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President Joe Biden signs executive order to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity defenses
by Subir Kathuria
Following the crippling ransomware attacks on Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, United States President Joe Biden has signed an executive order aimed at strengthening U.S. cybersecurity defenses. The company operates 5,500 miles-long pipelines that can carry 3 million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York. The attack has led to widespread fuel shortages along the East Coast and panic buying in the southeastern United States.
Ransomware attacks are usually carried out using a trojan, which then spreads malware that blocks and encrypts files on a device or network that results in the system becoming inaccessible in most cases. The attackers then threaten to publish the victim's data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.
The FBI confirmed that it believes the DarkSide ransomware is responsible for the attack on Colonial Pipeline. DarkSide is a criminal group with origins in Russia.
The White House said it was directing a “comprehensive federal response” in light of the recent attack. President Joe Biden’s executive order takes a number of steps for modernizing the nation’s cybersecurity defenses which include upgrading to secure cloud services and other cyberinfrastructure. It also mandates the deployment of multifactor authentication mechanisms and encryption with a specific time period in place. Software developers are even required to share certain security data publicly.
Colonial announced in a press release that although it has started pipeline operations, it will take several days for fuel deliveries to return to normal levels. President Biden's Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also tweeted the update after a phone call with Colonial CEO Tim Felt.
Colonial Pipeline's use of outdated on-premises Exchange Servers seem to be a potential attack vector, but it has not yet been confirmed that this was indeed the security vulnerability that led to the latest attack. Microsoft’s systems were also involved in the SolarWinds attack last year. Microsoft's President Brad Smith had described the cyberattack as “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.”
Even though Microsoft has published many advisories about the importance of keeping on-premises Exchange Servers up to date due to several vulnerabilities being exploited in the wild, many organizations have failed to do so leading to devastating cyberattacks.
Source: CNBC | Image: ANI News
By Namerah S
Microsoft bags yet another HoloLens contract with U.S. military
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
A few years back in November 2018, Microsoft was awarded a $480 million contract for its augmented reality headset, the HoloLens, by the U.S. military. Though it was a big win for the company, it wasn't exactly met with applause. The deal was followed by protests from employees worried about their work contributing to the death of others as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) was designed to help soldiers practice.
At the time, CEO Satya Nadella dealt with the situation rather bluntly, reaffirming that Microsoft would continue to engage with the U.S. military despite employee disapproval. Following suit, today one of the world's largest tech giants did just that, winning another contract with the United States Army for the augmented reality headset.
Today's deal between the U.S. Army and Microsoft is worth a whopping $21.9 billion, more than forty times the value of the first IVAS contract. The multi-billion dollar agreement will be spread out over the span of ten years, as reported by CNBC. As per the contract, 120,000 customized AR headsets are to be built in the given period.
Employees of the Redmond-based corporation have yet to respond. Whether the Microsoft workers will stay quiet about yet another military deal this time remains unknown.
Japan agrees to provide important Lunar Gateway components
by Paul Hill
NASA and the Government of Japan have come to an agreement over the Lunar Gateway that will see the east Asian nation provide capabilities for the Gateway’s International Habitation module (I-Hab). The I-Hab is a key component of the modular space station as it includes life support capabilities and additional space where astronauts can live and work during Artemis missions.
According to the American space agency, JAXA’s planned contributions include I-Hab’s environmental control and life support system, batteries, thermal control and imagery components. Once developed, these parts will be integrated into the I-Hab module by the European Space Agency (ESA) which shows just how much of an international effort this new space station is.
Under a previous agreement between JAXA and Northrop Grumman, Japan will supply the batteries that’ll be used in Gateway’s Habitation and Logistics Output (HALO) – the area of the station where astronauts will go first once arriving at Gateway. Japan has also decided to take a look at its HTV-X cargo resupply craft to see whether it can adapt it for use in Gateway logistics resupply missions.
Commenting on today’s partnership, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center Dan Hartman said:
The Lunar Gateway, which is set to orbit the Moon, will begin launching in January 2024. Initially, the Power and Propulsion Element and the HALO modules will be launched and eventually will be joined many other modules. The I-Hab, which Japan is developing components for under today’s agreement is set for launch in 2026.
By Steven P.
What a nice gesture, well done to office Lima
By Ather Fawaz
Nuro approved to become the first driverless delivery service in California
by Ather Fawaz
Image via Nuro Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup, has obtained the first-ever approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to launch driverless services in the state. The milestone achievement makes Nuro the first company to receive approval of this kind, ahead of companies like GM and Amazon who have only received testing approvals for their bids in the same technology thus far.
Following the approval, Nuro can now start autonomous routine deliveries of food, beverages, medicine, and other products in California. The firm states that it will soon begin operating commercially on California roads in two counties—Santa Clara and San Mateo— near its headquarters in the Bay Area with an established partner. The company stated in a blog post:
Service will start off with a fleet of Toyota Prius vehicles in fully autonomous mode before the company eventually deploys its custom-built electric R2 vehicles. Nuro accentuated that safety is the primary concern for its vehicles, stating that the "R2 was purposefully engineered for safety, with a design that prioritizes what’s outside — the people with whom we share the roads — over what’s inside." As such, deliveries can only occur during good weather conditions, and the vehicles will be limited to a maximum of 25mph (~40km/h).