In what appears to be the largest education breach in recent years, hackers have made public a cache of data that was obtained during a cyber-attack against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
The information taken from the school system over the weekend was published by Vice Society, a Russian-speaking organization that last month claimed responsibility for the ransomware attack that prevented the LAUSD from accessing email, computer systems, and applications. The organization had earlier given a deadline of October 4 to fulfill an unidentified ransom demand.
The data appears to contain personal identifying information, such as passport information, Social Security numbers, and tax forms.
It was released on Vice Society’s dark web leak site. The published data also includes confidential information, such as contract and legal documents, financial reports with bank account information, health information, including COVID-19 test data, reports on prior convictions, and psychological evaluations of students.
The data was published along with a message from Vice Society, a group known for attacking educational institutions and schools.
The message claimed that the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the government agency assisting the school in responding to the breach, “wasted our time.”
Vice Society claimed that CISA prevented the material from being released and that CISA was “wrong” to advise LAUSD not to pay the demanded ransom. In order to “embolden adversaries to target more enterprises,” CISA and the FBI have long advised victims against paying the ransom.
“We always destroy documents and help to restore network [sic], we don’t talk about firms that paid us,” the hackers noted as 500GB of files have now been lost by LAUSD.
In a message published on Twitter on Sunday, LAUSD superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho acknowledged the disclosure of stolen data and announced a new hotline for worried parents and children to call to get information about the cyberattack: (855) 926-1129.
Thank you to our students, families and employees for doing their part in the ongoing recovery from this cyberattack. pic.twitter.com/K8VhiFmSbL
— Alberto M. Carvalho (@LAUSDSup) October 2, 2022
In a statement posted on Friday, LAUSD said it would not comply with Vice Society’s unspecified ransom demand, only hours before the stolen files were made public.
The district did not specify what information it anticipates being made public, only that it is collaborating with law enforcement to “identify what information was impacted and to whom it belongs.” With more than 1,000 schools and 600,000 students, LAUSD is the second-largest district in the country.
Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft, reports that the Vice Society ransomware gang has so far in 2022 attacked at least eight additional school districts, colleges, and universities in the United States. The FBI and CISA had already issued a warning on the group, claiming that Vice Society is “disproportionately targeting the education sector with ransomware assaults.”
Some educational institutions targeted by ransomware don’t recover at all: Lincoln College, founded in 1865, recently announced that it was closing its doors after a ransomware attack disrupted the admission process last December.
UK Government To Set Online Bill Criminalizing Self Harm
In an effort to stop what it calls “tragic and preventable deaths caused by people seeing self-harm content online,” the UK government has announced it will further broaden the scope of online safety legislation by making encouraging self-harm a crime.
According to the most recent modification to the divisive but popular Online Safety Bill, in-scope platforms would be compelled to remove anything that purposefully encourages someone to physically harm themselves, or face legal repercussions.
The government intends to tackle “abhorrent trolls urging the young and vulnerable to self-harm,” according to the secretary of state for digital. People who post such content online may also be prosecuted under the new offence of encouraging self injury.
The maximum fines will be announced in due time, according to the administration.
In the UK, it is already unlawful to promote or aid suicide, whether in person or online. By creating a new offense, self-harm content will now be subject to the same laws that already ban suicide promotion.
Following a snag, last summer associated with political unrest in the ruling Conservative Party, the Online Safety Bill’s progress through parliament is now on hold. However, the newly reorganized UK government has declared that it will reintroduce the measure to parliament next month after making changes to the law.
The abuse of intimate imagery is a problem that will be addressed by recent revisions to the Online Safety Bill, which was just made public by the Ministry of Justice. However, other revisions are planned regarding “legal but harmful” information, thus the final form of the Act is still up in the air.
The government responded to concerns about the bill’s impact on online freedom of expression a few months ago. The (new) secretary of state, Michelle Donelan, announced in September that she would be “editing” the bill to lessen concern about its impact on “legal but harmful” speech for adults.
The most recent changes, making it illegal to send online communications encouraging self harm, came after that announcement.
Donelan was quoted by the BBC as claiming that Molly Russell, a 14-year-old teenager who committed suicide five years ago after watching thousands of online articles on self-harm and suicide on websites like Instagram and Pinterest, was a factor in the most recent changes.
Social media was found to have contributed to Russell’s death, according to the results of an inquest into her death in September. While the coroner’s “prevention of future deaths” report from last month that a number of steps be done to control and monitor young people’s access to social media content.
The addition of the crime of promoting self harm, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, will outlaw “one of the most worrying and prevalent internet harms that now falls below the threshold of criminal behavior.”
Donelan stated in a statement:
“I am determined that the abhorrent trolls encouraging the young and vulnerable to self-harm are brought to justice.
“So I am strengthening our online safety laws to make sure these vile acts are stamped out and the perpetrators face jail time.
“Social media firms can no longer remain silent bystanders either and they’ll face fines for allowing this abusive and destructive behaviour to continue on their platforms under our laws.”
Hate crimes, rules regarding revenge porn (including disseminating deepfake porn without content), harassment, and cyberstalking are among the other top criminal offenses already mentioned in the bill.
Regardless of what the measure states on paper, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding how platforms will react to having legal obligations imposed on them to police all forms of speech, as well as if it would actually increase web user safety as claimed.
Critics worry that the regime will have a chilling effect by turning platforms into de facto speech police and encouraging them to overblock content in order to reduce their legal risk of paying a hefty fine.
The regime’s penalties scale up to 10% of global annual turnover, and non-cooperative senior executives even run the risk of going to jail.
On Monday, December 5, the bill is scheduled to return to parliament.
Twitter Amnesty Is What Elon Musk is Going For Next
Tesla CEO and newly appointed Twitter CEO, Elon Musk did promise a new dimension for the micro-blogging social media platform prior to taking over, and his actions recently, have just about lived up to the promise, but now, the billionaire is set for an ‘amnesty’ that surely will drive some political divides nuts if certain individuals are granted Twitter amnesty as he wants.
Elon Musk announced on Thursday that starting the next week, Twitter will provide suspended accounts “a general amnesty.” The day before, the platform’s CEO published a poll asking users if they thought affected accounts should be restored.
The announcement comes just after Musk lifted the platform’s restriction on former president Donald Trump after conducting a related poll. Trump declared he had no intention of returning to the platform despite being banned following the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Users of the Twitter platform who had their accounts suspended could rejoin the network “assuming they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam,” according to Musk’s user survey.
The survey received responses from about 3.2 million individuals, who voted 72.4% in favor of amnesty.
“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk said, using a Latin phrase that means “The voice of the people is the voice of god.”
Historically, Twitter has deactivated accounts who advocate violence, celebrate hate and harassment, or persistently disseminate false information that may be harmful.
Some well-known people who were banned from the website include MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who made a number of claims that Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election, former Trump advisor and former executive chairman of Breitbart Steve Bannon, who said Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded, and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, who broke the website’s rule against violent extremist groups.
Considering that more voices with possibly negative views will be returning to the site, it’s unclear from Musk’s brief post how Twitter will handle content control going forward.
These worries have only grown as a result of Musk’s huge firings and the outflow of workers who would rather leave than remain “hardcore.”
Elon Musk is surely growing more unpopular by remaining popular these days.
Twitter Working On New Feature For Long Texts
Writing a thread on Twitter can be considered daunting especially when you have to divide the text into 280-character sections for it to make meaning.
Good news though as the platform is stated to be working on a way to convert lengthy texts into threads automatically.
When a tweet exceeds the 280-character limit, Twitter’s composer will automatically divide it into a thread, according to a tweet from app researcher Jane Manchun Wong.
Twitter wants to make making threads less difficult, as she stated in a message to a user (identified as me).
Currently, in order to add a tweet to a thread and post the subsequent 280 characters, users must click the Add button. This can be particularly unpleasant when you are trying out an idea or pasting information from another document.
Several users have recently brought up the difficulty posting to and reading conversations with more than a few tweets; the thread in question was 82 tweets long and focused on the defunct crypto-currency exchange FTX. In response, Musk stated that the team is working to make thread writing simpler.
It will be useful to have markers to designate the start and end of a tweet in the thread, although the exact implementation details remain unknown, as Financial Times product manager Matt Taylor noted. This makes it simpler for users to change the text in a way that doesn’t disrupt the reading flow.
Musk has previously addressed the problem of posting lengthy tweets. He previously stated that the social network is developing the capability to attach long-form content to tweets. If that will be a standalone feature from the new thread composer is unclear.
Currently, some users rely on third-party programs like Typefully, ThreadStart, and Chirr App, which offer capabilities like scheduling along with tools to automatically divide your post into threads without interfering with sentence flow.
Thanks to its acquisition of Threader the previous year, the company today provides Twitter Blue customers with a simple way to read threads. However, Musk hasn’t actually stated whether he is altering the reading experience for the typical user.
There is already a long-form writing program on Twitter called Notes, but it is exclusively available to a small number of writers, and under Musk’s leadership, its future is unclear.
Even though Twitter programmers are already working on it, it is unclear when the new composer tool for threads will launch. Since taking over the business, Musk has let go of more than half the employees.
Numerous executives have left, and the new leader even gave the remaining employees yesterday an ultimatum: either be “hardcore” or quit. There is no assurance that goods will be delivered on time in this situation.
The new Twitter Blue plan with a verification mark was hurriedly launched by the firm, only for the scheme to be discontinued a few days later. Musk stated earlier this week that the launch date had been moved to later in the month.
Wong just found code that suggests Twitter is working on encrypting direct communications from end to end.
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