‘Bad Rabbit’ Ransomware Strikes Ukraine & Russia

‘Bad Rabbit’ Ransomware Strikes Ukraine & Russia
A new strain of ransomware nicknamed “Bad Rabbit” has been found spreading in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The malware has affected systems at three Russian websites, an airport in Ukraine and an underground railway in the capital city, Kiev.

The cyber-police chief in Ukraine confirmed to the Reuters news agency that Bad Rabbit was the ransomware in question. It bears similarities to the WannaCry and Petya outbreaks earlier this year. However, it is not yet known how far this new malware will be able to spread.

“In some of the companies, the work has been completely paralysed – servers and workstations are encrypted,” head of Russian cyber-security firm Group-IB, Ilya Sachkov, told the TASS news agency.

Two of the affected sites are Interfax and Fontanka.ru.

Meanwhile, US officials said they had “received multiple reports of Bad Rabbit ransomware infections in many countries around the world”.

The US computer emergency readiness team said it “discourages individuals and organisations from paying the ransom, as this does not guarantee that access will be restored”.

“According to our data, most of the victims targeted by these attacks are located in Russia,” said Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky at Kaspersky Lab. “We have also seen similar but fewer attacks in Ukraine, Turkey and Germany.”

Bad Rabbit encrypts the contents of a computer and asks for a payment – in this case 0.05 bitcoins, or about $280 (£213).

Cyber-security firms, including Russia-based Kaspersky, have said they are monitoring the attack.

The malware is still undetected by the majority of anti-virus programs, according to analysis by virus checking site Virus Total.

One security firm, Eset, has said that the malware was distributed via a bogus Adobe Flash update.

Researcher Kevin Beaumont has posted a screenshot that shows Bad Rabbit creating tasks in Windows named after the dragons Drogon and Rhaegal in TV series Game of Thrones.

The outbreak bears similarities to the WannaCry and Petya ransomware outbreaks that spread around the world causing widespread disruption earlier this year.

Public Fails to Report Investment Scams

Public Fails to Report Investment Scams
The BBC News website is reporting that more than a fifth of those approached by investment fraudsters fail to report it, according to a survey conducted for the Financial Conduct Authority. Amongst a group of over-55s surveyed, only 63% said they would tell the authorities if they thought they had been targeted by scammers. Significantly more – 81% – said they would report fly-tipping.

The FCA is urging the public to speak up if they are contacted by people offering fraudulent investments. “By reporting suspicious investment schemes to the FCA people are having a direct impact in helping to stop fraudsters exploiting others,” said Mark Steward, director of enforcement at the FCA.

The FCA said reporting such approaches informed what steps, including legal action, the regulator would pursue.

Research conducted by Yougov on behalf of the FCA consulted more than 1,000 over 55-year-olds with household incomes of at least £30,000, a group the FCA said received a higher number of unsolicited approaches from fraudsters.

Of those surveyed and who thought they had been approached by scammers, 22% said they had not reported it, with the most common reason given that they did not know who to report it to.

The FCA said last year it received over 8,000 reports of potential scams, with Londoners filing the highest number of complaints, followed by Birmingham, Belfast and Guildford.

A warning list is published on the FCA website identifying firms that operate without authorisation. There are currently 4,000 firms on the list the FCA advises should be avoided.

UK Economy Grows by 0.4%

UK Economy Grows by 0.4%
The UK’s economy grew more than expected in the three months to September – increasing the chances of a rise in interest rates in November. Gross domestic product (GDP) for the quarter rose by 0.4%, compared with 0.3% in each of the first two quarters of the year, latest figures show.

The services industry was behind most of the rise but manufacturing, helped by car production, also helped.

Industrial production rose in July and August but construction output fell.

Netflix to Raise $1.6bn for New Films & Shows

Netflix to Raise $1.6bn for New Films & Shows
Netflix is raising another $1.6bn (£1.2bn) from investors to finance new shows and possibly make acquisitions. The video streaming service plans to spend up to $8bn on content next year to compete with fast-growing rivals.

Netflix will issue bonds to investors, although the interest rate it will pay has yet to be decided, the company said in a statement. They plans to release 80 films next year, but some analysts are wary about its cash burn and debt interest costs.

The company’s latest debt fundraising is its largest so far, and the fourth time in three years it has raised more than $1bn by issuing bonds.

Earlier this month, Netflix said it would raise prices in countries including the UK and US for the first time in two years. The price rises come as Netflix faces growing competition from Amazon and other sites such as Hulu and Disney in the US.

Netflix has spent heavily on original programming such as The Crown, Stranger Things and House of Cards. One movie, Mudbound, was described by  Variety as “an epic about race and poverty in the 1940s Mississippi Delta”, and stars Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan. Some critics say it is a contender for the Academy Awards and would be the first Netflix feature to be in the Oscars race.

Netflix’s share price has risen more than 50% this year on the back of subscriber growth that has beat expectations. The company now has more than 109 million subscribers globally, adding 15.5 million so far this year.

The move to take on more corporate debt comes amid expectations that borrowing costs may increase in coming months. The US Federal Reserve is weighing another rate hike by the end of 2017.

Amazon Receives 200 Plus Headquarters Proposals

Amazon Receives 200 Plus Headquarters Proposals
Amazon says it has now received 238 proposals from places vying to be the home of its next employment hub. The bids come after the e-commerce giant said it was looking to build a “second headquarters” in North America, where it would invest $5bn (£3.8bn) and hire as many as 50,000 people.

The locations are vying on factors such as workforce talent, tax breaks, and proximity to an international airport.

Amazon said it will decide on a location next year. Amazon has seen major growth. The firm had nearly $136bn in sales last year and employs about 380,000 people globally – adding about 39,000 since the start of 2017 alone.

Politicians are eager to attract the economic engine to their home towns.

The proposals come from all but seven US states, most southern provinces in Canada and three states in Mexico, as well as Washington DC and the territory of Puerto Rico, according to a map published by the company. The places competing include sites in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Newark and Toronto.

Debtors to be Given ‘Breathing Space’

Debtors to be Given ‘Breathing Space’
People with problem debt could be given a six-week breathing space, the government has confirmed. It follows pressure from rebels in the House of Lords, who had threatened to vote down the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill later on Tuesday. They wanted the bill amended to include the breathing space idea.

But the Treasury has now confirmed that help for those in debt will now be the subject of a consultation, and will become law by 2019. The concept had been promised in the Conservative party manifesto, and was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech.

The news was welcomed by the debt charity StepChange, although it said debtors needed protection beyond the six week grace period. However, the rebels – led by former pensions minister Ros Altmann – still want a ban on pensions cold-calling to be included in the bill.

The Department for Work and Pensions announced in August that a ban would happen, but as yet there is no date. It told the BBC that a bill would be brought forward “when time allows”.

Under the government plan, those people affected by debt would be exempted from further interest, charges and enforcement action in order to give them a chance to seek advice. That exemption period could last up to six weeks.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, said: “For many people in the UK problem debt seems impossible to escape. Its effects can be far-reaching, impacting all aspects of a person’s life and leaving them feeling helpless. “That is why we are working to give people who are overwhelmed by debt, more time to seek advice, find a workable solution, and help get their lives back on track.”

The plans include better legal protection for debtors once a debt repayment plan is in place.

But the debt charity StepChange said there needed to be protection from creditors right the way through the process.

“We know from the experiences of our clients that continuous protection between the initial breathing space period and any statutory repayment plan is vital,” said Mike O’Connor, the chief executive of StepChange. “Any interruption would destabilise fragile family finances and risk putting people back to square one.”

The Conservative rebels will still push for an amendment to the Financial Guidance Bill to include a ban on pension companies cold-calling consumers. It is illegal to cold-call someone to try to sell a mortgage, but as yet not a pension. The cold calling ban to include texts and emails.

Many people have been scammed, after being persuaded to withdraw cash from their pension and move it to unregulated investments, such as storage schemes or car-parking spaces.

“The government has talked about banning cold-calling – it’s talked about protecting pensioners – but in fact it hasn’t done anything yet,” said Ros Altmann. “This bill is an ideal opportunity to actually put some legislation in place that would ban cold calls.”

Equifax Removes Webpage after Malware Issue

Equifax Removes Webpage after Malware Issue
Equifax has taken down a customer help web page amid concerns over malware linked to the site. The firm said it took down the link for credit report assistance “out of an abundance of caution”. The problem did not compromise its systems or affect the dispute portal, the firm added in a later update.

Equifax is still reeling from discovery of a breach that compromised personal data of more than 145.5 million Americans and about 8,000 Canadians.

Equifax has also said a file containing names and birthdates of 15.2 million people in the UK were accessed. The firm is contacting nearly 700,000 of them, because more serious information was compromised. The new issue involved a webpage that asked visitors to download fraudulent Adobe Flash updates, according to Ars Technica. The problem was first publicly identified by an independent security analyst.

Equifax said it had traced the problem to a third-party vendor it used to track website data and removed that vendor’s code from the site. “Equifax can confirm that its systems were not compromised and that the reported issue did not affect our consumer online dispute portal,” the company said.

Brexit: EU to Prepare for Future UK Trade Talks

Brexit: EU to Prepare for Future UK Trade Talks
The EU is to begin preparing for its post-Brexit trade negotiations with the UK, while refusing to discuss the matter with the British government. An internal draft document seen by the BBC suggests the 27 European Union countries should discuss trade among themselves while officials in Brussels prepare the details. The draft text could yet be revised. It comes as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said there was “deadlock” over the UK’s Brexit bill.

As the fifth round of talks ended in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Barnier said there had not been enough progress to move to the next stage of post-Brexit trade talks, but added that he hoped for “decisive progress” by the time of the December summit of the European Council.

The draft paper submitted to the 27 EU states by European Council president Donald Tusk, suggests free trade talks could open in December – should Prime Minister Theresa May improve her offer on what the UK pays when it leaves. The draft conclusions – to be put to EU leaders next Friday – also call for more concessions from the UK on its financial obligations and the rights of European nationals who wish to stay after Brexit.

The paper confirms Mr Barnier’s assessment, that there has not been “sufficient progress” on three key elements of a withdrawal treaty for leaders to agree to open the trade talks now. But it says the leaders would welcome developments on these key issues: the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK, protecting peace in Northern Ireland from the effect of a new border and Britain’s outstanding “financial obligations”.

The council would then pledge to “reassess the state of progress” at their December summit.

Bernd Kolmel, chairman of Germany’s Eurosceptic Liberal Conservative Reformers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there appeared to have been little progress between the first and fifth round of talks – something he described as a “disaster”. He called on the EU to expand the talks to include its future relationships and trade with the UK.

Anders Vistisen, a Danish Eurosceptic MEP and vice-chair of the EU Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, agreed, adding: “The most integral thing is the future relationship. If we are making a bad trade deal for Britain we are also hurting ourselves.”

The document states that in order “to be fully ready”, EU leaders would ask Mr Barnier and his officials to start preparing now for a transition – albeit without actually starting to talk to the UK about it. “The European Council invites the Council (Article 50) together with the Union negotiator to start internal preparatory discussions,” the draft reads.

Dow Jones: ‘Google Acquires Apple’ News Was ‘Error’

Dow Jones: ‘Google Acquires Apple’ News Was ‘Error’
A bombshell appeared on the Dow Jones financial newswire on Tuesday: “Google to buy Apple for $9bn”. But the story, that the acquisition had been suggested in the will of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was bogus. It was removed after two minutes, though Apple’s shares did briefly rise in value.
Dow Jones said the news appeared as the result of a “technical error” and should be ignored.

The unintentionally published fake news described the acquisition as “a surprise move to everyone who is alive” and quoted Google employees as saying “Yay”. It also stated that Google would move into “Apple’s fancy headquarters”.

A statement from the firm, which is owned by News Corp, said the headlines were published between 09:34 and 09:36 New York time following a technical error.

“All of those headlines are being removed from the wires. We apologise for the error.”

The incident occurred during a technology test, according to a statement from Dow Jones chief executive William Lewis.


US Fed Urges Patience as Inflation Lags

US Fed Urges Patience as Inflation Lags
Policymakers at the US central bank are growing increasingly concerned about lagging inflation rates. Many policymakers are worried that the slow pick-up in price increases may be due to long-term trends, not just short-term factors. They urged that “some patience” guide the Fed as it considers plans to raise interest rates.

Many analysts expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates once more this year. But several members said their willingness to take action would depend on incoming economic data. A few said a rise should be deferred until it was clear that inflation trends were on pace to hit the Fed’s 2% target. “All agreed that they would closely monitor and assess incoming data before making any further adjustment to the federal funds rate,” they said.

The publication of the minutes from the Fed’s September meeting follows recent remarks and speeches by Fed policymakers that have highlighted questions about inflation rates.

Interpretation of new data is likely to be complicated by efforts to tease out temporary effects from recent hurricanes, which wreaked havoc in parts of the country, including Texas and Florida.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen also gave a speech last month focusing on the Fed’s uncertainty about what is driving inflation trends. She had previously stressed that the lagging inflation was probably due to temporary factors, such as lower prices for cellphone plans. But in her speech, she said other factors could include long-term changes to health care prices, driven by the Affordable Care Act, as well as economic shifts unleashed by the internet, such as online shopping and greater price transparency.

The uncertainty strengthens the case for “gradual” adjustments, she said.

Sarah House, a Charlotte-based economist at Wells Fargo, said she thinks the Fed remains on track to raise interest rates once more this year. But she said the discussion is a reminder to investors that increases will remain relatively limited. “The Fed is in a tightening cycle, but it looks nothing like the tightening cycle we’ve seen in previous years,” she said.