Ransomware takes down the city of Atlanta

Ransomware might be one of the defining moments in the next few years of computing, or even what finally kills traditional computing as we know it. Atlanta, Georgia is facing a cyberattack that has crippled the most basic services in the city, stopped citizens from using online tools and blocked thousands of city workers from doing their jobs.

The attack is fairly simple: infect a computer, encrypt its contents and hold it ransom until someone pays up. What's wild about many of these ransomware stories is that the entities involved are usually more willing to pay a ransom than they are to actually just patch their systems in the first place:

It is not ideal to pay up, but in most cases, SamSam’s victims have said that they can more easily afford the $50,000 or so in ransom than the time and cost of restoring their locked data and compromised systems. In the past year, the group has taken to attacking hospitals, police departments and universities — targets with money but without the luxury of going off-line for days or weeks for restoration work.

The group behind this, dubbed SamSam appears to choose targets very specifically for this reason: they can't afford the downtime, but they have enough money to pay up. 

It's simple to assume that you wouldn't pay personally, but when the moment comes and you're faced with losing your data along with days of outages, it seems like there's little choice at all.

Facebook delays smart speaker

The privacy kerfuffle has Facebook on the back foot, and it's decided to delay a new smart speaker that was to be debuted at F8 next month:

People who have seen previews of the device told The Information that Facebook points to an example of young woman in her kitchen being able to video chat with her mother—using facial-recognition technology to suggest a call when both are in rooms with the device—and share recipes using the device.

Wait, what? Facebook planned to slap a machine learning always-on camera in the home even before the privacy debate, which frankly sounds insane if it truly works this way - it's like an always-watching Amazon Echo. Apparently, sensing that people may not want something like this in their homes right now, Facebook has decided to delay the speaker for later this year.

Given Facebook's huge database of facial recognition data (from your photos you uploaded), it would have a decent lead at making fairly seamless technology here. It's hard to reconcile what purpose a Facebook device could serve or how even just a smart speaker from the company could add value in the home. 

Google, Amazon and Apple all have clear plays, but Facebook has a sprawling social network so could... send Farmville requests more regularly? I might be missing something obvious, but privacy debate or not, I don't think this had a place in many homes anyway (if you can see it better than I can, let me know on Discuss; I truly can't see where this one would have gone).

Tab Dump

Raw Cambridge Analytica data uncovered
Channel 4 has obtained raw data on thousands of voters from Colorado and found the people it profiled. Worth a watch, particularly for how little people understand what's being left behind online. I guess CA didn't delete the data, after all.

Ripple donated $29M (in cryptocurrency) to charity
It's definitely fairly self-serving to donate your own cryptocurrency to charity, but this is a pretty respectable move: Ripple filled every single request for school supplies on a giving website.

China is building a rain-making system because it needs water