This is the lil tech news you need to know for the week commencing June 7, 2021.
JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, got taken down by a ransomware cyberattack, temporarily shutting down plants in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
The hack has been attributed to a cyber criminal Ransomware-as-a-Service (TBD defining tech term of 2021?) group known as REvil.
This news comes on the heels of a similar ransomware attack that took down Colonial Pipeline’s operation just last month, leading to gasoline shortages on the U.S. East Coast.
Like Colonial Pipeline, JBS made the decision to pay the ransom to bring their systems back online. The ransom was $11 million–greater than the $4.4 million which Colonial Pipeline paid.
In related news, the U.S. Justice Department announced this week that the FBI was able to recover about $2.3 million worth of Colonial Pipeline’s cryptocurrency ransom–a rare task considering the decentralized and permanent nature of cryptocurrency blockchain transactions.
Our Take: Ransomware-as-a-Service has now successfully taken down major U.S. fuel and food pipelines in the span of about 30 days. Though the category of cyberattack is defined, the threat vectors are many and would-be attackers have seen how profitable the endeavor can be.
We will inevitably learn that more of the systems that impact our daily lives are vulnerable, and they will be similarly attacked. We hope that our critical institutions are examining their systems with greater scrutiny than ever, and investing in fortification against these types of intrusions where practicable.
El Salvador became the first country in the world to make Bitcoin an official legal tender, alongside the U.S. Dollar–which has been the country’s sole legal tender since 2001.
The country set a 90 day timetable for all operations in the country to become compliant. That means that any entity operating in El Salvador must be prepared to accept Bitcoin as official legal tender for their goods and services by the end of that 90-day window.
It was also announced that citizenship would be available to anyone in the country who could demonstrate an investment in at least 3 BTC (about $112,000 as of this writing).
Our Take: While it’s good to see cryptocurrency becoming further legitimized by this kind of adoption, it will be interesting to see if El Salvadorians actually choose to use it for day-to-day purchases.
The buying power of Bitcoin still fluctuates with too great a magnitude and frequency to make it a practical substitute for the more stable U.S. Dollar.
Buying or selling a McDonald’s cheeseburger for Bitcoin today sounds fine until that Bitcoin gains or loses half of its buying power in just a couple months’ time.
That said, we think El Salvador is only the first of many countries which will take this step.
Apple held its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (virtually) this week, announcing what’s to come in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey. Here are just a few highlights from the announcements:
- SharePlay will allow users to screen share other apps on their device inside of FaceTime calls (think: start a FaceTime call, then pop over to YouTube and watch a video together, in sync, over FaceTime)
- Live Text will automatically recognize text in your photos and allow you to search, highlight, and copy text right from your photos (think: take a photo of handwritten note, then touch the photo to highlight the text just like you would text on a webpage)
- Apple Wallet will add support for IDs (think: saving your driver’s license info in Wallet… and actually being able to use it the next time you get carded, presumably?)
- FaceTime Links and a forthcoming FaceTime web app will allow anyone with a web browser to join your FaceTime (no longer iOS-only)
Our Take: It’s particularly interesting that Apple’s “walled garden” is opening up a bit more with the introduction of a FaceTime web app. No longer will users have to own an iOS device with the FaceTime app in order to FaceTime with friends.
Apple has a precedent for providing its standalone monetized services–like Apple Music and AppleTV–on multiple platforms, but there isn’t much precedent for them offering their proprietary communication offerings outside of the walled garden of iOS devices.
Much has been made over the years of Apple’s user “lock-in” strategy with regards to Apple Messages (née iMessage). With FaceTime jumping out of the walled garden, one has to wonder if the strategy behind that decision might also apply to Messages in the future.
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