomware known as SamSam that has been deployed against governments and healthcare systems since 2015.

Though Atlanta’s population is just under 500,000 it is the ninth largest metropolitan area in the country and has the nation’s busiest airport. Atlanta’s new Chief Operating Officer, Richard Cox, who came on the job just a week ago,  said that several departments have been affected. But Cox pointed out that agencies responsible for public safety, water and airport services have not been affected. Mayor Bottoms stated that the city is working with the FBI, DHS, Microsoft and Cisco to find out what data may have been compromised.

The city issued a statement on Tuesday instructing employees that they could begin to turn their computers and printers back on. The move is part of an assessment of the overall impact of the attack. However, CNN reports that systems that allow residents to pay their water bills or parking tickets online remains shutdown. Police have been forced to do some paperwork by hand while some court proceedings have been cancelled.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

Members of Mayor Bottom’s team informed Atlanta City Council members last week that there was  “a high likelihood that the incursion came through the City Council side of the building, through some software used by the Atlanta City Council called the Legislative Management System.”

According to NPR reporter Emily Cureton city officials were warned months ago of weak security in its computer systems. “The audit found a significant level of preventable risk to the city. The auditor writes there were long-standing issues, which city employees got used to and also didn’t have the time or resources to fix. The audit concludes Atlanta had no formal processes to manage risk to its information systems.

Rendition Infosec, a Georgia-based cybersecurity firm, tweeted on Tuesday that it had uncovered data showing a handful of city computers came under attack last year.

Jake Williams, owner of Rendition Infosec said, “We dug into our data and perhaps unsurprisingly, at least 5 of their machines were compromised in April 2017.”

Now the problem facing Atlanta officials is that time is running out to pay the ransom. According to NPR there may be nowhere to send the money. A local television station obtained a copy of the ransome note and tweeted the message out. The result was the payment portal set up by the attackers, with the countdown clock, was disabled. The portal contained a link to a bitcoin wallet.

According to the city’s information webpage there is no resolution in site at this time. According to Mayor Bottoms, “Everything is up for discussion.”

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent

Rapper/Entrepreneur Snoop Dogg

Rapper Snoop Dogg, like many rappers, is hell bent on growing his money. He has transformed his career in music into other businesses most notably the weed industry.

Now, according to TechCrunch, the D-O double G’s Casa Verde Capital venture firm recently closed its debut fund with a $45 million take.

Cannabis, weed, reefer, whatever you call it, is expanding nationwide as a business as legalization becomes the norm. Snoop’s venture firm invests seed money and Series A investments in businesses working alongside the cannabis industry. Casa Verde Capital’s website defines an ancillary cannabis business as company that it is “not touching the plant.”

Casa Verde Capital targets its investment capital on  marijuana businesses developing ag-tech, health and wellness, financial services, technology, media, compliance, and laboratory technology. According to Karan Wadhera, the firm’s managing partner,  Casa Verde has made eight “seed-stage to Series A-size investments” of “$1 million plus” so far, with the largest going to LeafLink, a marijuana marketplace for retailers and brands.

50 Cent

Now did he or didn’t he find millions of dollars in bitcoin he didn’t know he owned? The AACR reported that 50 Cent, born Curtis Jackson, claimed that he found he owned nearly $8 million dollars in bitcoins that he received off sales of a previous album.

But now Curtis Jackson is rapping a different lyric. According to TheBlast.com court documents showed that 50 admitted he never owned any bitcoin and knew the story was bull but went along because it enhanced him image. 50 Cent admitted that he never owned $8 million in bitcoin and said “so long as a press story is not irreparably damaging to my image or brand, I usually do not feel the need to publicly deny the reporting.”

But 50 Cent did a little bit more than just go along with the story. He  bragged about his sudden bitcoin windfall on Instagram and Twitter. The rapper posted  “Not bad for a kid from South Side, I’m so proud of me.” and “A little bitcoin anyone? LOL. l know l make you sick but excuse me…I’m getting to the bag.” On Instagram 50 said to his fans,  “Ima keep it real, I forgot I did that shit lol.”

 

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – 50 Cent, Drake

50 Cent

How would you like to find $8 million dollars you didn’t know you had? Rapper 50Cent did just that.

The rapper and actor recently learned that he was sitting on a stack of 700 bitcoins. 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, forgot he had accepted the bitcoins from some fans as payment for his 2014 album, “Animal Ambition.”

According to IBTimes 50 Cent said he wanted to “stay with the times,”  when he released the album so he allowed fans to pay for it with the new cryptocurrency. At the time the bitcoins were worth about $660 each. Purchases made with bitcoin made up about a half a million dollars from album sales. But as bitcoin values skyrocketed past $10,000 that half a mil became a helluva lot more.  Jackson now owns 700 bitcoins in total worth close to $8 million.

The iconic rapper has had his share of controversy surrounding money. In 2015 he filed for bankruptcy but managed to hold on to properties and was photographed around that time with stacks of cash. At the time he had the 700 bitcoin but their actually worth was closer to $200,000.

Drake

Rapper Drake has dethroned singer Taylor Swift as the Queen of daily downloads. The new King took the throne at Apple Music and Spotify. According to Beats 1 host Zane Lowe, Drakes’ “God’s Plan” broke the first-day streaming record on that service as well with 14 million spins worldwide.

Spotify confirmed the news with Engadget. In a statement Spotify said,  “We can confirm ‘God’s Plan’ by Drake now holds the U.S. record as the most streamed track in a single day on Spotify.” Setting records is nothing new for Drake. In 2016 he was the most streamed artist and also set the record for Spotify’s most-streamed song of all time, “One Dance.”

 

Blockchain – Breaking It Down

The hottest word in technology is blockchain. Whether you have heard of  it or not you will be affected by it, now or in the future. But what is it?  How will it change things?

What is Blockchain?

A block is a record or log of new transactions. This log can track things like the the creation of cryptocurrency, changes to medical records, product manufacturing from start to finish or banking transactions. After each block is completed it’s added to the chain, creating a chain of blocks, hence a blockchain.

Information on the blockchain is also available to everyone. A block chain is not hosted on a single computer or server. Because of this any changes or transactions are immediately visible to everyone. So, as you can see a blockchain is very hard to falsify because everybody can see the changes and immediately notice if something is wrong or fraudulent. Blockchains are simply a public ledger that makes everything  traceable.

Blockchain was invented in 2008 to support transactions using digital currency. If you buy something using a cryptocurrency, send some to a another person or sell it, your transaction is publicly visible on the blockchain. Other people may not know who you are but they can see exactly how much has been transferred from one person to another.

Blockchain and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin are growing as an alternative to traditional banking. Users do not need a bank to move money from one location to another or to verify the transaction. This is sometimes referred to as frictionless transactions. This means a transaction can be completed without a paying a fee to a bank or government.

How is Blockchain being used?

Although blockchain is not yet in widespread use it is expected to change industry and commerce in a revolutionary way. It is considered a disruptive technology that can easily turn the economy and society upside down. As such, it is being carefully examined and introduced.

Blockchain and your vote.

Blockchain technology can can make electronic vote counting un-hackable. Voter fraud can be eliminated by securing the system during voter registration. Blockchain can secure voter’s identification and prevent vote tampering. Blockchain creates a permanent and public ledger of votes cast and tallied that provides for more fair, secure and democratic elections around the world.

Follow My Vote is one new start up company that is trying to apply blockchain to our voting systems.

Blockchain and your identity.

Blockchain is expected to make major difference in securing your digital identity. Right now billions of dollars are being lost due to online fraud and identity theft. Using blockchain technologies will make tracking and managing digital identities secure and efficient. The result will mean a seamless sign-on and reduced fraud. This is vitally important when it comes to banking, healthcare, national security, citizenship documentation and e-commerce. 

Currently password based systems rule the Internet. Blockchain technology is based on identity verification using  public key cryptographyUsing blockchain identity authentication the only question is if the person has the correct private key. It is understood the key holder is the owner and the exact identity of the owner is irrelevant. The only drawback to this system is, as always, the human factor. People share passwords they may begin sharing encryption keys.

Blockchain identity verification can allow you to securely apply for jobs, file for medical and other various benefits, remotely open bank accounts, verify emails and social media activity and, as mentioned earlier, secure voting.

Blockchain for business.

Blockchain has the ability to make sure corporations are playing by the rules. Records stored using blockchain suddenly become difficult, if not impossible, to alter.This factor means that contracts between people or between corporations are far less open to interpretation of manipulation. These are know as smart contracts.

Smart contracts are legally binding, programmable digitized contracts entered on the blockchain. Programmers can create legal contracts as variables and statements that can release funds using the bitcoin network.

An example would be if one company wanted to pay another company a million dollars at a specific time when the preconditions of the contract are met. The conditions, payout, and details would be programmed into a smart contract. Once all conditions are satisfied the money would be sent to the appropriate party as terms of the contract dictates. Computer control over contracts can increase business efficiency and make the legal system more equitable.

Blockchain is coming to a grocer near you.

Companies in the agriculture industry are using blockchain  to track the movement of produce through the supply chain. This means the farmer can track his bell peppers from the time they leave the field to the time you leave the grocery store with them. Blockchain creates a direct link from the farmer to the grocer ensuring they are paid fairly for their produce and allowing grocers to verify that they are getting what they’ve paid for. Blockchain use in agriculture means you know exactly where your food came from and who handled it. Keep in mind food fraud is growing problem. Is that fruit really organic? Is that fish really sea bass or is this olive oil really olive oil? Blockchain makes sure you get what you think you are getting and paying for.

This technology can also increase food safety and security. Blockchain brings transparency to the supply chain allowing retailers, farmers and consumers to identify and remove bad actors and poor processes. Blockchain can determine the source of food born illnesses quickly in the event of a illness outbreak saving time, money, and lives.

Blockchain and transportation.

Another way blockchain will affect your life is transportation. Car makers are using blockchain to make sure the parts that go into your car meet their standards and come from a legitimate source. Counterfeit parts are a big problem on the secondary parts market. These parts could possibly end up in busses, trains and even aircraft endangering millions of lives. Parts can now be tracked from the manufacturer to the user eliminating any possible counterfeiting.

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Cryptocurrency for African-Americans?

Is cryptocurrency for African-Americans? Are we in on the game or are we just too cautious with our money to get in right now? Can cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin help the Black economy? Are we ready or even willing to get in the digital cash game? I said it before and I’ll say it again; Black people don’t play when it comes to money!

From Black celebrity endorsements to black people actually mining cryptocurrencies the game is starting to open up and awareness is growing. But are we truly on board?

Black celebrities are pushing cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings or ICO.   An ICO is an unregulated way to raise money for new cryptocurrencies. ICOs are used by startups to get around the rigid rules and laws associated with  the regular capital-raising process. In other words they can raise money without any rules or laws to obey. This makes ICOs an extremely risky investment.

Risky investments do not appeal to African-Americans. “African-Americans are risk-averse,” says Deborah Owens, formerly of Fidelity Investments. Owens calls herselfAmericans Wealth Coach.”  Owens told Forbes.com that, “So, one of the major reasons they have less in retirement savings is they are ultra-conservative, particularly African-Americans who work in the public sector and nonprofit organizations.”

Ultra popular DJ Khaled, alongside boxer Floyd “Money” Mayweather are pumping up Centra Tech. Chief operating officer for Centra Tech, Raymond Trapani, told Fortune.com that Khaled and Mayweather are working as  “official brand ambassador and managing partner” of the company. But the government has issued warnings about their investment advice in digital currencies.

Mayweather, in addition to Centra Tech, he is also associated with ICOs from Stox.com and Hubii Networks. Critics say both companies are risky blockchain technologies and neither has produced a product, service or profit.

Other Black celebrities involved in cryptocurrency include rapper Snoop Dogg, Nas, former Spice Girl Mel B, actor Donald Glover, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, former NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, actor/comedian Jamie Foxx,  and WuTang Clan’s GhostFace Killah.

Needless to say these are fairly wealthy artists and athletes who can afford to play in the cryptocurrency casino and help ICOs raise billions of dollars. But is their involvement even legal?

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking real hard at these celebrity endorsements. The SEC issued a statement to “celebrities and others” who use social media networks to encourage the public to purchase stocks and other investments.

The statement advises celebrities that, “These endorsements may be unlawful if they do not disclose the nature, source, and amount of any compensation paid, directly or indirectly, by the company in exchange for the endorsement.”  Put simply these celebrities need to come clean and let people know they are partners or investors in the company they are pushing.

But are Black people buying cryptocurrencies? Edwardo Jackson of Blacks in Bitcoin believes its still early and that African-Americans need to get in the game and get in the game now. Jackson told TheAtlantic.com, “Can you imagine what it would have been like to own a piece of email technology in 1994? That’s what Bitcoin is like right now, and it’s only getting bigger.”

Along with Black celebrities Jackson could be opening the door for minorities to get into cryptocurrencies. Research in 2014 showed that black people and minorities in general were not aware of the cryptocurrency phenomenon.  But now the African-American community is becoming more aware of digital currency and the wealth it can produce. Black people interested in Bitcoin and possibly investing in digital currency are beginning to form groups to study this phenomenon. One MeetUp group in Atlanta has over 180 members and the interest appears to be growing. Sources of information for black people are also growing as evidenced by Jackson’s blogBlacks in Bitcoin.”

Can digital currency help the African-American community? An interesting fact about Black people in the digital age is our love of mobile technology. Black people have become early and enthusiastic adapters of mobile technology. We are most likely to shop and access the Internet using smartphones than white people. So the idea of using a digital currency is not out of the realm. Another interesting fact is that Black communities, low income neighborhoods, are severely under-banked.

Chief market strategist for ConvergEx Group, Nicholas Colas believes digital currency like Bitcoin can make a difference. Colas sees the currency filling the hole where banks are not in these communities. Colas cited a 2013 Senate committee letter from then-Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. Bernanke did not endorse digital currency but agreed low-cost transactions could benefit low income, under-banked communities. Providers of pre-paid cards and payday loans often thrive in low income communities.  Colas added, “That’s where the promise is for the African American community, because in a finished form, it allows for a cheaper money-transfer system than anything that the current financial system can provide.”

 

African-Americans are beginning to take notice of digital currency and are venturing in with their own brand of digital currency. A Black owned digital currency company, BitMari, has emerged. Founded in 2015, BitMari is a Pan-African blockchain company seeking to secure a piece of the action in the billions of  dollars sent to Africa each year. BitMari is facilitating the transfer or remittance of money using the Bitcoin technology into Africa.

 

 

 

 

$Guap Black Owned Digital Currency

Another Black owned digital currency is $Guap launched by tech visionary Tavonia Evans. The ICO for $Guap is aimed at recycling wealth within the Black community. $Guap is intended to leverage the one trillion dollars in Black spending power. $Guap will jump on the cryptocurrency wave by rewarding African-American consumers for supporting businesses that support them.

Now you know.

 

 

Cryptocurrency – What’s It All About?

What is cryptocurrency? Or you may call it Bitcoin. Where does it come from? How does it work? Is it real money? In case you haven’t heard we are in the midst of a monetary revolution. Many people are raving about Bitcoin. Some say it’s the money of the future. Others are saying it’s a scam or worse. So what’s it all about?

First of all lets clear up the definition. Bitcoin is cryptocurrency but not all cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. As a matter of fact there are as many as 1,000 different brands of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is just the most valuable.

What is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a digital form of currency that is different from real money. Money or currency is produced by banks and nations who create the money’s value based economic strength. This money is managed through a central banking system of that nation.

How is cryptocurrency different?

Transactions of traditional money are controlled, taxed and tracked by banks and nations.  Cryptocurrency transactions are made with no banks or governmental interference.  Some economist and investors like to say that transactions are frictionless. Cryptocurrency users are anonymous . So essentially cryptocurrency is stateless money with no banks and the users are completely unknown. That is until they change Bitcoin into real cash. 

Where did cryptocurrency come from?

Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor, created Bitcoin in 2009. He has never been seen. No one even knows who or where he is. He may not even be a single person but a group of programmers. No one really knows. So cryptocurrency’s origin is a mystery. However, some believe that the National Security Agency has identified him. As usual the NSA has declined comment.

How is it created?

Cryptocurrency is created or “mined” using computers to solve incredibly complex math problems. Performing this work eats up a lot of electricity. So much electricity that you could never make a profit with the average computer. Cryptocurrency “miners,” as they are called, have begun building their own computers or hijacking other people’s computers to create Bitcoins. This has become known as Cryptojacking.

Mining a Bitcoin is not easy or cheap. Bitcoin’s value is about $6,000. How many Bitcoins would you have to produce to deal with a monthly $6,000 electricity bill and still make a profit? 

After a computer solves a series of problems it becomes known as a block. The blocks is then verified by other users and, once confirmed, are added to what is called the blockchain. The blockchain grows rapidly with a new block being added about every 10 minutes. A blockchain is a record of the Bitcoins created. It also records Bitcoin transactions that can never be changed. The blockchain never ends and is not hosted in single location making it immune to hackers.

How do you store or spend Bitcoins?

Bitcoin transactions move between users like email. Each transaction is digitally signed using cryptography and goes to the entire Bitcoin network for verification. These transactions are open to the public and can be found on the blockchain. All Bitcoin transaction leads back to the point where the Bitcoins were first mined.

Bitcoins are kept in a bitcoin wallet or the digital equivalent of a bank account. You can download the Bitcoin wallet from the Google Play store or iTunes. Your wallet allows you to send, receive and store Bitcoins. 

To complete a Bitcoin transaction you need two things; a public encryption key and a private encryption key.

Public keys or Bitcoin addresses, are random sequences of letters and numbers that work the same as an email address or username. Public keys are safe to share. You must give your Bitcoin address to receive Bitcoin. The private key must keep secret. This private key allows you to spend the Bitcoin.

Is Bitcoin real money?

Well, that is where Bitcoin may run into problems. First of all Bitcoin must meet the current standard of what money is. There are four basic standards for money.

ScarcityThere can be a only a limited amount available to secure its value. There can only be 21 million Bitcoins in the world. Right now there are about 9 million Bitcoins. Once it reaches 21 million no more Bitcoins can be mined.

Durability It must stand up to constant handling with no maintenance or special treatment. Bitcoin is completely digital and is never actually touched but human hands. However, Bitcoin is vulnerable. User error can cause the loss or destruction of Bitcoins. Users have lost or forgotten their private key making access to the currency impossible. Recently a a single user error caused the destruction of over $300 million worth of Bitcoin. So durability is an issue as well as security.

FungibilityIs every Bitcoin worth the same.  Let me make this simple for you. According to CoinMarketCap.com there are 1,037 different cryptocurrencies available. So not every one is worth the $6,000 I spoke about earlier. 

PortabilityCryptocurrency can be carried anywhere you carry your smartphone just like cash. So it is portable.

Breaking It Down.

Cryptocurrency is growing in acceptance but is not yet considered a viable currency. Its value is unstable and it is considered  an unacceptable risk by most financial experts and the coin of the future by others. In addition, governments are now examining the cryptocurrency phenomenon. Its anonymity makes it useful for crimes such as drug dealing, terrorism, money laundering and tax dodging. So the future right now depends on the view world governments take. A single law or crime could bring the whole thing to a halt or change the very definition of cryptocurrency.

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Dennis Rodman, Drake and Kanye

Dennis Rodman and PotCoin.

Smoking weed has always been big business. And now it is also slowly becoming a very legitimate business. Anytime Microsoft comes looking for a piece of the pie you know its legit.

Dennis Rodman has stepped into the weed game endorsing a new virtual currency to pay for your weed. Rodman showed up in North Korea on a ticket paid for by PotCoin. A new digital currency that bills itself as “Banking for the Marijuana Industry.” Rodman Tweeted a thank you to PotCoin for “financing his mission.”

PotCoin issued a press release announcing the “mission.” According to PotCoin Rodman will tell us all about it when he returns to the states. But we would be remiss if we did not point out that smoking weed is perfectly legal in North Korea. Something I am certain those nice folks at PotCoin are well aware of.

Sporting a PotCoin-branded t-shirt and baseball cap, Rodman released a short video  touting his visit as “all about peace.” This is not the first time Rodman has promoted a company by visiting the most closed country on earth.  Previously Rodman’s visit to the North was sponsored by an Irish betting company. Of course with this visit PotCoin crypto-currency shot up in value.

See also: Snoop Dogg Launches MerryJane.com 

Drake and Kanye Under Hack Attack

 Hackers love celebrities. So why not Drake and Kanye? According to reports a group calling itself the “Music Mafia” hacked Drake’s Twitter account. The same group also released two of Kanye’s unreleased recordings on YouTube and are threatening to strike again. Music Mafia’s website is offering more un-released music for sale using the Bitcoin virtual currency. 

Music Mafia, after claiming responsibility for the leaks,  had been laying low until this week. The group hacked Drake’s Twitter account on June 2nd  and posted a link to their website. The Tweet was quickly deleted.

Then Music Mafia leaked Kanye’s new music. According to the hacker website they are in possession of  unreleased  “songs from artists recorded years ago” as well as new tracks and music videos. Music Mafia is also offering members of the public exclusive leaks. 

Music Mafia offered the unreleased tracks of Calvin Harris’ ‘Slide’, Future’s ‘Ransom’ and a few other songs. But are now threatening to release more music from Kanye, Maroon 5 and PartyNextDoor,  for payments in Bitcoin.

The hackers seem to be are offering the stolen cuts only after they collect an unknown number of Bitcoins. The thefts are being carried out by highly professional hackers who have done well covering their tracks.The Music Mafia website is registered in the Kingdom of Tonga. But that tiny country’s servers appear to be hosted in Iceland by a company specializing in secure and anonymous web hosting. The only way to get in touch with them is through the decentralized and encrypted Bitmessage communications platform.

WannaCry Ransomware – So Whats Happening?

WannaCry notice

A worldwide ransomware attack launched this past weekend hit computers in over 150 countries. The United States was less affected than other countries. Security experts estimated that the cyber attack crippled 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries. But that number could be low. Scarce reports have Russia and China as being especially hard hit by the malware.

The global attack was carried out by hackers who exploited a flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system first discovered by the National Security Agency (NSA).  In April of this year the flaw and a hacked NSA cyber tool to exploit it became public when they were posted on the Internet by a hacker group known as Shadow Brokers.

In Great Britain the loss of computing systems prevented doctors from accessing patient files and caused emergency rooms to divert patients. According to Prime Minister Theresa May there is no evidence that patient data had been stolen. British officials stated 48 of Britain’s 248 public health trusts had come under attack. All but six are back to normal.

A spokesman for FedEx said:  “Like many other companies, FedEx is experiencing interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware. We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible.”

One reason the U.S. seems to have been spared from this global attack may have been the work of a British researcher.

The unknown attackers included a “kill switch” in the form of a URL in the malicious code. Experts believe it was a way to control the malware. The kill switch would shut down the attack when the virus sent an online request to a specific website. 

A 22-year-old British researcher whose Twitter handle is @MalwareTechBlog discovered the kill switch’s domain name had not been registered. Thinking quickly he purchased the domain name for about $11.00. According to security experts the researcher shut down the malware before the it could reach the U.S. The cyber hero probably stopped a catastrophic malware attack from taking place on U.S. soil. The researcher has confirmed his involvement in a blog post but has insisted on anonymity.

Matthieu Suiche founder of Comae Technologies a cyber security company located in the United Arab Emirates said, “That kill switch is why the U.S. has not been touched so far. But it’s only temporary. All the attackers would have to do is create a variant of the hack with a different domain name.” These variants have sense been discovered on the Internet.

The hackers who launched the attack asked for $300US or $600 in bitcoins to unlock computers but experts advise not paying the hackers. According to security experts victims are left waiting and hoping WannaCry’s hackers will remotely free the hostage computer. The process is done manually over the Internet. That means hackers may have the near impossible task of unlocking thousands of computers one at a time. But the real issues is the payment method, usually in bitcoins. The hackers have no way to know who paid the ransom.

Owners of the locked computer may become desperate and pay the ransom. “But don’t count on getting your files back,”said Matthew Hickey, director of security provider Hacker House.

“The culprits can only restore user’s systems by manually sending the decryption key to each affected computer, which will amount to a time-consuming process,” he said.

“You’re really at the mercy of the human operator. Someone at the other end of the connection,” Hickey said.

Was the malware attack the work of inexperienced cyber criminals or so called script kiddies? Evidence indicates that this could be the case. 

First of all the perpetrators included an obvious kill switch in the code but failed to register the domain name. Perhaps they were afraid it could lead back to them.

According to some reports the hackers did manage to rake in about $56,000 in bitcoin payments. But according to Hickey the inefficiency of the payment model may indicate the hackers were not after money at all. “If it was done for money, it wasn’t the smartest way to get it,” he said.

Hickey pointed out that because of the large number of computers infected the asking price could have been much lower and still brought in a nice pay off.

But these hackers do not appear to be experienced or ambitious cyber criminals. They demanded a large ransom and used, at best, a sloppy payment method leaving victims wondering if they were paying for nothing.

According to Hickey, “It removes the incentive to send any money to the attacker.”

But some experts see the fingerprints of North Korea on the malware attack. A New York Times report revealed that intelligence officials and private security experts have found digital evidence pointing to North Korean connected hackers.

The evidence is not definitive but security experts at Symantec believe they have found the same tools used in previous hacks of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Bangladesh central bank last year and Polish banks in February in the WannaCry malware attack.

Regardless of who carried out the attack make no mistake WannaCry did indeed work and encrypted any machine unlucky enough to encounter it. Security experts and cyber sleuths are working to rescue computers already infected.