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Virtual reality to prevent military suicide

A novel new training may yield an important tool for the DoD and emotional health professionals.

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Virtual reality is being used in a variety of training applications, from getting Walmart employees prepared for a holiday rush to teaching doctors how to deal with patients. But can it be used to help people identify and respond to emotional distress in others, potentially averting suiciding?

That’s the ambition of a DoD suicide prevention test at Travis Air Force Base, where the 60th Air Mobility Wing recently took part in a suicide prevention virtual reality training test phase.

According to Travis public affairs, participants in the training put on a virtual reality headset and interact with a virtual person who is in obvious emotional distress. The training is designed to encourage participants to ask the right questions and prompt them to get help. If the participant misses opportunities or says the wrong thing, a training coach chimes in to assist.

Virtual reality and mixed reality training has been a major bright spot for a technology that’s had a cooler-than-expected reception after years of hype. Virtual trainings can be run over and over without utilizing additional resources, can readily accommodate scenarios that would be impossible to stage in real life, and keeps trainees out of potentially hazardous conditions while learning on the job.

For an application like suicide prevention, virtual reality has the potential, if done well, to inject a degree of emotional verisimilitude into situations that would feel canned if enacted in a course or read from a book.

“Voice is the most fundamental way that we communicate, solve problems and build emotional connection,” says Kevin Cornish, CEO and founder of Moth + Flame, the company that developed the VR training for Travis. “Voice activation opens the possibility of role-play in a simulated environment. The skills being practiced in this particular experience are conversational skills, therefore having the learner speak and be understood is at the center of the training experience. Having someone physically vocalize in these scenarios makes a much greater impact than someone coming up with an answer in their head and checking off a multiple choice response box on a piece of paper for example.”

After winning a contract from Travis, Moth + Flame developed a suicide prevention module that would allow Airmen and their spouses to interact with fellow distressed Airmen in a virtual environment.

“Doing training in a simulated environment mimics a real world situation and allows a learner to gain confidence having difficult conversations that are not easy to replicate in real life,” Cornish tells me via email. “Legacy training programs are often dominated by videos or powerpoint slides that don’t allow the learner to practice conversational skills in a real-life type of setting. Individual role-play with professionals is expensive and isn’t scalable for an entire air force base for example. That is why virtual reality provides the best of both worlds.”

Of course, the stakes are high for a program meant to help identify emotional distress. Interestingly Moth+Flame leveraged its experience in entertainment to create a training that felt lifelike and engaging.

“Moth+Flame’s background is in creating entertainment experiences for some of the biggest brands in the world including Netflix, Amazon, and Google,” says Cornish. “Visual effects have always been at the center of what makes our use experience superior to other VR simulations. We use photo-realistic imagery in the experience so you feel like you are in the real world. We worked with the Air Force to develop the training script that would truly simulate this experience for an airman.”

The Travis pilot is a test case that administrators hope will lead to wider implementation in the near future.

Virtual reality and mixed reality training has been a major bright spot for a technology that’s had a cooler-than-expected reception after years of hype. Virtual trainings can be run over and over without utilizing additional resources, can readily accommodate scenarios that would be impossible to stage in real life, and keeps trainees out of potentially hazardous conditions while learning on the job.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/virtual-reality-and-hollywood-know-how-to-help-prevent-military-suicide/

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ZDNET

Apple releases emergency update for older iPhones and iPads

If you’re running iOS 12, this is an update for you.

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Apple is getting pretty committed to the idea of pushing out security updates to older iPhones and iPads. Not only will the company continue to support iOS 14 come the release of iOS 15, we are also seeing a trickle of patches for older versions of iOS.

If you have an iPhone or iPad that’s still running iOS 12 — because that was the end of the line for your device — then Apple has released an emergency update that you need to download and install as soon as possible.

Why?

Because of the three security fixes contained in this update, two “may have been actively exploited.” In other words, the bad guys might already be using the vulnerabilities to compromise smartphones and tablets.

Must read: Apple will finally give iPhone and iPad users an important choice to make

iOS 12.5,4 is available for the following devices:

  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPad Air
  • iPad mini 2
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPod touch (6th generation)

To check what version your device is running, tap on Settings > General, then on Software Update. Here you will see what version your iPhone of iPad is running along with any updates.

Note that if you have stayed on iOS 12 but the device is compatible with later versions, then this update will not be available to you. Your path is to upgrade to the latest release of iOS 14 or iPadOS 14.

There have been several high-profile security issuers plaguing iPhone and iPads over the past few months, and while for some there’s a hesitancy to install updates, it is the first and best line of defense against attack.

And iOS 12 and later will do it for you. Tap on Settings > General > Software Update > Customize Automatic Updates and then turn on Install iOS Updates.

Because of the three security fixes contained in this update, two “may have been actively exploited.” In other words, the bad guys might already be using the vulnerabilities to compromise smartphones and tablets.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/apple-releases-emergency-update-for-older-iphones-and-ipads/

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SSD market to reach $51.5 billion in revenue by 2025: IDC

The IDC is predicting that SSD unit shipments will increase with a CAGR of 7.8% in coming years.

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The International Data Corporation is expecting an increase in worldwide solid state drive (SSD) revenue and shipments over the next four years, according to a newly published forecast of the market.

The IDC said SSD unit shipments are expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% and revenues are slated to increase at a CAGR of 9.2% from now until 2025. The market will reach $51.5 billion in revenue by 2025, according to IDC.

IDC also predicted that SSD capacity shipments worldwide will expand further at a 2020–2025 CAGR of 33.0%.

Jeff Janukowicz, research vice president at IDC, explained that the worldwide demand for SSDs has increased because the pandemic has accelerated the need for transformation.

The steep increases are driven by growing demands for storage that expanded throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as millions increasingly worked and schooled from home, using their own devices in many instances.

Demand for PCs has skyrocketed and the IDC said higher SSD demand is also reflected in the enterprise market, where companies are making investments in both cloud and traditional IT.

“IDC believes that most of the long-term trends remain intact, enabling broader SSD adoption over the forecast period, and worldwide SSD units and capacity shipped are higher than the prior forecast thanks to increasing demand from client devices, enterprise storage customers, and cloud service providers,” Janukowicz said.

The IDC added that there have been some key developments in the SSD market globally, including:

  • The pricing of SSDs is still volatile and elevated because of the increased demand.

  • Technological advancements, like NAND flash, will emerge in the next few years and “will continue to enable more cost-effective solutions helping to further increase demand for SSDs.”

  • Client SSDs are in higher demand because of permanent moves toward remote work and remote schooling.

  • Demand for SSDs among cloud and traditional IT market segments has continued to hold strong.

  • IDC believes lower prices will help “drive demand elasticity and system optimization around flash.”

The report also predicts similar growth in the HDD industry because of how COVID-19 has affected the markets for enterprise storage systems, PCs, personal and entry-level storage devices, video surveillance systems, and consumer electronics products. Worldwide HDD industry petabyte shipments are slated to see a compound annual growth rate of 18.5% through 2025, according to IDC.

Edward Burns, research director for IDC, noted that the client HDD market has had a long-term secular decline due to rising SSD attach rates. But the COVID-19 pandemic has over the near term increased the demand for certain types of HDDs, particularly mobile HDDs as well as capacity-optimized HDDs, Burns added.

Jeff Janukowicz, research vice president at IDC, explained that the worldwide demand for SSDs has increased because the pandemic has accelerated the need for transformation.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/ssd-market-to-reach-51-5-billion-in-revenue-by-2025-idc/

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Avaddon ransomware group closes shop, sends all 2,934 decryption keys to BleepingComputer

Bleeping Computer worked with Emisoft to create a free decryptor that any Avaddon victim can use.

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Avaddon ransomware group, one of the most prolific ransomware groups in 2021, has announced that they are shutting the operation down and giving thousands of victims a decryption tool for free.

BleepingComputer’s Lawrence Abrams said he was sent an anonymous email with a password and link to a ZIP file named, “Decryption Keys Ransomware Avaddon.”

The file had decryption keys for 2,934 victims of the Avaddon ransomware. The startling figure is another example of how many organizations never disclose attacks, as some reports have previously attributed just 88 attacks to Avaddon.

Abrams worked with Emsisoft chief technology officer Fabian Wosar and Coveware’s Michael Gillespie to check the files and verify the decryption keys. Emsisoft created a free tool that Avaddon victims can use to decrypt files.

Ransomware gangs — like those behind Crysis, AES-NI, Shade, FilesLocker, Ziggy — have at times released decryption keys and shut down for a variety of reasons. A free Avaddon decryption tool was released by a student in Spain in February but the gang quickly updated their code to make it foolproof again.

“This isn’t new and isn’t without precedence. Several ransomware threat actors have released the key database or master keys when they decide to shut down their operations,” Wosar told ZDNet.

“Ultimately, the key database we obtained suggests that they had at least 2,934 victims. Given the average Avaddon ransom at about $600,000 and average payment rates for ransomware, you can probably come up with a decent estimate of how much Avaddon generated.”

Wosar added that the people behind Avaddon had probably made enough money doing ransomware that they had no reason to continue.

According to Wosar, ransom negotiators have been noticing an urgency when dealing with Avaddon operators in recent weeks. Negotiators with the gang are caving “instantly to even the most meager counter offers during the past couple of days.”

“So this would suggest that this has been a planned shutdown and winding down of operations and didn’t surprise the people involved,” Wosar explained.

Data from RecordedFuture has shown that Avaddon accounted for nearly 24% of all ransomware incidents since the attack on Colonial Pipeline in May. An eSentire report on ransomware said Avaddon was first seen in February 2019 and operated as a ransomware-as-a-service model, with the developers giving affiliates a negotiable 65% of all ransoms.

“The Avaddon threat actors are also said to offer their victims 24/7 support and resources on purchasing Bitcoin, testing files for decryption, and other challenges that may hinder victims from paying the ransom,” the report said.

“What’s interesting about this ransomware group is the design of its Dark Web blog site. They not only claim to provide full dumps of their victims’ documents, but they also feature a Countdown Clock, showing how much time each victim has left to pay. And to further twist their victims’ arms, they threaten to DDoS their website if they don’t agree to pay immediately.”

img-8885-1.jpg DomainTools

The group has a lengthy list of prominent victims that include Henry Oil & Gas, European insurance giant AXA, computer hardware company EVGA, software company Vistex, insurance broker Letton Percival, the Indonesian government’s airport company PT Angkasa Pura I, Acer Finance and dozens of healthcare organizations like Bridgeway Senior Healthcare in New Jersey, Capital Medical Center in Olympia, Washington and others.

The gang made a note of publishing the data stolen during ransomware attacks on its dark web site, DomainTools researcher Chad Anderson told ZDNet last month.

Both the FBI and the Australian Cyber Security Centre released notices last month warning healthcare institutions about the threat of Avaddon ransomware.

screen-shot-2021-06-11-at-10-11-24-pm.png Australian Cyber Security Centre

The notice said “Avaddon threat actors demand ransom payment via Bitcoin (BTC), with an average demand of BTC 0.73 (approximately USD $40,000) with the lure of a decryption tool offered (‘Avaddon General Decryptor’) if payment is made.”

The group was also implicated in multiple attacks on manufacturing companies across South America and Europe, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Cybersecurity firm Flashpoint said that alongside REvil, LockBit, and Conti, Avaddon was one of the most prolific ransomware groups currently active.

Digital Shadows’ Photon Research Team told ZDNet in May that a forum representative for the Avaddon ransomware took to the Exploit forum to announce new rules for affiliates that included bans on targeting “the public, education, healthcare, and charity sectors.”

The group also banned affiliates from attacking Russia or any other CIS countries. US President Joe Biden is expected to press Russian President Vladimir Putin on ransomware attacks at a summit in Geneva on June 16.

“This isn’t new and isn’t without precedence. Several ransomware threat actors have released the key database or master keys when they decide to shut down their operations,” Wosar told ZDNet.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/avaddon-ransomware-group-closes-shop-sends-all-2934-decryption-keys-to-bleepingcomputer/

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