Daily Digest (4/15)

Ransomware Attacks Target 2 Canadian Groups in COVID-19 Research; Apple: Coronavirus Tools to Have ‘Strong’ Privacy, Security Protections; Zoom, Facebook, LinkedIn Sued Over Data-Sharing Allegations; Democrats Introduce Bill to Force COVID-19 Data by Race, Ethnicity; Federal Relief Checks Won’t Have to Be Repaid, Officials Say. Click below to read.

Ransomware Attacks Target 2 Canadian Groups in COVID-19 Research

Two Canadian organizations involved in work on COVID-19, a university and government body, were the targets of unsuccessful ransomware attacks recently that sought to encrypt computer files, cybersecurity giant Palo Alto Networks Inc. said Tuesday.

The company’s Unit 42 threat intelligence team did not specify which entities were targeted, saying only that the attacks centered on “several individuals associated with a Canadian government health organization actively engaged in COVID-19 response efforts, and a Canadian university conducting COVID-19 research.”

In one attack, targets received an email with a file attachment named “20200323-sitrep-63-covid-19.doc” that if opened would have encrypted files on their computer until a ransom had been paid.

Jen Miller-Osborn, the California-based company’s deputy director of threat intelligence, noted a huge rise in phishing attacks in which criminals were using the COVID-19 pandemic to trick people into opening attachments or clicking links.

Source: Palo Alto Networks (external link)

Apple: Coronavirus Tools to Have ‘Strong’ Privacy, Security Protections

Apple Inc. has promised U.S. senators that its COVID-19 screening tools created with the federal government would contain “strong privacy and security protections” and that the company would “never” sell the data it collects.

The company responded last week to a letter from four Democratic senators about protections in an app and website Apple launched in late March and built with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House, The Verge reports.

The April 9 letter from Timothy Powderly, Apple’s senior government affairs director, disclosed the terms of its agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services — including not sharing identifying user data with the CDC.

But the tools are not covered by the federal HIPPA privacy law, he said, because no third parties are involved in collecting the information. “Data are entered into the website and app directly by users,” Powderly said.

Sources: (external links)

Zoom, Facebook, LinkedIn Sued Over Data-Sharing Allegations

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook, LinkedIn Corp. and Zoom Video Communications Inc., alleging that personal information from Zoom user accounts was shared with the social networking sites, Law360 reports.

In their complaint to U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the plaintiffs alleged Monday that the data-sharing was executed by “willfully and intentionally using a recording device to record and eavesdrop” on conversations.

Zoom, based in San Jose, Calif., is facing several other legal actions over privacy and security issues — and CEO Eric Yuan has said the company is updating its policies to assuage consumer complaints.

Source: Law 360 (external link)

Democrats Introduce Bill to Force COVID-19 Data by Race, Ethnicity

Congressional Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday to compel federal health officials to post data every day specifying COVID-19 cases and deaths by race and ethnicity.

The lawmakers said the demographic data was necessary to address disparities in the national response to the coronavirus outbreak, which is taking a disproportionate toll on African Americans and other nonwhite populations, The Associated Press reports.

“Because of government-sponsored discrimination and systemic racism, communities of color are on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the bill’s several sponsors in the Senate.

In the latest AP analysis of available state and local data, more than 30% of those who have died from COVID-19 are African American, although blacks comprise about 13% of the population in those areas.

So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released racial and ethnicity data pertaining only to March hospitalizations in 14 states, which showed black Americans as roughly a third of those patients.

Source: AP News (external link)

Federal Relief Checks Won’t Have to Be Repaid, Officials Say

The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday that Americans receiving payments from the federal government under the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic recovery plan would not have to repay them.

The government began issuing the one-time payments this week, The Associated Press reports.

Most adults who earned up to $75,000 will receive a $1,200 payout, while married couples who made up to $150,000 can expect to get $2,400. Parents will get $500 per child.

The checks will be directly deposited into bank accounts or mailed to households, depending on how past tax returns were filed.

“This is not an advance and there is absolutely no obligation to pay it back,” Treasury spokeswoman Patricia McLaughlin told AP in an email.

Source: AP News (external link)

— By DPN Staff