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Ten things you need to know

Ten things you need to know

  • 01. Both the US Office of Foreign Assets Control and the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued advisories warning that ransomware payments could potentially violate US sanctions. The statements issued in early October state that if the money ends up with sanctioned individuals or entities, it may be a violation of anti-money laundering and sanctions regulations.
  • 02. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) figures published in October show the continued rise in piracy and armed robbery for the first nine months of 2020. IMB’s latest global piracy report details 132 attacks since the start of 2020, up from 119 incidents in the same period last year. Of the 85 seafarers kidnapped from their vessels and held for ransom, 80 were taken in the Gulf of Guinea.
  • 03. In October, security researchers at Avast, a cybersecurity software company, discovered flaws in an IoT coffee maker that allowed them to reverse engineer the machine so that ransomware could be uploaded. Avast was trying to prove the threat to IoT devices is not just to access them via a weak router, but that an IoT device can be compromised without owning the network or the router.
  • 04. The Australian police, Chinese authorities and Australian universities are warning students about an elaborate phone scam targeting Chinese students. The latest incident in September involved a 22-year-old man being convinced he had to take a female student into witness protection. She, in turn, had been conned into believing by the same scammers, who claimed to be Chinese police, that she had to go into hiding with the man. During that time the woman sent a series of images of herself in ‘captivity’ to her family. The woman’s parents paid AUSD $213,000 to the scammers via a bank account registered in the Bahamas.
  • 05. On 26 October an American citizen, Philip Walton, was kidnapped in Massalata, a village 400 kilometres east of Niger’s capital Niamey. The son of a missionary, he has said to have been living in Niger "for several years". Several westerners are currently held hostage in the region including American aid worker Jeffery Woodke, who was kidnapped in the central town of Abalak, Niger in October 2016 and is believed to have been taken to neighbouring Mali. Philip Walton, who was being held in Northern Nigeria, was freed in a raid by US special forces on 31 October.
  • 06. Piracy in Asian waters has increased in 2020, according to regional piracy monitoring centre ReCAAP. 75 attacks were reported in the first nine months of the year, which is an increase of nearly 40 percent on 2019 and higher than at any point since 2015. In particular, kidnapping remains a significant concern in the waters off Eastern Sabah, Malaysia, at the intersection of the Sulu and Celebes Seas.
  • 07. At the beginning of October, Microsoft announced that it removed a major hacking network spreading ransomware which could have disrupted the upcoming US elections. The company said the ransomware could be used to interfere with the election indirectly by freezing access to voter rolls and websites displaying election results.
  • 08. Pirates kidnapped two crew members from the Netherlands-flagged vessel, The Water Phoenix, on 8 September in the Gulf of Guinea. The ship was travelling from The Netherlands to Lagos when it spotted pirates and started evasive manoeuvring. Pirates were successful in boarding the ship and kidnapped the Captain and one other crew member. The rest of the crew were able to retreat to the citadel. There have been no further updates.
  • 09. The FBI says there has been an increase in virtual kidnapping schemes across the US-Mexico border. Victims are led to believe that their loved ones have been kidnapped and can only be released in exchange for money. The criminals will often claim to work for a drug cartel or be members of law enforcement. The FBI reports that families will regularly send thousands of dollars to the scammers before contacting law enforcement.
  • 10. The £183m fine against British Airways for a data breach has been reduced to £20m. The after investigators took into account the airline’s financial plight and the circumstances of the cyber-attack. The fine is still the biggest issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), following the 2018 incident in which more than 400,000 customers’ personal details were compromised by hackers. The airline took more than two months to detect the cyber-attack.

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