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Ransomware: Hostage-taking, cyber style

On March 9, 114 servers within Connecticut’s judicial system were impacted by a ransomware attack. This was the second ransomware attack aimed at the state government. Two weeks earlier, the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services reported that a virus resembling the Wannacry ransomware infected about 160 computers in a dozen state agencies.

In both attacks, Connecticut got off lucky because the viruses were caught and mitigated early. But this was the latest in ransomware attacks aimed at government computer networks. The city of Atlanta, which was hit with a ransomware attack in late March that crippled much of its online services, has set aside $2.7 million to cover the costs of incident response, recovery and crisis management efforts. Colorado’s Department of Transportation experienced a ransomware attack on its back-end operations offline in February, which took approximately six weeks and $1.5 million to mitigate.

Ransomware is a form of malicious software — also known as malware — that takes control of an individual computer or a network and threatens to deny access to all stored files unless a ransom is paid. These types of attacks have been traced back to 1989 with the virus known as both the PC Cyborg and AIDS — the latter name was given by its creator, Joseph Popp, who insisted the money gathered via his cyberattacks would be channeled to AIDS research nonprofits. In recent years, ransomware attacks have become more prevalent, with ransom payment demands made in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that cannot be easily traced by law enforcement agencies.

The main reason why ransomware has become so frustrating is that there is no easy way to expel the virus once it locks the computer system’s encryption key. John Yoon, associate professor of cybersecurity at Mercy College, has his students practice the breaking of the encryption key, which consists of an unknown number of characters. Their success rate can charitably be described as minimal.

“If we know the number of characters, it is a lot easier,” Yoon said, adding that the encryption key can involve any quantity of characters. “Capturing the key is not really impossible, but it takes a long time.”

But paying a ransom to gain access to the files may not be the end of the problem. “Who’s to say that in two days, two weeks or two months from now something lingering in the system won’t strike again?” asked Kevin Frost, operations manager at Tarrytech Computer Consultants in Elmsford.

Robert Cioffi, co-founder and chief operating officer at Yonkers-based Progressive Computing, warned that cybercriminals are also aware of which companies are too eager to pay ransom. “That makes you susceptible to attacks,” he said. “I am aware of cases of companies that paid ransom, only to be re-infected in 30 days.”

So, what can be done to prevent a ransomware attack? Cioffi recommended what he dubbed “basic training on what bad email looks like,” noting that ransomware often infects a system by opening an infected file attached to e-mails or clicking a link within the message. He added that ransomware creators are “highly incentivized into tricking people to do things” that will ultimately shut down their operations.

Al Alper, president of Wilton-based Absolute Logic, recommended wariness with emails that could be spoofed. “Around tax season, CPA firms and their clients get emails that come with what are supposed to look like tax papers,” he said, noting that what appears to be legitimate attachments might be the opening for a ransomware infection.

Keeping an updated backup system is also a crucial line of defense, in case a ransomware-blocked system needs to be reset to a period before the infection occurred. However, the problem with that approach is that all data that was compiled in the period after the infection took root would be lost with a system reset to an earlier date.

Tarrytech’s Kevin Frost said his clients have backup systems that take images of their files every hour, thus enabling a speedy recovery and no loss of data if a ransomware attack happens. “We were able to get systems back up in 45 minutes,” he said.

Still, not every business is backing up its data, which infuriates Patrick O’Donnell, CEO of Bridgeport-based Post Road Software.

“For a company not to have adequate back-up is complete B.S.,” he said. “I can buy a back-up server for under $200.”

And Garry Feldman, president of U.S. Computer Connection in Stamford, warned about taking the ransomware potential home with you. “If you are backing up files on a USB hard drive, chances are that you will also get infected through that device,” he said.

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Phil Hall
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Phil Hall is a former United Nations-based reporter for Fairchild Broadcast News, the author of eight books (including the upcoming "The Weirdest Movie Ever Made"), the host of the SoundCloud podcast "The Online Movie Show" and a writer with credits in The New York Times, New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, Wired, The Hill's Congress Blog and Profit Confidential.

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Mads Davidsen

UEFA Pro Football Coach | Technical Director at Shanghai SIPG F.C. (China) | Author of With Great Talent Comes Great Responsibility | Key note speaker

1 minute read

In the Matthew Gospel (the first book of the New Testament) we find one of the first stories about ‘talent’ in the parable of the trusted talents:

An important Lord from a small village was to travel, and therefore he trusted his fortune, which in the days was the currency, talents, to his three servants.

The first servant got five talents and the other servant got two talents. Both invested the money and doubled the value. The first servant then had

ten talents, and the second servant now had four talents. The third servant received only one talent, which he dug into a hole in the ground.

When the Lord returned from his journey, he took account of the servants’ talents. The first two servants explained how they had doubled their amount and for that they received praise from their Lord.

But the third servant summoned his master’s anger over him as he had hid his one talent in a hole in the ground. The Lord called him a lazy and a bad servant because he had no interest in increasing the value of the talent. Then the Lord told last servant to hand his talent over to the first servant who had invested his talents and now had ten.

In the biblical narrative - talent is something valuable. Talent is something you should invest in. Talent commits. However, it is easier said than done. There can be many different strategies of motivation, management and talent development.

Some investments result in a positive outcome, others in a negative outcome, and again others lead to a loss of more or less everything. Therefore, it requires insight to work with talent.

Talent and talent development are in all contexts a complex size and therefore requires the right leadership and management to be handled and developed properly. And talent have no age, so as a leader or coach - we must continuously develop talent.

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I think of football as a type of education. I also think in football, individual skills has two aspects - tricks, and improvisation, tricks being a player’s go-to skills when situations fits. A player’s performance can be a simple add-up of his tricks, and his improvisation. Elkeson, for example, seems to play mostly on improvisation. He reacts and improvises all the time on his next moves. He is very talented, which is why he is effective. Hulk, on the other hand, has very obvious tricks, he can make powerful long shots in front of the goal. So when defenses are down, and he is close to the middle of the court, he go for this trick, he does it smoothly and efficiently. I’m not saying that Hulk doesn’t improvise, but his trick definitely improves his overall performance. I think tricks are CONSOLIDATED EXPERIENCE. And our goal should be adding more tricks to a player’s skill-set. Take W. Lei as an example. He is a very talented player who’s very good at creating opportunities, but every pass he receives is like brand new, he has to improvise on how to take the ball, and how to make the shot, and often that’s how he loses the opportunity. What if he analyses all the similarities in the opportunities he creates, work out a set of four or five skills to tackle most of them, and improvise on the rest? That should largely increase his efficiency. Having more tricks also benefits team play. In a game, we want our players to think, and in SIPG they think a lot. But I believe most of the thinking should be devoted to reading the game, rather than making individual skill choices. The more tricks our players have, the less they will need to think about how to break, cut inside, pass and shoot, the more they can think about tactical decisions like where to run and whether to pass. Hulk probably came up with his tricks himself, but that doesn’t always have to the case. Our players don’t have enough experiences, which is why we should lend them more brain power to consolidate experiences, and form their own tricks. When a player reaches a certain age, forming tricks should be a necessity. I don’t see why F. Huan can’t break most defenders one on one, or why L. Chuangyi can’t dribble like Isco(maybe at a lower level). We all know that Arjen Robben can cut inside like magic, why don’t we have our players learn that? Imagine the star W. Lei could be if he can perform better cut inside. This is where ‘football is a type of education’ comes in. Our players are in good physical condition, they should be able to perform some of these tricks, all they need is a group of good teachers. I believe this is what Ricardo Carvalho is to our players, a good teacher. So why stop there? We like Robben’s cut inside, Buffon’s experience, and Ibrahimovic’s shots, why not invite them to our club for a couple of days, and share their experience in a few tutorials, their tricks can be our players’ tricks. Anyway, just a sincere piece of opinion.

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Viola: 41401


Original label: "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis / faciebat Anno 1690"

Back: Two-piece

Scroll: original


Varnish: Clear golden-brown


Length of back: 47.8 cm

Length of back:

Upper bouts: 21.9 cm

Upper bouts:

Lower bouts: 27.2 cm

Lower bouts:
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"This is the only instrument remaining completely in its original form. The neck, fingerboard, pegs, bridge, tailpiece and end-button are original. The instrument type -- a large viola -- was already obsolete when it was delivered to the Duke, so the instrument was rarely played. In 1863, it was offered to the Regio Isituto Musicale of Florence, now the Instituto Cherubini, where it has been ever since."

Capolavori di Antonio Stradivari , Charles Beare, Charles Beare, Capolavori di Antonio Stradivari, Milan

Illustrated in The Strad, Dec. 1987.

How Many Strads? , Doring, Bein Fushi, Doring, Bein Fushi, How Many Strads? (1999 edition), Chicago

Around 1877, Giuseppe Scarampella, the curator of the Instituto Cherubini, opened the instrument to repair some worm-beetle damage, and discovered that a large patch had been inserted in the belly with the notation in Stradivari's handwriting: "Correto da me Antonius Stradivarius". Apparently Stradivari had made the belly to thin and had to later reinforce it.

How Many Strads? - Supplemental Remarks , Ernest N. Doring, Violins Violinists, October-November, 1945, Chicago

". . . the Medici tenor viola [is] probably the only instrument [by Stradivari] to have its original bass-bar."

The 'Secrets' of Stradivari , Simone F. Sacconi, The 'Secrets' of Stradivari, Cremona




Arte Liuteria, 1985, No. 2
(c) NASA Swarmathon