Hashtag Trending Feb.15th-U.S., U.K sanction ransomware gangs, new open-source “super cloud” and Salesforce adds gender options

Have ransomware gangs finally crossed “a bridge too far?”, a new “super cloud” says it’s not only open source, but it’s a magnitude cheaper than other cloud providers and Salesforce recognizes new gender options.

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It’s Wednesday, February 15th. These stories and more on Hashtag Trending–today’s top technology news stories. I’m your host, Jim Love.

Could economic sanctions be the tool that finally takes down ransomware gangs? Some recent studies seem to suggest this new approach might be working..

Recently, the U.S. and the U.K collaboratively applied financial sanctions to seven individuals who are part of Russia-based cybercrime gang, TrickBot.

Trickbot has been one of the most prolific cyber crime outfits. It first appeared in 2016 and many feel it has survived due to its connections to and protection by Russian intelligence and the Russian government in return for its attacks against US and Western targets.

The group got its start during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, first attacking non-Russian financial systems.  Later, Trickbot targeted hospitals and healthcare centers, affecting computer networks, telephones and in process disrupting already over-stretched ambulance services and hospitals across the U.S.

US and other authorities have targeted the gang and in 2020 their botnets were disrupted and two of the key gang members were arrested.  Despite that, the gang has survived and is reported to have continued supporting or working with Russian Intelligence Services to attack targets in the US and the UK, particularly major health care facilities.

Now, western governments are fighting back in a new way. They are levying sanctions on the gangs and applying fines that make it much more expensive for companies to pay the ransom, according to an article in CPO magazine. Victims often feel that they would rather rely on backup and remediation than paying to get their files back from the attackers.

In addition to acting to cutting off the flow of money, governments are taking a host of other actions, including starting to identify and even arrest group members.  Roger Grimes, an evangelist at cybersecurity firm KnowBe4 said that the sanctions, “represent a tipping point in the battle” noting that the full force of every possible government agency has been brought to bear – the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency CISA, the FBI, Department of Justice, the National Security agency, business councils, foreign agencies and more. Said Grimes, “even the President of the United States got involved. Ransomware finally crossed a ‘bridge too far’”

However, sanctions have limitations. While sanctions can limit the international movement of subjects, they cannot facilitate arrests if they stay in a country that encourages their activities such as Russia. Plus, hackers do not really go out of business, they usually just go underground for a bit and then emerge with a new criminal brand.

TrickBot, in particular, has proven more resilient than other ransomware gangs as they diversified their attacks, and do not always solicit payments from victims. So it is unlikely that the sanctions will cease all of their activities.

However, research from Intel 471 Threat Research Team said that “We’ve not seen any TrickBot activity since the Feb 2022 blog post. It is highly likely that TrickBot won’t be seen again. One possible scenario is that the source code may be sold or leaked, and other threat actors could re-use it or fork the source into a new project … “

Source: CPO magazine

Demand for public cloud is increasing but so is competition within the public cloud marketplace. And there may be a new competitor.

One company, Akash Network is taking a new approach to compete with  hyperscalers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft by operating an open-sourced, decentralized “super” cloud.

Their model allows any data centre or anyone with a computer, to share unused processing cycles creating a new, open source, collaborative cloud provider.

Trying to leverage unused computing cycles is an idea that’s been tried before. Decades ago, researchers tried to create a pool of unused cycles on personal computers as part of a search for intelligent life (SETI) project.

But now, the convergence of the cloud and open source technologies may have created a commercially viable option.

Akash Network CEO Greg Osuri said in an interview to Data Center Knowledge that they have created a marketplace that gives data center operators control over the pricing and amenities through reverse auctioning. This means that users, or tenants as Akash calls them, state their application needs and maximum budget. Providers bid on the order with the lowest bid winning.

“It’s 75 to 85 percent cheaper than the Amazons of the world,” said Osuri.

According to a report by Gartner, use of the marketplace is also perfect data center right sizing strategy and part of a wider trend to integrate “on-premises, co-location, cloud, and the edge.

The new offering promises to allow cloud-native and containerized applications to run faster on decentralized cloud. The open-source software is also beneficial to developers and users. It’s easier for developers to launch new applications and users can enjoy greater flexibility in how they use applications.

Source: Data Center Knowledge

Microsoft’s St. Valentine’s Day massacre

Yesterday, the giant permanently ditched Internet Explorer in certain versions of Windows 10. The company first stated that IE will be killed via a Windows Update, but later communicated that it would happen through an Edge update.

The update has been rolled out to all devices–both consumer and commercial, at the same time and with no possibility to roll back this change.

The banner with the headline “The future of Internet Explorer is in Microsoft Edge” is now visible and users will be redirected to Edge any time they try to launch an IE-based use-case. Their browsing data will be seamlessly migrated too.

Source: Neowin

Microsoft also killed enterprise social network Yammer yesterday, which it bought a decade ago for $1.2 billion.

The Redmond giant tried integrating Yammer in its office suite in 2019. But following the launch of Viva, the employee experience platform, the relevance of Yammer waned drastically. Yammer’s fate was sealed when Microsoft went all in on Viva with the launch of Viva Engage in 2022, which it branded at the time as an evolution of the Yammer Communities app.

But now the Yammer brand will be killed off and survived by Viva Engage.  This will include changing the existing Yammer mobile apps to Viva Engage in March 2023, which will be followed by a transition for the Yammer web app starting this summer.

Let’s have a moment of silence for Yammer.

Source: TechCrunch

Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client is experiencing a potential rebirth.

Mozilla Foundation decided to overhaul Thunderbird after it was practically abandoned in 2012 and moved to a community-driven development model with several developers volunteering to work on the project.

“Many volunteer contributors with varying tastes … resulted in an inconsistent user interface without a coherent user experience.” said the company’s Product design manager Alessandro Castellani.

The revamp dubbed Supernova aims to eliminate all the existing technical and interface debt accumulated over the past ten years on the platform.

Thunderbird 115 ‘Supernova is set to release in July 2023.

Source: The Register

Walmart is putting a stop to remote work, closing some offices and forcing employees to relocate or leave.

The company is closing offices in Carlsbad, California, Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas although it hasn’t said when these hubs will close.

With the office closures, hundreds of workers will either have to relocate to one of Walmart’s tech hubs or leave the retailer. The company said it will pay the transfer costs for those who decide to move.

The retailer is also cutting back on remote work for tech staff, the company’s spokesperson, Rob Munroe told Insider. Everyone who works on the Global Tech team under Suresh Kumar, Walmart’s global chief technology and development officer, will be expected to work from a tech office at least two days a week.

“Our decision to be together more frequently anchors to Walmart’s fundamental belief that our people make the difference, our culture matters and we build stronger partnerships when we are physically together,” Munroe said.

Source: Business Insider

Salesforce has added two new fields to its software wherever people are referenced, one to include pronouns and the other for gender identity.

With this move, the business software giant seeks to allow customers to better represent transgender and nonbinary people but also help make gender-related data more accurate.

Administrators no longer need to add custom fields to expand the potential for more standard data reporting across a wider range of gender identities, Axios wrote.

To expedite this move, Salesforce worked with its own employees from the LGBTQ+ community as well as non-profit Out and Equal, working to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Salesforce has however made it clear that it is not requiring customers to collect data on gender identities, which in some cases can be unnecessary and inappropriate.

Salesforce chief ethical and humane use officer Paula Goldman said that at the end of the day, this move is about more inclusive language. “It’s about giving businesses the tools to better understand and serve their diverse customer base.”

Source: Axios

That’s the top tech news stories for today.

Links to these stories can be found in the article posted on itworldcanada.com/podcasts. You can also find more great stories and more in-depth coverage on itworldcanada.com or in the US on technewsday.com

If you’re trying to keep up on cybersecurity, you might want to follow our sister podcast, CyberSecurityToday.

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a daily newscast and we have a special weekend edition with an interview featuring an expert in some aspect of technology that is making the news.

Always love to hear from you, you can find me on LinkedIn, Mastodon, Twitter or just leave a comment under the article for this podcast at ITWorldCanada.com

I’m Jim Love, have a great Wednesday.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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