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Weekly Roundup: How Garmin Surrendered, USA Battles China, and Gmail Loses Trust

This week we are discussing how Garmin paid millions of dollars of ransom to take hold of their online services, how China battles the United States on the bans on TikTok and WeChat, and how Gmail is on the verge of becoming obsolete. Here are some of the top cybersecurity stories from this week. 

Pay me in millions of dollars or stay offline

Last month, Garmin was under attack by a group of hackers that have been speculated to be representatives of a Russian group, maybe even Evil Corp, as reports suggested. The vicious cyberattack on Garmin devices started affecting wearables, smartwatches, tracking devices, GPS, and all online accessories on July 23rd, and all users reported that they were unable to synchronize their data. It sucks to be a Garmin employee: those folks received encrypted messages and realized their systems were not in their control anymore. 

We’ll never know for sure, but speculation abounded suggesting that the hackers were demanding $10 million—at least according to one of Garmin’s employees. The attackers used a ransomware known as WastedLocker to shut down Garmin’s major services. However, a few days later, services went back to normal, and we can only think of one plausible solution: Garmin paid a hefty amount out of their pockets!

Garmin fought back with…money of course

Although Garmin released a tweet saying their services are back to normal, the synchronization did not immediately work as effectively as it used to before. All the devices have shifted to the company’s servers instead of backing up data to the cloud. This is expected after a big rundown of available servers and leaving their users without any service whatsoever. 

The reason why we, and all major cybersecurity news organizations, are sure about Garmin paying a ransom is because WastedLocker was involved, which to date is known as a high-level and unbeatable ransom…Technically you won’t see any problems or loopholes in it. That’s why experts jumped onto the conclusion that Garmin has paid $10 million or around that same amount to a group of hackers (maybe Evil Corp… but though we mentioned it earlier, you didn’t hear this from us). 

On the other hand, this news regarding ransomware attacks is not new. Canon and Travelex are two companies that were recently also pummeled by ransomware attacks. Plus, most universities and government agencies are on the verge of imminent online attacks. This is where encryption tools come into the rescue and allows you to give hackers a run for their evil minds… or greedy minds, we must say. 

Another big yet important reason why we, the PureVengers, suggest to look over your security protocols once again. If you are a company dealing with digital products or have private data on the cloud, then you must rethink your security checkpoints because hackers can break them.   

China vs USA is an uphill battle that none of us want

According to Chinese statistics, more than 50% of cyberattacks in China originated from a group living somewhere in the United States, followed by Russia and Canada who were a target of similar cyberattacks and the sources, again, lead back to the US soil. Is this a coincidence? Or is the US really sidelining China and their archrival, Russia? Or is this a war with other countries too (hey, we all have more than a few enemies) or are hacker groups in the USA just choosing many random targets that just so happen to be located in a country that is known to have strained relations? 

The answer to this question is definitely yes. These cyber problems between China and the USA are nothing new, and both countries are trying to gain dominance over each other in the cyberspace ecosystem. But we don’t want to blame a single country for starting the fire. As the news suggests, China may be intruding in the USA as well. 

Will we see the Great Internet Firewall in the USA?

Maybe! Many US citizens have already blamed Vladimir Putin for rigging the 2016 US Presidential Elections. The USA may look at China next as the reason why they don’t trust each other. The Internet firewall can be a first step towards making America safer again from China or from a country that doesn’t intrude on their elections. Time will tell whether or not a safer America is a way to get more votes or perhaps this firewall will just be a necessary slap on China’s face!

On the flipside, China is not part of the 5, 9, or 14 Eyes Alliance either and we can safely say that it doesn’t want to share their citizens’ data with any country. So the Internet Firewall idea suggested by Trump might be a threat or might actually change these country alliances in the future. Trump is in no position to break these security alliances and the Internet firewall idea is still in ideation phase. 

As we previously discussed the Garmin ransomware case, who knows whether Chinese or Russian hackers might specifically target US-based companies to dry out their bank accounts. The PureVengers can’t say for certain whether US attacks on China are true or if the Chinese government is accusing the USA because of the ban on TikTok and Tencent. We don’t know their motivation. What we can do, though, is sit back, grab a bucket of our favorite flavor of popcorn, and enjoy the show. 

Trump being Trump… 

We think President Trump is being aggressive about pushing China away from the US territory before the US Presidential elections and believe his sheer aim is to weaken their foothold in the technology industry. The US administration may be right about the fact that Chinese apps, like TikTok or WeChat, might be the tool to manipulate new voters and use their private data to vote absentee by mail regarding the lockdown situation. 

On the other hand, we are going to start looking at how this affects Chinese businesses as the ban might stretch to the USA’s strong alliances, like the United Kingdom, France, or Canada, even though these countries tread lightly on bans. (Editor’s note—she’s from the US, y’all: Hey, the US did too until Trump came into power.)

But why does Trump have a good reason to ban TikTok anyway? There are a few reasonable explanations to this question such as the speculation that China may be spreading political speech, pedophiles are targeting teenage girls, users are exposing private data to China, and exploiting private data is considered a threat to national security, to sum up in a few thoughts. 

We are amazed by the fact that this is the first time a US President has given an executive legal order to ban a social media app based on a National Security issue. Seems strange! (Then again, is anything in 2020 normal?) And we have our fingers crossed and are looking towards Microsoft or another rescuer to throw in the towel and stop the fight (in short, buy TikTok. The millennials will thank you). 

Time for you to delete Gmail… 

Whoa! Hold on your horses.. Do you know how much data I have on my Gmail account? Pictures! Files! Memories! Nearly everyone in my social and professional circle has my Gmail account, so why bother? That is understandable but the news suggested otherwise. Although Gmail doesn’t share your private email content with anyone, you can’t rely on this common email provider used by millions, or perhaps billions of people, now. 

You can use other email providers because the matter at hand is not of convenience but privacy. Gmail doesn’t share your personal data but it may use some of the content to place ads. And the rise of phishing emails may have affected most Gmail users in the past and will continue to do so in the future. 

Privacy should be your #1 priority 

You may not know this, but the European Union already sued Google for its inherent nagging in Android systems. In short, Google is trying to dominate the user spectrum and wants to gather as many users as possible (the numbers lie in millions or even billions). This means that Google can share (sell) your data to the highest bidder in exchange for money or place ads that you want to see in simpler words. 

That’s why we, the PureVengers, are working on making the Internet a better and safer place for all users. As the flagbearer of online privacy, we ensure that no one is really safe or hidden on the Internet and your online lives are being monitored more than ever. 

This calls for a reason to invest in online privacy tools and ensure that hackers, evil prying eyes, and even government surveillance agencies stay away from your private online lives. Say YES to privacy. I think we just created our next slogan,”Hey Hey Ho Ho… Online ads have to go!

Sameed Ajax Sameed is a Digital Content Producer at PureVPN who covers cybersecurity, streaming, and weekly news. Besides that, he wastes time playing FIFA, eating pizza, and sending tweets.

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