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US and Canada issue joint alert after rash of cyber attacks against hospitals

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The United States and Canada on Thursday issued a rare joint cyber alert, warning against a recent surge in extortion attacks that infect computers with viruses known as “ransomware,” which encrypt data and demand payments for it to be unlocked.

The warning follows reports from several private security firms that they expect the crisis to worsen, because hackers are getting more sophisticated and few businesses have adopted proper security measures to thwart such attacks.

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“Infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery can be a difficult process that may require the services of a reputable data recovery specialist,” the two governments said in the alert, distributed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre.

It comes in the wake of reports of a string of ransomware attacks on individuals, businesses and government agencies in the past few months, including some that interrupted services at U.S. hospitals and police departments.

Last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a private alert to U.S. businesses, seeking their help in its investigation into the attacks. [L2N1700ST]

Thursday’s alert said the consequences of ransomware attacks include loss of sensitive or proprietary information, disruption of regular operations, expenses to restore access to computer systems and harm to a victim’s reputation.

The governments discouraged victims from paying hackers to restore access to their data.

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“Paying the ransom does not guarantee the encrypted files will be released,” the alert said. “It only guarantees that the malicious actors receive the victim’s money, and in some cases, their banking information.”

MedStar, the U.S. capital region’s largest healthcare provider, shut down much of its computer network this week to slow the spread of a virus. The Baltimore Sun reported on Wednesday that hackers had used ransomware to encrypt data on some computers and then demanded a ransom of $18,500.

Security blogger Brian Krebs last week reported that Henderson, Kentucky-based Methodist Hospital declared an internal state of emergency after falling victim to a ransomware attack. Last month, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles paid a ransom of $17,000 to regain access to its systems after a similar attack.

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(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


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‘Stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough’: GOP’s Liz Cheney goes off on Trump after being asked about masks

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Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Wednesday broke ranks with President Donald Trump and said he should stop promoting baseless conspiracy theories about MSNBC's Joe Scarborough murdering a staffer 20 years ago.

As reported by Politico's Jake Sherman, Cheney brought up the president's murder conspiracy theories unprompted during an interview with reporters who had originally asked her about wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I do think the president should stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough," she said. "We’re in the middle of a pandemic. He’s the commander in chief of this nation. And it’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died."

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BUSTED: Trump flack Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 11 times in the last 10 years

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Trump White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany this week echoed President Donald Trump's statements that allowing everyone to vote by mail would result in an unprecedented surge in "voter fraud."

However, a review conducted by the Tampa Bay Times has found that McEnany herself has voted by mail a total of 11 times in the past decade alone.

"In fact, the Tampa native has voted by mail in every Florida election she has participated in since 2010," the Tampa Bay Times has found. "Most recently, she voted by mail in the state’s March 2020 presidential primary, just as Trump did after he made Florida his new permanent home."

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Kentucky militant’s wife plays victim after militia leader fired for hanging governor in effigy

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A right-wing militant was fired for hanging Kentucky's governor in effigy during a lockdown protest -- and his wife is furious.

Terry Bush, president of the Kentucky 3 Percenters militia group, lost his job Tuesday with Neil Huffman Auto Group after he was photographed and recorded hanging Gov. Andy Beshear in effigy before demonstrators gathered outside the governor's mansion and demanded that he come outside, reported the Courier-Journal.

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