Elsa Chang, NPR, Texas discussed on The World
F. dot work from NPR news this is All Things Considered I am Elsa Chang and I'm on the corniche in Texas authorities are dealing with the aftermath of a ransomware attack last week twenty two mostly rural towns had their computer systems locked down by hackers who demanded millions of dollars in ransom experts say attacks like these are on the rise across the US they're targeting both local governments and private companies so what can be done well Josephine will has some thoughts about this she studies cyber security policy at Tufts University she recently wrote an op ed in The New York Times entitled they stole your files you don't have to pay the ransom welcome to all things considered hi thanks so much for having me so first just set the stage for us how common are these kinds of attacks on computer systems for for cities and towns and what happens once that ball gets rolling so it's very hard to put an exact number on how common they are because a lot of the time they go unreported but just in the past couple years we've seen Atlanta we've seen Baltimore we've now seen all of these towns in Texas we've seen a bunch of towns in Florida so even just the ones that do get publicly revealed that we know about it's sort of astonishing how many of them we've seen in just the past two years alone we don't know for sure you said because they don't report but is there a sense that people are paying up there's certainly a sense that people are paying up including public agency victims right we know at least two of the towns in Florida exceeded two fairly steep ransom demands in part because we think they're insurers were covering a large chunk of that cost so definitely it is a situation where even the government actors we would hope would be sort of role models in this are giving into these ransom demands in some cases now you talk about the no more ransom initiative can you tell us more about what it is and how it would help ransomware victims individuals to start to get their data back to the no more ransom project is a collaboration between a bunch of law enforcement agencies primarily in Europe but also all over the world and private companies that develop tools to help people reverse the effects around somewhere without having to pay ransoms and the law enforcement agencies provide an interface for people who've been affected to go online upload one of their encrypted files or the ransom note that's been left behind so they can figure out which strain of ransomware they're dealing with we do know that people are using them we know that they're working not all the time they can be used for every strain of malware but a lot of the time we've seen people able to recover their files this way are these tools that can be applied on a larger scale raid I mean we've been talking about cities and towns dealing with these kinds of attacks absolutely and I think one of the things that has been very frustrating for some of the companies that develop these tools is that none of the US law enforcement agencies have partnered with no more ransom or been willing to advertise our publicize any of these tools on their website so some of the towns and cities in the US may not even know about them even though we know they've been infected by strains of ransomware that sometimes can be susceptible to these tools you know when someone is attacked in this way a panic sets in right to your effectively told look we're holding all of your data hostage and if you are a city or a hospital you just want to get it back you don't have a lot of time to Google no more ransomware I mean how should people be thinking about this in those moments so I think that's a really good point especially because a lot of these ransom demands have ticking clocks on them they say around twenty four hours if we don't receive your payment we're going to delete all of your files or the ransom is going to increase and so people are often very frenzied and that moment and that's one of the reasons I think it's so important to have a proactive awareness raising campaign around this Josephine wolf is assistant professor cyber security policy at the tufts Fletcher school of law and diplomacy thank you for explaining this to us thanks so much for having me there's a lot of debate and controversy over how long Forsman uses facial recognition technology the FBI says it's an important investigative tool take the case of Walter Yovani Gomez one of America's most wanted criminals and fugitives an alleged member of the vicious MS thirteen gang now captured captured in part because of facial recognition and pure justice reporter Ryan Lucas explains how it all went down back in two thousand eleven Walter your money Gomez wanted to become a full member of the local branch of the MS thirteen street gang in Plainfield New Jersey in may of that year he got his chance gang leaders ordered him to kill a recruit name totally about two day who had allegedly been associating with a rival gang and so after a night of partying with my two day Gomez and an associate beaten with a baseball bat stepped in with a screwdriver and slit his throat please close in on Gomez in two thousand eleven but he jumped out of a second story window and escaped for six years his trail went cold that in April of twenty seventeen the F. B. I. made an announcement that put Gomez and the national crime spotlight number is the newest addition to the F. B. I.'s ten most wanted fugitives last and up to one hundred thousand dollar reward is available for information leading directly to the arrest of Walter go Bonnie Gomez the move quickly paid off a tipster came for that July claiming to have information on Gomez it felt a special agent Richard Stalin's in the FBI's Washington field office to follow up so Stalin to the gang task force colleague arrange a face to face meeting with the tipster they wanted about the source in make sure as Stalin's puts it they were running up a dead tree they quickly determined that they were not he truly was like I know that guy he says I know known by the name that's on the screen Gomez but he no I'm on a different name the tipster point of the FBI to Facebook pages with photos of the man he believed was Gomez agents pulled the photos and sent them to the bureau's face services unit there they were run through an FBI database using facial recognition software in search of a match about a week later a match came back but for Hayes use Lopez center rail center rail hadn't picked up for marijuana possession in twenty fourteen after jumping a metro turnstile in Arlington Virginia his fingerprints and mug shot were taken and then he was released center rail had then failed to appear for his court date so there was a warrant out for his arrest we're kind of baffled and how we got this name so should with our picture but in the picture they had that they associated with and they arrest photo and like that's our guy investigators still felt the tipsters information was solid in part Stalin says because there were other physical identifiers like tattoos that made them think they were on the right track they also had leads to work remember those Facebook pages the tipster provided agents also found several photos of the suspect with a female associate agents use facial recognition software to run the Facebook photos of her through a database of criminal mug shots they came back with a match and an address so the F. B. I. N. officers from the Fairfax county gang task force set up surveillance on her one afternoon in August twenty seventeen officers set up a stake out outside her residence couple hours later I get this call back from their sergeant we got a guy as a what and there is no it's it's our guy and you know first in my mind are you sure because we didn't we didn't know for sure he was here at any point the agents to tail the woman to a gym parking lot in Woodbridge Virginia about twenty miles south of Washington DC and who walks up to her car but a man who looked a lot like Gomez the surveillance team swooped in and arrested him but there was a twist the sergeant on the phone so the man gave his name is Hades use Lopez center rail the same name that the FBI turned up in its facial recognition search but when confronted with the evidence investigators had collected the man said that his real name was in fact Walter Yovani Gomez so in showing him actually is top ten most wanted poster and being **** issue he said yes since that night Gomez has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy and admitted to my two days murder last month a federal judge in New Jersey sentence him to twenty five years in prison Brian Lucas NPR news Washington this is NPR news the US and Iran have been at odds for years but recent tension has some in both countries wondering if a larger confrontation is coming if you'll be soft against Mr trump Mr trump's makes more pressure Steve Inskeep is live from Iran where economic sanctions by the U. 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