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Data Sheet—Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned last week that ransomware, malicious software that locks down computer files, allowing cybercriminals to demand a ransom to unlock the data, is on the rise.

The scourge is a serious problem—and it’s only getting worse. When Chris Young, Intel Security’s chief, dropped by Fortune’s offices a couple of months ago, he said the company’s customers are all asking about how to protect themselves from the threat. Schools, government offices, businesses, regular people—even law enforcement agencies are being targeted. Crooks are making a killing on the extortion scheme.

Of all the sectors now under attack, one has made more headlines than the rest: health care. Earlier this year, a hospital in Hollywood paid a ransom of $17,000 to rid its systems of a ransomware infection. Soon after, hackers struck MedStar Health, a network of 10 hospitals in Washington D.C. and Maryland. A number of hospitals in California operated by Prime Healthcare have all suffered recent attacks. There are countless other victims as well.

Jason Rolla, the chief technology officer at Christopher Rural Health, a small network of health centers and clinics in Illinois, recently shared the story of his company’s ransomware scare with Fortune. Unlike many other casualties in the health care industry, his organization managed to get past the problem relatively unscathed. How? By restoring its systems from data backups. You can read the story here.

It’s important that people step forward and share their experiences—even if they are, regrettably, forced to pay off these ransoms in the end. If your computer has ever been hit with ransomware, Fortune would love to hear your story. Please consider shooting me a note. The more people keep quiet, the worse the problem is bound to become.

Robert Hackett


Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber, PGP encrypted email, Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


FireEye names new CEO. Dave DeWalt, CEO of the cybersecurity firm since 2012, will step down from his post on June 15, the company said during an earnings call Thursday. Kevin Mandia, FireEye’s president, will take the helm at that time, it said. Mandia joined FireEye after the company bought his computer forensics firm for more than $1 billion a couple of years ago. (Fortune)

Russia hacks Telegram accounts with help? Two activists have alleged that the Russian mobile operator MTS helped Russian authorities break into their accounts on the encrypted messaging service Telegram. MTS, the activists say, disabled text messaging on their phones, allowing Russian authorities to intercept the Telegram login codes that otherwise would have been sent to the devices. (Fortune)

Brazil blocks, then unblocks WhatsApp. For the second time in five months, a Brazilian judge ordered the country’s top wireless operators to suspend the Facebook-owned messaging service. The disruption lasted about 24 hours, and Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook to urge Brazilians to protest the action. Though the reason for the app ban was not made public, it probably has something to do with WhatsApp’s adoption of strong end to end encryption for all of its users, which can impede law enforcement investigations. (Fortune, Fortune, Fortune)

Is “faceprinting” legal? A California judge ruled against Facebook in lawsuit in which users claim the company violated their privacy by scanning peoples’ faces and encouraging others to “tag” them in photos uploaded to the site. Complainants in Illinois allege that the practice breaches the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. (Fortune, Fortune)

Email server hacking? Piece of cake. The notorious Romanian hacker “Guccifer” said he breached then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server in early 2013. He told Fox News that hacking the presidential candidate’s machine “was easy,” and that it would have been easy “for everybody.” (Fortune)

Oh yeah, good on you, Jani.

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Fortune contributor Don Reisinger tells of some of the many ways that terrorists communicate online.

Terrorists need to communicate, too. And how they do it might surprise you.

Security firm Trend Micro recently analyzed thousands of alleged terrorist accounts to see how they communicate online. The company found that Google’s Gmail was the most popular email application among terrorists it analyzed, accounting for 34% of all accounts. Next up was the encrypted Mail2Tor with 21%, followed by other secure services, like Sigaint at 19% market share. Interestingly, Yahoo Mail also found its way into the list, with 12% of the more than 2,300 accounts Trend Micro analyzed relying on that platform for email services.

When it comes to instant messaging, however, alleged terrorists tend to go a bit more underground, Trend Micro says. The security company says that 34% of the accounts it analyzed were running on Telegram, an encrypted communications protocol that hides a person’s identity. Other similarly silent apps, including Signal and Wickr, were also popular. However, Facebook’s WhatsApp tied for second-most-popular chatting service among alleged terrorists, nabbing 15% market share.

The findings come at a time when debate over how to target and intercept terrorist plots as they communicate online has hit a fever pitch. Read the rest on


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Larry Summers Believes in Blockchain, Not Sure About Bitcoin by  Jeff John Roberts

Blocking Ads Across Desktop and Mobile Is Now Easier, Thanks to Opera by David Meyer

Bangladesh Says NY Fed Responsible for Country’s Missing $81 Million by Reuters

Tesla: Bioweapon Defense Mode Even Cleans Air Outside the Car by Kirsten Korosec

Android App Pirates Plead Guilty in Groundbreaking Prosecution by David Meyer

Wesley Clark: Next President May Face Another Nuclear Arms Race With Russia by Chris Matthews

Anonymous Launches Month-Long Hacking Campaign Against Banks by Don Reisinger


The Panama Papers leaker wrote a manifesto. The anonymous person (or persons) who stole 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and released them to the media issued an 1,800-word statement justifying the data dump. The individual(s), known only as “John Doe,” cited income inequality and alleged corruption at the firm as a motivation. (ICIJ)