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Sunday, 14 May 2017

What we’re tracking on 14 May 2017

Businesses and government agencies across the world who rely on Windows PCs running older versions of the operating system were hit by a massive global cyberattack on Friday. The WannaCry / WannaCrypt attack encrypted the hard drives of some 200k infected users, offering them the ability to un-encrypt it in return for a ransom payment (transferred via bitcoin) that starts at USD 300 and goes up over time. Among those who fell prey to the attack — thought to have originated out of Russia — were major companies in Spain, Germany and Portugal, the UK’s national healthcare service, and the Russian Interior Ministry.

We’re going out on a limb here and dispensing tech advice. Namely: If you receive an email that sounds even a fraction off in tone, grammar or subject matter — even if it appears to be from someone you know — stop and think a moment before you open the attachment or click the link that it encloses. Not sure why? Go read this excellent primer on how to figure out if someone is setting you up for a phishing attack.Next, update your OS. The WannaCry attack takes advantage of an exploit developed by the US National Security Agency that got into the wrong hands. Microsoft released a patch in March — folks (including some in Egypt — check this animated map of the attack) who are infected didn’t patch their machines (or couldn’t, because their machines are running old, non-supported versions of Windows). And if you’re on a Windows box, you probably want to run Microsoft’s anti-virus software, which it provides without charge.

Microsoft has gone so far as to issue a patch for no-longer-supported operating systems (you can read more on the company’s recommendations for all systems and download the patches on Microsoft’s blog here), and Hacker News is warning that the attack isn’t over — the attackers have released a new version of the ransomware that is not stopped by a kill switch that a researcher inadvertently flipped on Friday.

The New York Times has an excellent, accessible rundown of what’s known about WannaCry as of about 4am this morning and warns that with new digital tools, even nonexperts can wage cyberattacks.

If you’re a CTO / head of IT / head of tech support, this morning might be a good time to reach out to your users and give them a pep talk / raise some awareness of best practices in security. This is a teachable moment.

Oh, and if you’re deploying HP laptops to your users, there’s a chance you have a security vulnerability — two dozen HP laptops and tablets on the market “covertly monitor every keystroke a user makes, security researchers warned Thursday. The devices then store the key presses in an unencrypted file on the hard drive.” John Gruber’s Daring Fireball links to the original piece in Ars Technica.

Sharm El Sheikh is Airbnb and Pinterest’s top trending destination, according to’s Conor Heneghan. The South Sinai city topped the list of “destinations that people are saving on Pinterest and checking out on Airbnb and we want to go to every single one of them as soon as possible.” This comes just days after Thomas Cook cancelled its Sharm El Sheikh holiday bookings for the winter of 2017-18 and summer of 2018 seasons. The cancellation came as the UK FCO did not remove its travel restrictions, to which the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service says that the travel industry should challenge FCO advice. He adds that “Foreign Office travel advice does not always reflect the situation on the ground, and unnecessary blanket travel bans can harm local economies fuelling extremism.”

The EBRD is becoming rather active once again, announcing on Thursday a USD 25 mn facility for a subsidiary of Elsewedy Electric and a separate USD 11 mn facility for Basel El Baz’s Carbon Holdings. In each case, the funding will help the companies cut the environmental footprints.

The Ismail cabinet is expected to receive the executive regulations for the Civil Service Act today Youm7 reports.

A Trade and Industry Ministry delegation is in Riyadh to participate in the Egyptian-Saudi Trade Committee meeting taking place today and tomorrow, Al Mal reports.

PSA #1- Expect the mercury to spike to 40°C today and tomorrow before starting to cool on Tuesday. Temperatures will slide to 31°C by Friday.

PSA #2- It is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada. Mom may be 100% Masriyya, but if she’s spent any length of time in North America, she’ll expect a call on this version of Mother’s Day, too.

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