Monthly: January 2022

Посол США в ООН підтвердила: скупчення російських військ біля кордонів України є найбільшим за останні десятиліття

Представниця США 31 січня закликала Раду безпеки ООН оцінити не лише заяви Росії щодо України, але також її дії

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Turkish-Made Drones in Ukraine Pose Challenge for Turkey-Russia Ties

With Russian forces poised to attack Ukraine, Turkish-made drones are set to face a big test in battle as well as a challenge to Turkey’s relations with Russia. Despite warnings from Moscow, Turkish firms have continued to supply Kyiv with armed drones. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

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Cyberattacks Increasingly Hobble Pandemic-Weary US Schools

For teachers at a middle school in New Mexico’s largest city, the first inkling of a widespread tech problem came during an early morning staff call.

On the video, there were shout-outs for a new custodian for his hard work, and the typical announcements from administrators and the union rep. But in the chat, there were hints of a looming crisis. Nobody could open attendance records, and everyone was locked out of class rosters and grades.

Albuquerque administrators later confirmed the outage that blocked access to the district’s student database — which also includes emergency contacts and lists of which adults are authorized to pick up which children — was due to a ransomware attack.

“I didn’t realize how important it was until I couldn’t use it,” said Sarah Hager, a Cleveland Middle School art teacher.

Cyberattacks like the one that canceled classes for two days in Albuquerque’s biggest school district have become a growing threat to U.S. schools, with several high-profile incidents reported since last year. And the coronavirus pandemic has compounded their effects: More money has been demanded, and more schools have had to shut down as they scramble to recover data or even manually wipe all laptops.

“Pretty much any way that you cut it, incidents have both been growing more frequent and more significant,” said Doug Levin, director of the K12 Security Information Exchange, a Virginia-based nonprofit that helps schools defend against cybersecurity risk.

Precise data is hard to come by since most schools are not required to publicly report cyberattacks. But experts say public school systems — which often have limited budgets for cybersecurity expertise — have become an inviting target for ransomware gangs.

The pandemic also has forced schools to turn increasingly toward virtual learning, making them more dependent on technology and more vulnerable to cyber-extortion. School systems that have had instruction disrupted include those in Baltimore County and Miami-Dade County, along with districts in New Jersey, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Levin’s group has tracked well over 1,200 cyber security incidents since 2016 at public school districts across the country. They included 209 ransomware attacks, when hackers lock data up and charge to unlock it; 53 “denial of service” attacks, where attackers sabotage or slow a network by faking server requests; 156 “Zoombombing” incidents, where an unauthorized person intrudes on a video call; and more than 110 phishing attacks, where a deceptive message tricks a user to let a hacker into their network.

Recent attacks also come as schools grapple with multiple other challenges related to the pandemic. Teachers get sick, and there aren’t substitutes to cover them. Where there are strict virus testing protocols, there aren’t always tests or people to give them.

In New York City, an attack this month on third-party software vendor Illuminate Education didn’t result in canceled classes, but teachers across the city couldn’t access grades. Local media reported the outage added to stress for educators already juggling instruction with enforcing COVID-19 protocols and covering for colleagues who were sick or in quarantine.

Albuquerque Superintendent Scott Elder said getting all students and staff online during the pandemic created additional avenues for hackers to access the district’s system. He cited that as a factor in the Jan. 12 ransomware attack that canceled classes for some 75,000 students.

The cancellations — which Elder called “cyber snow days” — gave technicians a five-day window to reset the databases over a holiday weekend.

Elder said there’s no evidence student information was obtained by hackers. He declined to say whether the district paid a ransom but noted there would be a “public process” if it did.

Hager, the art teacher, said the cyberattack increased stress on campus in ways that parents didn’t see.

Fire drills were canceled because fire alarms didn’t work. Intercoms stopped working.

Nurses couldn’t find which kids were where as positive test results came in, Hager said. “So potentially there were students on campus that probably were sick.” It also appears the hack permanently wiped out a few days worth of attendance records and grades.

Edupoint, the vendor for Albuquerque’s student information database, called Synergy, declined to comment.

Many schools choose to keep attacks under wraps or release minimal information to prevent revealing additional weaknesses in their security systems.

“It’s very difficult for the school districts to learn from each other, because they’re really not supposed to talk to each other about it because you might share vulnerabilities,” Elder said.

Last year, the FBI issued a warning about a group called PYSA, or “Protect Your System, Amigo,” saying it was seeing an increase in attacks by the group on schools, colleges and seminaries. Other ransomware gangs include Conti, which last year demanded $40 million from Broward County Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest.

Most are Russian-speaking groups that are based in Eastern Europe and enjoy safe harbor from tolerant governments. Some will post files on the dark web, including highly sensitive information, if they don’t get paid.

While attacks on larger districts garner more headlines, ransomware gangs tended to target smaller school districts in 2021 than in 2020, according to Brett Callow, a threat analyst at the firm Emsisoft. He said that could indicate bigger districts are increasing their spending on cybersecurity while smaller districts, which have less money, remain more vulnerable.

A few days after Christmas, the 1,285-student district of Truth or Consequences, south of Albuquerque, also had its Synergy student information system shut down by a ransomware attack. Officials there compared it to having their house robbed.

“It’s just that feeling of helplessness, of confusion as to why somebody would do something like this because at the end of the day, it’s taking away from our kids. And to me that’s just a disgusting way to try to, to get money,” Superintendent Channell Segura said.

The school didn’t have to cancel classes because the attack happened on break, but the network remains down, including keyless entry locks on school building doors. Teachers are still carrying around the physical keys they had to track down at the start of the year, Segura said.

In October, President Joe Biden signed the K-12 Cybersecurity Act, which calls for the federal cyber security agency to make recommendations about how to help school systems better protect themselves.

New Mexico lawmakers have been slow to expand internet usage in the state, let alone support schools on cyber security. Last week, state representatives introduced a bill that would allocate $45 million to the state education department to build a cybersecurity program by 2027.

Ideas on how to prevent future hacks and recover from existing ones usually require more work from teachers.

In the days following the Albuquerque attack, parents argued on Facebook over why schools couldn’t simply switch to pen and paper for things like attendance and grades.

Hager said she even heard the criticism from her mother, a retired school teacher.

“I said, ‘Mom, you can only take attendance on paper if you have printed out your roster to begin with,'” Hager said.

Teachers could also keep duplicate paper copies of all records — but that would double the clerical work that already bogs them down.

In an era where administrators increasingly require teachers to record everything digitally, Hager says, “these systems should work.”

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UK’s Johnson Apologizes Following Release of ‘Partygate’ Report

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized before Parliament Monday following the release of a report concluding that parties held at the prime minister’s official residence during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown represented “serious failures” to observe the standards set by the government.

The report, conducted by senior civil servant Sue Gray, examined a series of gatherings that had been held at No. 10 Downing St. in 2020 and 2021 when much of Britain was under strict pandemic restrictions.

“The gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government, but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time,” Gray said in the report.

She also made note of “excessive consumption of alcohol” at the gatherings, which she said “is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time.”

Gray said some of the gatherings “should not have been allowed to develop as they did,” and others should not have been held at all. She looked specifically at four gatherings, saying she withheld comment on 12 other events that the metropolitan police were investigating to determine if laws were broken.

In his comments to Parliament, Johnson apologized for “the things we simply didn’t get right” and “for the way that this matter has been handled.” He said he understood people’s anger and accepted Gray’s findings “in full,” as well as “her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now.”

Johnson had previously said that no rules had been broken. He has dismissed calls from lawmakers — even those in his own party — to resign.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. 

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Венедіктова заявила, що підписала підозру народному депутату від «Слуги народу»

НАБУ минулого тижня заявило, що викрило народного депутата на отриманні хабаря

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Швеція заявляє, що не планує евакуацію свого посольства в Києві – МЗС

Про це в розмові з головою відомства заявила міністерка закордонних справ Швеції Анн Лінде

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Генеральний секретар ООН звинувачує «Талібан» у десятках «убивств помсти»

У звіті Антоніу Ґутерріша йдеться, що місія ООН «продовжує отримувати достовірні звинувачення про вбивства, насильницькі зникнення та інші порушення» проти колишніх афганських чиновників, співробітників сил безпеки та осіб, які співпрацювали з військовим контингентом на чолі зі США

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Holocaust-Era Letters Prompt Writer to Dive Into Family’s History

Eleanor Reissa’s mother and father survived the Nazi Holocaust in Europe during the 1940’s. After the war but before they were married, they wrote letters to each other. Those letters led Eleanor on a journey to learn about her parents’ past. The result of that journey was just released in book form. Victoria Kupchinetsky has the story from Cold Spring, New York. Camera – Michael Eckels.

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Іранські вчителі знову вийшли на протести з вимогами підвищення зарплат і пенсій

За повідомленнями, під час протестів 31 січня заарештували щонайменше п’ятьох учителів

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2 German Police Officers Shot Dead Following Traffic Stop

Police in western Germany report two officers were shot and killed Monday during a pre-dawn traffic stop.

Rhineland-Palatinate district police spokesman Bernhard Christian Erfort said the two officers reported via radio they were carrying out a traffic stop at 4:20 a.m. local time between Ulmet and Mayweilerhof in the west central Kusel district. A short time later, they reported in again, saying that shots were being fired, and the radio connection was lost.  

The spokesman said officers were dispatched to the scene where they found the officers – a 24-year-old female and 29-year-old male – had been shot. One of the officers was still alive when the second team arrived but died shortly thereafter at the scene.   

The police spokesman said they believe more than one suspect was involved in the shooting but could not say how many. He said police had no description of the suspects or their car.

He did say police from several nearby districts were involved in the manhunt for the perpetrators and warned at least one of the suspects is armed. Police urged drivers not to pick up hitchhikers. 

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Міжнародний «Меморіал» оскаржив рішення щодо ліквідації

Раніше США та ЄС засудили ліквідацію «Міжнародного Меморіалу» в Росії

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У Росії COVID-19 б’є усі попередні рекорди добової захворюваності

З початку пандемії загальна кількість хворих через коронавірус в Росії наблизилася до 12 млн осіб

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Затримання осіб, які планували заворушення в Києві і чотирьох областях – у МВС навели деталі

Голова Національної поліції Ігор Клименко повідомив, що затримані готували акції і мітинги, що мали супроводжуватися кровопролиттям, зокрема, біля Офісу президента

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Головне на ранок: високі темпи приросту COVID-випадків зберігаються, українці дякують країнам-друзям

Про головні події останніх годин у дайджесті новин від Радіо Свобода

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Обговорення санкцій проти Росії у Сенаті США «на фінішній прямій» – сенатори

Угода про законопроєкт може бути досягнута вже цього тижня

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Macron Tells Iran’s Raisi Nuclear Talks Need to Speed Up

French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi that a deal lifting sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear activities is still possible but talks need to accelerate, Macron’s office said on Sunday.

France, Germany and Britain, known as the E3, and the United States are trying to save the 2015 Vienna agreement with Iran, but Western diplomats have said negotiations, which have been in their eighth round since Dec. 27, were moving too slowly.

Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by Western powers.

“The President of the Republic reiterated his conviction that a diplomatic solution is possible and imperative, and stressed that any agreement will require clear and sufficient commitments from all the parties,” the Elysee palace said in a statement after a telephone call with Raisi on Saturday.

“Several months after the resumption of negotiations in Vienna, he insisted on the need to accelerate in order to quickly achieve tangible progress in this framework,” it added.

“He underlined the need for Iran to demonstrate a constructive approach and return to the full implementation of its obligations,” it said.

Macron also asked for the immediate release of Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, re-imprisoned in January, and French tourist Benjamin Briere, who was sentenced on Tuesday to eight years in prison on spying charges.

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UN Security Council to Meet on Russia-Ukraine Tensions

The United Nations Security Council meets Monday to discuss Russia’s buildup of more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border. Western and Ukrainian officials continue to be on alert for a possible invasion. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.

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Росія: образливі плакати з’явилися біля помешкання матері правозахисника Каляпіна

Ігор Каляпін вважає, що цей інцидент пов’язаний з його критикою на адресу глави Чечні Рамзана Кадирова

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ПВК «Вагнера» займається грабежами природних ресурсів в Малі – глава МЗС Франції

Озброєні Москвою колишні російські військові діють в Малі, щоб посилити вплив Кремля в регіоні, вважає міністр закордонних справ Франції Жан-Ів Ле Дріан

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Глава МЗС Великої Британії наступного тижня відвідає Україну

Очікується, що наступного тижня з візитом до Києва прилетить і прем’єр-міністр Великої Британії Борис Джонсон

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