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Ransomware cyber-attack a wake-up call: Microsoft

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Washington, May 15, 2017: A cyber-attack that hit 150 countries since Friday should be treated by governments around the world as a “wake-up call”, Microsoft has said.

The computing giant said software vulnerabilities hoarded by governments had caused “widespread damage”, the BBC reported.

A statement from Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith on Sunday criticised the way governments store up information about security flaws in computer systems.

There are fears of further “ransomware” attacks as people return to work on Monday.

The latest virus attack last week exploits a flaw in a version of Microsoft Windows first identified by US intelligence.

Many firms have had experts working over the weekend to prevent new infections. The virus took control of users’ files and demanded $300 payments to restore access, the BBC report said.

The spread of the virus slowed over the weekend but the respite might only be brief, experts have warned. More than 200,000 computers have been affected so far.

“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the US military intelligence organisation National Security Agency (NSA) has affected customers around the world,” Smith wrote.

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

The Microsoft President also added: “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it.

“As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems,” BBC quoted Smith as saying.

Read More: Next global cyber-attack likely on Monday: Experts

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Health

Boris Johnson spends second night in intensive care

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Boris Johnson

London, April 8 : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spends a second night in intensive care as he continues to receive treatment for coronavirus.

The PM is being kept at St Thomas’ Hospital in London “for close monitoring”, Downing Street said, the BBC reported.

Johnson’s condition is “stable” and he remains in “good spirits”, his spokesman added on Tuesday evening.

Speaking at Tuesday’s Downing Street coronavirus briefing, he said Johnson was receiving standard oxygen treatment and was breathing without any assistance, such as mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support.

It is understood there will not be a further update on Mr Johnson’s condition until later on Wednesday.

Downing Street also confirmed that the planned review into whether the UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures could be eased would not go ahead this Monday.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the PM, has said he was “confident” the PM would recover from this illness, describing him as a “fighter”.

Prime Minister was originally admitted to St Thomas’ on Sunday, on the advice of his doctor, after continuing to display symptoms of cough and high temperature 10 days after testing positive for the virus.

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America

COVID19 attack rate 14 in 1,000 in New York City: White House

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COVID-19 cases

New York, April 8 : The coronavirus continues to attack nearly 14 in 1,000 people in New York City and 7 in 1000 across New York State on a day when this COVID-19 hotspot recorded its biggest single-day surge in death toll from the pandemic that has killed more than 12,700 Americans and sickened nearly 400,000 across 50 states.

Despite the sobering numbers, America’s top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci remains confident that America will have the COVID-19 pandemic “under control” by Fall 2020.

New York State reported 731 new coronavirus deaths, taking the state toll to nearly 5,500 since its first COVID-19 death on March 13. The spike comes even as hospital admissions and intubations are slowing, which suggest that the city may be close to its peak death tally and levelling off.

The death tally is a “lagging indicator” that reflects the loss of people hospitalised around the time social distancing rules came into play.

New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus rose past 3,200 Tuesday, which is way more than those killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“That’s 731 people who we lost. Behind every one of those numbers is an individual. There’s a family, there’s a mother, there’s a father, there’s a sister, there’s a brother. So a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers,” Cuomo said at a briefing Tuesday.

Later on the same day, White House coronavirus co-ordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said the attack rate in New York continues to be the country’s highest.

She was speaking at the daily White House task force briefing.

Beyond the New York border, the numbers drop but remain concerning, she said.

The drop off in the attack rate in a series of communities outside the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas are creating “much flatter curves”, according to Birx.

New Jersey is at 4 per 1000, Louisiana 3 per 1000, Massachusetts and Connecticut are 2 per 1000, Michigan, Washington DC and Baltimore are at 1.5 per 1000, Pennsylvania is at 1 per 1000.

“We see across the country a different curve parameter,” Birx said. “It shows the amazing activity of Americans in those cities, following social distancing guidelines.”

Birx called for “less socialisation between households” and urged Americans not to go out for non-essential tasks for as long as they could avoid it. “Let’s do this as a mark of respect for our amazing frontline health care workers,” she said.

When asked about the next school season, Fauci cautioned that COVID-19 “is not going to disappear” but also said he remains optimistic that “we’ll be in good shape”.

By Fall 2020, Fauci said the decisions around re-opening schools and businesses will depend on the country’s ability to “identify, isolate, to contact trace”.

“By that time, with the antibody tests, we’ll have a better sense of the actual penetrance of this in society. How many people have really been infected? How many are vulnerable? All of these things are going to go into the decision on how much back to the normal you can go back to.”

According to Fauci, America’s new normal when it emerges from the worst phase of the crisis will be something “very different to what we are going through now”.

“When we go back to normal, we’ll go back to a way of life where we can function as a society. If you want to get to pre-coronavirus, that might not ever happen because the threat is there,” he said.

Fauci has cautioned that COVID-19 is showing all the signs that it could hit on a seasonal cycle and that a vaccine is the ultimate gamechanger. According to him, the most aggressive timeline could deliver a vaccine in “12-18 months”.

(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at @byniknat)

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Health

Trump threatens to stop WHO funding as NY deaths pass 9/11 fatalities

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Donald Trump

In his regular press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday evening, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed displeasure with the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it was too “China-centric.”

Trump then threatened to withhold U.S. funding because they disagreed with him on his coronavirus travel ban.

But when pressed by reporters afterward, Trump said, “I’m looking at it.”

The president said that the United States might be getting to the top of the “curve” of the coronavirus outbreak and said he did not see an early written warning about the pandemic from a top White House aide.

Trump further added that evidence shows African Americans are having higher rates of COVID-19 infection in the United States and his administration is actively engaging on the problem of increased impacts on the African American community.

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