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Bag Week 2018: Chrome’s MXD Pace Tote is the perfect little hybrid backpack

I admit I was a little reluctant to try this pack out, but in the end it was my favorite of the Chrome bags I tested for TechCrunch Bag Week 2018, perhaps not coincidentally, one of the least Chrome-like. If you’re familiar with Chrome’s bike messenger bag roots, the Pace feels like an abrupt departure, but it’s one you might fall in love with. Wearing the Pace just feels…. fun? I don’t really know another way to describe it. For one, you can wear it as a tote bag or as a backpack and that is surprisingly liberating. Plenty of bags, including Chrome’s oversized, industrial-strength packs, feel a bit like readying for a battle when you put them on. With a big pack on, you are no longer a person just shopping for groceries or going to the bookstore, you’re a person with a very serious backpack who is also doing those things. Maybe you’re some kind of hardcore bike person. And whether you are or not, wearing a huge backpack around town can just look like you take yourself very seriously .

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Bag Week 2018: Chrome’s BLCKCHRM Bravo 2.0 backpack is a burly, stylish beast

If you needed to pick a bag to have your back in a street fight, you should probably choose Chrome’s Bravo 2.0 . I tested a version of this pack from the company’s higher-end BLCKCHRM line. The BLCKCHRM version of the Bravo 2.0  replaces the normal pack’s 1050 denier nylon exterior with a slightly rubbery, Navy-grade material called Hypalon, a full-grain leather back panel and a sleek all-black look. The result is as visually impressive as it is brawny. Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch To test the Bravo 2.0, I took it on a trip to Los Angeles that required me to fill every available cubic inch of my luggage with necessary gear. For the Bravo 2.0, that meant clothing that didn’t fit in my checked bag, a 13″ MacBook, a Sony RX-100, some medium-size notebooks, two lenses for my Sony A7S II and all of the other weird odds and ends that usually end up in a carry-on. Over the course of packing, I figured out a few things. For one, since the Bravo 2.0’s main compartment lacks organization and is a bit hard to see into when opened, it works best if you stuff things into it that you won’t need to access on the go. Another thing I noticed is that beyond its black hole-like interior, the Bravo 2.0’s pockets don’t have a lot of depth, so they’re better suited for flat and rectangular stuff (mobile battery pack, thin books, magazines, a Kindle or iPad) and can’t expand to hold objects of less standard shapes. The material doesn’t have any give at all, but then again, it’s basically indestructible — so no, you can’t have it all. Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch The Bravo 2.0 also includes one external side pocket that seems intended for a water bottle, though mine wasn’t nearly slender enough to fit, rendering the pocket pretty much useless. For laptop storage, Chrome made an interesting choice with this pack. The design requires you to nestle your computer into a slender, flap-protected slot on the outside of the pack rather than in the innermost tarpaulin-lined compartment next to your back. I have TSA Pre so I didn’t have to do the stressful pulling-laptop-out-while-in-line airport thing, but the other times I needed my laptop that external pocket meant that it wasn’t a hassle. Still, it wasn’t quite as convenient as a side-zip dedicated laptop pocket, which remains my preferred way to stash a laptop

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Bag Week 2018: Chrome’s Vega Transit Brief makes your work vibe less uncool

You’re either a Chrome bag person or you’re not. And if you’re not a Chrome bag person, it might be time to give the newly Portland-based bag maker another look. I’ve been a fan of Chrome Industries bags for a long time, but over the years I’ve only owned two: the discontinued Mini Buran , a 15L, extra-small messenger by Chrome standards, and the Niko camera pack . I still use the latter periodically but I traded the messenger away early on because, in spite of being Chrome’s smallest pack and the only one that didn’t look cartoonishly big on my 5′ 4″ frame, I could never get the weight quite right. There are two reasons for that: 1) Chrome bags are huge and designed for huge hulking men and 2) I’m just not a messenger bag person. Taylor Hatmaker/TechCrunch Chrome’s lineup of industrial-strength messenger bags has typically appealed to hardcore bike types and dudes big enough to hoist its famously burly packs, but the company is branching out with a few new offerings that should excite anyone like me who covets their designs and build quality but just can’t make most of their stuff work. The Chrome Vega Transit Brief , part of Chrome’s new work-centric Treadwell collection , is one of those new bags. The Vega is made to appeal to professional types who maybe need to keep their look away from the “I’m a bike messenger who lives in a punk house” kind of vibe, but it’s still made of the pretty much indestructible ballistic nylon that gives Chrome bags their iconic look and feel. At first glance, the Vega looks like any generic laptop messenger, but unlike those (boring) you can carry the Vega three different ways. The first mode lets you carry the Vega briefcase-style, with a leather hand strap. The second mode converts the bag into a messenger with a detachable strap. The third mode (my favorite) happens when you pop out two hideaway straps from the back of the bag, turn it 90 degrees and carry the Vega like a backpack. For my purposes, I switched between hand-carrying the bag and putting it on my back to carry a 13″ MacBook and other odds and ends

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Facebook’s longtime head of policy and comms steps down

A prominent figure that helped shape Facebook public perception over the course of the last decade is on the way out. In a Facebook post today , Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications and public policy, announced his departure. Schrage joined the company in 2008 after leaving his position in the same role at Google. He had come under fire over the last year at Facebook for his influence in shaping Facebook’s highly criticized public reaction to a series of scandals that began with the platform’s policies during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In response to questions about Facebook’s potential unwitting role in influencing the outcome of the election, Mark Zuckerberg famously dismissed such concerns as a “pretty crazy idea.” via Facebook/Elliot Schrage In a Facebook post , Schrage elaborates: After more than a decade at Facebook, I’ve decided it’s time to start a new chapter in my life. Leading policy and communications for hyper growth technology companies is a joy — but it’s also intense and leaves little room for much else. Mark, Sheryl and I have been discussing this for a while. I’ll lead the search to identify someone new to oversee our communications and policy teams. We expect to find someone with the same passion, integrity, determination and energy that our teams bring to Facebook every day. Mark and Sheryl have asked me to stay to manage the transition and then to stay on as an advisor to help on particular projects – and I’m happy to help. Earlier this week, Schrage reportedly apologized for comments made in response to questions from Arjuna Capital Managing Partner Natasha Lamb during an investor meeting. Lamb inquired about Facebook’s plans to correct its gender pay gap among other uncomfortable lines of questioning for the company. Schrage reportedly told Lamb that the company would not answer her questions because she was “not nice.” It’s not clear if that event influenced the timing of Schrage’s departure.

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Democrats introduce an election security bill that proposes paper trails and mandatory audits

As primaries ramp up in states across the U.S., concerns about election cybersecurity are mounting too. This week, a group of Democratic senators introduced a bill to mitigate some of the well-established risks that the nation’s uneven mix of voting machines and election systems poses. The new bill, known as the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act , proposes two significant measures. First, because not all digital voting systems produce a paper trail, it would require all state and local elections to ensure that their equipment produces voter-verified paper ballots that can be cross-referenced. Second, for all federal elections regardless of outcome, state and local governments would be required to conduct audits comparing digital ballots to a random selection of paper ballots. The latter policy would cover the 22 states that currently don’t require audits following elections. “Leaving the fate of America’s democracy up to hackable election machines is like leaving your front door open, unlocked and putting up a sign that says ‘out of town.’ It’s not a question of if bad guys get in, it’s just a question of when,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement accompanying the bill. Voting integrity is one of Wyden’s pet issues and the senator has pressed for his home state of Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to be adopted nationally. Wyden is joined by Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren on the legislation. Congressman Earl Blumenauer plans to introduce a corresponding bill in the house. “We know that Russia hacked into American voter systems to influence our election – and we know they’ll try to do it again,” Sen. Warren said. “Our national security experts have warned us that the country’s election infrastructure is vulnerable – this bill will take important steps to help secure it.” While the bill isn’t a bipartisan proposal — yet, anyway — these same measures are widely supported by election security experts as well as the Department of Homeland Security and a Senate Intelligence Committee report  offering recommendations for securing the vote from earlier this year. The full text of the bill is embedded below. View this document on Scribd

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The damage from Atlanta’s huge cyberattack is even worse than the city first thought

More than two months after a cyberattack hobbled many of its critical municipal systems, the city of Atlanta is still sorting through the wreckage of what is likely the worst cyberattack targeting a U.S. city to date. On March 22 , Atlanta’s connected systems city-wide were hit with a ransomware message locking their respective files and demanding an approximately $50,000 payment in bitcoin (the price has fluctuated since). The ransomware is believed to be from the group known as SamSam , which has been operating and executing similar attacks since at least 2015. In the days following the March 22 incident, Atlanta residents were unable to do simple city system-dependent tasks like paying parking tickets or utility bills. City employees didn’t get the all-clear to turn on their computers until five days later and many city systems still have not recovered. On Wednesday during a budget meeting , Daphne Rackley, Atlanta’s Interim Chief Information Officer and head of Atlanta Information Management, disclosed new details about the extent of the damage. As Reuters reports , at least one third of the 424 software programs that the city runs remain offline or partially inoperable. Almost 30 percent of those programs are deemed “mission critical” by the city meaning that they control crucial city services like the court system and law enforcement. In the meeting, Rackley explained that the city initially believed only 20 percent of the city’s software programs to be affected by the attack, none of which affected critical systems. While reporting the updated numbers, Rackley estimated that $9.5 million would need to be added to the department’s $35 million budget to address the remaining damage. That amount is on top of the more than two million dollars in emergency procurements sought by Atlanta Information Management following the attack. TechCrunch has reached out to Atlanta Information Management about how that additional $9.5 million for recovery from the attack would be allocated and will update if we learn further details. Earlier this week, Atlanta’s Police Chief disclosed that the cyberattack destroyed “years” worth of police dash cam video footage.

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Ticketfly’s website is offline after a hacker got into its homepage and database

Following what it calls a “cyber incident,” the event ticket distributor Ticketfly took its homepage  offline on Thursday morning. The company left this message on its website, which remains nonfunctional hours later: Following a series of recent issues with Ticketfly properties, we’ve determined that Ticketfly has been the target of a cyber incident. Out of an abundance of caution, we have taken all Ticketfly systems temporarily offline as we continue to look into the issue. We are working to bring our systems back online as soon as possible. Please check back later. For information on specific events please check the social media accounts of the presenting venues/promoters to learn more about availability/status of upcoming shows. In many cases, shows are still happening and tickets may be available at the door. Before Ticketfly regained control of its site, a hacker calling themselves IsHaKdZ hijacked it to display apparent database files along with a Guy Fawkes mask and an email contact. I sent an email yesterday reporting that the ticketfly website was hacked. All of the user data and site is completely downloadable. They need to come clean on the fact that your data was comprised and still is downloadable at this very moment! #ticketfly #cybercrime #wordpress pic.twitter.com/Ur0AsZpDij — Michael Villado (@mvillado) May 31, 2018 According to correspondence with Motherboard , the hacker apparently demanded a single bitcoin (worth $7,502, at the time of writing) to divulge the vulnerability that left Ticketfly open to attack. Motherboard reports that it was able to verify the validity of at least six sets of user data listed in the hacked files, which included names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers of Ticketfly customers, as well as some employees. We’ll update this story as we learn more.

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Hello Alfred raises $40M to bring hotel-style hospitality to more households

New York-based chore wizard Hello Alfred is about expand its mission to make life easier, one to-do list at a time. The company commands a small army of thoroughly trained home helpers who take care of domestic tasks like sorting mail, taking out the trash and picking up groceries. Those helpers pop by on a weekly basis, and subscribers pay a monthly subscription fee to free their lives of little things that tend to add up to more than the sum of their parts. Now, with a new $40 million Series B round, Hello Alfred is set to scale. The round was led by investors including real estate developers Divco West and Invesco. Spark Capital and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) also participated in the $40 million round after previously investing in the company. The company  won our Startup Battlefield at Disrupt in 2014 , back when it was just “ Alfred .” With its Series B, Hello Alfred will execute its plan to expand from serving 10,000 homes (some in Alfred partnered apartment buildings) to serving 100,000 by the end of the year. The company also intends to invest further in its technology data operations and its own line of home goods, known as Alfred Home Essentials. Hello Alfred began in New York and currently operates in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles with planned launches in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Portland, Raleigh and San Jose on the horizon. The company also intends to double the size of its team in 2018 while continuing to expand partnerships with vendors and products and real estate developers that fit its brand. While many startups work to to automate away the human aspect of their business, Hello Alfred is all about the human touch.

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Trump’s visa restrictions aimed at Chinese STEM students to start in June

In a policy change set for next month, the Trump administration is moving to shorten visas for Chinese students in fields like tech and engineering. While most visas are issued for the longest possible length of time under law, the new policy will allow U.S. officials to put a one-year cap on visas for Chinese graduate students who are “studying in fields like robotics, aviation and high-tech manufacturing,” according to the Associated Press . A State Department official told The Hill that “Although the large majority of visas issued to Chinese nationals are issued for the maximum validity, consular officers may limit the validity of visas on a case-by-case basis” under the new rules. Beyond the student limits, U.S. consulates and embassies reportedly received instructions that any Chinese citizen applying for a visa will need to secure additional special permission form the U.S. if they work in research or management for any company the U.S. Commerce Department lists as an entity “requiring higher scrutiny.” Trump readying ‘all of the above’ fusillade on Chinese tech The new visa policy shifts come as Trump is knee-deep in a controversial new tariff plan targeting Chinese trade and is intended to protect against the theft of U.S. intellectual property, or so the reasoning goes. The visa change was signaled in the National Security Strategy report that the Trump administration issued in December. That document explains the rationale clearly: The United States will review visa procedures to reduce economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors. We will consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors, while acknowledging the importance of recruiting the most advanced technical workforce to the United States. The State Department noted these changes will go into effect starting on June 11.

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Pokémon Quest hits the Nintendo Switch with two more Pokémon titles on the way

Much like the unique and forking joy of catching an eevee you plan to evolve, Poké trainers have some exciting branching paths ahead of them. In a dedicated press event in Tokyo, the Pokémon Company, Nintendo and Niantic announced three new Pokémon games with another on the way in late 2019. The first game, a casual “free to start” RPG called Pokémon Quest , is already available for download on the Nintendo Switch. With a team of up to three Pokémon, you can explore the secrets of Tumblecube Island. Battle wild Pokémon, gather treasure, and even befriend new Pokémon—if you have the right ingredients, that is! #PokemonQuest puts the power in your hands. pic.twitter.com/BuVVenFAYR — Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 30, 2018 Pokémon quest revisits the well loved core cast of ‘mons from the Kanto region (think Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow era) but with a cubist twist. The game will hit the Switch first (it’s already there!) before expanding to iOS and Android later in June. Cube charizard, be mine. Beyond the cute cubey apéritif, a beginner-friendly set of games called Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and P okémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! will hit the Switch on November 16. According to its creators, the two titles “bring the experience of a classic Pokémon RPG to Nintendo Switch with gameplay that is easily approachable for newcomers to the series, but is also deep enough to keep veteran Trainers on their toes.” We’ll see about that. Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!, Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!, and the #PokeBallPlus will be released on November 16, 2018 worldwide! https://t.co/kXLdxUMjjA #PokemonLetsGo pic.twitter.com/bUU3ZcnApi — Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 30, 2018 The Pokémon Company also explained that the two games will tie into the hit mobile experience of Pokémon Go , though we don’t know the full extent of what that looks like yet: “There is a deep connection between Pokémon GO and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! For one thing, Pokémon originally discovered in the Kanto region that you have caught in Pokémon GO can be brought into these two new Nintendo Switch games. That’s not all, though. Look forward to more details at a later date.” Beyond the crowd-pleasing option to center either pikachu or eevee (let’s be real, you’re picking eevee), the Let’s Go games will showcase a new peripheral for the Switch known as the Poké Ball Plus that’s designed to simulate the evocative gesture that seasoned trainers know so well. Apparently, Nintendo put plenty of thought into that experience, so we’re hoping that it really brings to life the sensation of a wild animal wriggling rhythmically as its freedom seeps away, second by second

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Canadian Yahoo hacker gets a five-year prison sentence

After pleading guilty in November , the Canadian hacker at least partially to blame for the massive Yahoo hack that exposed up to 3 billion accounts will face five years in prison . According to the Justice Department, the hacker, 23-year-old Karim Baratov, worked under the guidance of two agents from the FSB, Russia’s spy agency, to compromise the accounts. Those officers, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, reside in Russia, as does Latvian hacker Alexsey Belan who also was implicated in the Yahoo hack. Given their location, those three are unlikely to face consequences for their involvement, but Baratov’s Canadian citizenship made him vulnerable to prosecution. “Baratov’s role in the charged conspiracy was to hack webmail accounts of individuals of interest to his coconspirator who was working for the FSB and send those accounts’ passwords to Dokuchaev in exchange for money,” the Justice Department described in its summary of Baratov’s sentencing . Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Alex G. Tse issued a stern warning to other would-be hackers doing a foreign government’s dirty work: The sentence imposed reflects the seriousness of hacking for hire. Hackers such as Baratov ply their trade without regard for the criminal objectives of the people who hire and pay them. These hackers are not minor players; they are a critical tool used by criminals to obtain and exploit personal information illegally.

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Facebook’s policy on white supremacy plays right into a racist agenda

In an ongoing series over at Motherboard , we’re learning quite a bit about how Facebook polices hate speech and hate organizations on its platform. Historically, the company has been far less than transparent about its often inconsistent censorship practices, even as white supremacist content — and plenty of other forms of hate targeted at marginalized groups — runs rampant on the platform. Tech is not winning the battle against white supremacy Now we know more about why. For one, according to a series of internal slides on white supremacy,  Facebook walks a fine line that arguably doesn’t exist at all. According to these post-Charlottesville training documents, the company opted to officially differentiate between white nationalism and white supremacy, allowing the former and forbidding the latter. White nationalism gets the green light Facebook appears to take the distinction between white nationalism and white supremacy seriously, but many white nationalists don’t, opting only for the slightly more benign term to soften their image. This is a well- documented phenomenon, as anyone who has spent time in these online circles can attest. It’s also the first sentence in the Anti Defamation League (ADL) entry on white nationalism : White nationalism is a term that originated among white supremacists as a euphemism for white supremacy. Eventually, some white supremacists tried to distinguish it further by using it to refer to a form of white supremacy that emphasizes defining a country or region by white racial identity and which seeks to promote the interests of whites exclusively, typically at the expense of people of other backgrounds. As Motherboard reports, Facebook notes “overlaps with white nationalism/separatism” as a challenge in its relevant training notes section for white supremacy, adding that “Media reports also use the terms interchangeably (for example referring to David Duke as white supremacist even though he doesn’t explicitly identify himself as one).” Facebook’s own articulation of white supremacy offers considerable concessions: Although there doesn’t seem to be total agreement among academics on whether white supremacy always  implies racial  hatred , the fact that it is based on a racist premise  is widely acknowledged. original emphasis Most of Facebook’s slides on hate speech and hate groups read like an embarrassingly simplistic CliffsNotes, lacking nuance and revealing the company’s apparently slapdash approach to the issue of racial hate.

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Signal for Mac users should disable notifications to keep their messages secure

If you’re using Signal for secure messaging, here’s something to be aware of. The app is one of the best-regarded encrypted messaging tools out there, but Mac owners who use Signal might inadvertently be putting their privacy at risk. As Motherboard reports, security researcher Alec Muffett discovered that Signal messages sent to a Mac can persist in the notifications center, even if you have the app’s settings tuned to delete them. #HEADSUP : #Security Issue in #Signal . If you are using the @signalapp desktop app for Mac, check your notifications bar; messages get copied there and they seem to persist — even if they are "disappearing" messages which have been deleted/expunged from the app. pic.twitter.com/CVVi7rfLoY — Alec Muffett (@AlecMuffett) May 8, 2018 That fact suggests that otherwise private messages live on in the operating system, which is something other researchers are looking into at the moment. (some) of your disappearing Signal msgs are belong to us Msgs may remain in the UI of macOS's Notification Center (as @AlecMuffett noted) – and also stored in user-readable OS database. Blog post explains why, how to recover/decode msgs, & mitigations: https://t.co/kUwrcbsCSr — patrick wardle (@patrickwardle) May 9, 2018 It’s a serious concern for anyone who relies on the Signal Mac app, but remember: to take advantage of this flaw, a hacker would need to compromise or obtain your Mac, and by then it’s probably game over. To turn off the setting — and we recommend that you do — go to the Settings menu within the Signal for Mac app and select either “Neither name nor message” or “Disable notifications” to make sure that your private messages don’t stray beyond Signal.

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Signal for Mac users should disable notifications to keep their messages secure

If you’re using Signal for secure messaging, here’s something to be aware of. The app is one of the best-regarded encrypted messaging tools out there, but Mac owners who use Signal might inadvertently be putting their privacy at risk. As Motherboard reports, security researcher Alec Muffett discovered that Signal messages sent to a Mac can persist in the notifications center, even if you have the app’s settings tuned to delete them. #HEADSUP : #Security Issue in #Signal . If you are using the @signalapp desktop app for Mac, check your notifications bar; messages get copied there and they seem to persist — even if they are "disappearing" messages which have been deleted/expunged from the app. pic.twitter.com/CVVi7rfLoY — Alec Muffett (@AlecMuffett) May 8, 2018 That fact suggests that otherwise private messages live on in the operating system, which is something other researchers are looking into at the moment. (some) of your disappearing Signal msgs are belong to us Msgs may remain in the UI of macOS's Notification Center (as @AlecMuffett noted) – and also stored in user-readable OS database. Blog post explains why, how to recover/decode msgs, & mitigations: https://t.co/kUwrcbsCSr — patrick wardle (@patrickwardle) May 9, 2018 It’s a serious concern for anyone who relies on the Signal Mac app, but remember: to take advantage of this flaw, a hacker would need to compromise or obtain your Mac, and by then it’s probably game over. To turn off the setting — and we recommend that you do — go to the Settings menu within the Signal for Mac app and select either “Neither name nor message” or “Disable notifications” to make sure that your private messages don’t stray beyond Signal.

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Cryptojacking malware was secretly mining Monero on many government and university websites

A new report published by security researched Troy Mursch details how the cryptocurrency mining code known as Coinhive is creeping onto unsuspecting sites around the web. Mursch recently detected the Coinhive code running on nearly 400 websites, including ones belonging to the San Diego Zoo, Lenovo and another for the National Labor Relations Board. The full list is available here . Notably, the list names a number of official government and education websites, including the Office of the Inspector General Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and sites for the University of Aleppo and the UCLA Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences program. Most of the affected sites are hosted by Amazon and are located in the United States and Mursch believes that they were compromised through an outdated version of Drupal: “Digging a little deeper into the cryptojacking campaign, I found in both cases that Coinhive was injected via the same method. The malicious code was contained in the “/misc/jquery.once.js?v=1.2” JavaScript library. Soon thereafter, I was notified of additional compromised sites using a different payload. However, all the infected sites pointed to the same domain using the same Coinhive site key. Once the code was deobfuscated, the reference to “http://vuuwd.com/t.js” was clearly seen. Upon visiting the URL, the ugly truth was revealed.

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