Cost of global cyber attack could match massive hurricane - Axios
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Cost of global cyber attack could match massive hurricane

Vadim Ghirda / AP

A massive, global cyber attack on a cloud service provider could cost as much as $53 billion, about the amount of damage incurred by Superstorm Sandy, according to a new report by Lloyd's of London and risk-modeling firm Cyence, per Reuters.

  • In the hypothetical attack, hackers used malicious code designed to crash the cloud provider's servers a year later. At that point, the malware would have spread to the provider's customers, including big banks and hotels. The report says that the average economic losses from such an attack could range from $4.6 billion to $53 billion, but actual losses could hit as high as $121 billion.
  • By contrast: The WannaCry ransomware attack, that spread to more than 150 countries in May, cost $8 billion, and the June Petya attack cost $850 million, according to Cyence.
  • Why it matters: The rise in global cyber attacks is a major liability for corporations, and insurers are struggling to deal with covering losses and estimating exposure.
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McCain slams "spurious nationalism" in speech aimed at Trump

McCain (L) accepts the Liberty Medal from Joe Biden. Photo: Matt Rourke / AP

In a speech accepting the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal on Monday night, Sen. John McCain took aim at "spurious nationalism" in U.S. foreign policy, in remarks clearly intended as a repudiation of President Trump's worldview.
"To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history," he said.

More from McCain:

"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to do so."
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Midwestern senators to press EPA chief on ethanol

Scott Pruitt. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

A group of Midwestern Republican senators are meeting Tuesday with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to express their concerns about the agency's recent moves on ethanol, according to a spokesman for Sen. Grassley. The Iowa Republican lunched with Pruitt Monday to discuss the same issues.

Why it matters: Ethanol is one of the few energy issues that's controversial within the Republican Party, so expect this tension to wear on throughout President Trump's time in the White House. This meeting comes ahead of a November 30 deadline for EPA to issue final annual regulations as part of the federal ethanol mandate.

Behind the scenes: Pruitt has been frustrated with Grassley's aggressive intervention on the mandate, according to a senior government official with knowledge of the situation. Grassley, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over judicial nominees and the Russian investigation, is one of the most powerful senators on Capitol Hill. Trump has made clear to Pruitt that he needs to work with Grassley to resolve their dispute over the mandate, according to the official. An EPA spokesman declined to comment on Grassley's role or Pruitt's perceived frustration.

The backstory: President Trump has supported ethanol, which comes mostly from corn and is thus important to senators from corn-rich states, like Iowa. Pruitt, in his former job as attorney general of Oklahoma, signed onto litigation opposing the federal mandate, also called the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Trump has aggressively supported the mandate and campaigned heavily on it while touring Iowa during the presidential campaign.

Gritty details: Grassley and a bipartisan group of roughly 30 senators sent a letter Monday urging Pruitt to increase the volumes of biodiesel it requires as part of the ethanol mandate, which mandates that EPA issue annual quotas for different types of biofuels. The agency in September took a rare step by proposing to reduce the levels of biodiesel and advanced biofuels the mandate would require. Grassley and other senators are also concerned about EPA's possible policy change regarding exported biofuels.

"Sen. Grassley will oppose any effort to reduce blending levels or otherwise undermine the RFS to help a handful of merchant refiners," a spokesman for Grassley said. "Those efforts are not necessary, and run contrary to the stated commitment of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt to maintain and defend the integrity of the RFS."

About that meeting: At least a half dozen GOP senators are expected to attend, including Senators Roy Blunt from Missouri and Joni Ernst of Iowa, according to spokespeople for their offices.

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Ancient reptile had bird-like head before birds existed

A Greater Adjutant Stork, pictured in India. Photo: Anupam Nath / AP

Scientists have found a bird-like skull from a reptile that existed in the Triassic age — 100 million years before birds evolved, per a new study. The newly discovered species is called Avicranium renestoi. Scientists used modern computer modeling technology to render a representation of the full reptile using just the skull.

Why it matters: This is the first time we've seen a bird-like head from an animal that lived this long ago. It's a striking example of convergent evolution, separated by time. Other examples of convergent evolution include wings in bats and birds, and color in penguins and killer whales.
Featured

Facebook acquires teen hit app tbh

The tbh app in the App Store. Screen shot: Axios

Facebook has acquired tbh, a mobile app for making polls and sending compliments to other users, according to the app maker's website. The app will continue to operate independently, though the team will move to Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park.

Why it matters: Given the app's quick rise in popularity among teens, it's not surprising that Facebook quickly wrote a check to the startup and snapped up its app. Facebook's obsession with capturing the eyeballs of teens and young adults has been well documented (a few years ago, it offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion).

Good deal: As for tbh's makers, this is a good deal—the small company, based in Oakland, Calif., has spent the last five years building several products and apps with varying success and was in the process of shutting down when it debuted tbh, according to a Facebook post by co-founder Nikita Bier. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Disclosure: The author of this story went to college with tbh's Nikita Bier.

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Gun-related ER visits by type of gun

From 2006 to 2014, handgun-related injuries sent 190,396 people to emergency rooms in the U.S. — and that number excludes those who died before they could go to the hospital, and incidents involving people who never sought medical help.

Data: Health Affairs, authors' analysis of Nationwide Emergency Department Sample; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Key takeaways:

  • The most ER visits from 2006 to 2014 — 457,492 — were caused by guns classified as "other," but handguns were the single most deadly gun type.
  • Assaults typically involved handguns and shotguns, compared to hunting rifles and military rifles which caused higher shares of accidental injuries or deaths.
  • Of the 190,396 people who visited the ER in handgun-related incidents, 55% were victims of assault.
  • Shotguns caused 41,500 ER visits, of which 47% were related to assaults.
Featured

DHS orders federal agencies to beef up cybersecurity

Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington. Photo: Susan Walsh / AP

The Department of Homeland Security announced a new binding directive today for federal agencies to adopt basic web and email security features. They've been told to use DMARC, an email security protocol to protect against spammers and phishers, and STARTLLS, which would send email over an encrypted channel when available.

Why it matters: Jeanette Manfra, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, warned in a statement: "A single spoofed email can compromise the security of an entire organization, and a breach at one organization can sometimes leave an entire industry open to similar attacks and vulnerable to fraud."

What to expect: In 120 days all federal agencies will be required to deploy https for its web sites, and in 90 days they'll be required to roll out beefed up email security.

The back story: This isn't the first time the government has ordered the adoption of these enhanced measures. The Obama administration rolled out a similar directive in 2015, but two years later only about one-quarter of agency sites support encryption.

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Startup sues Android co-founder's new company

Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Keyssa, a startup that's been working on a chip for transferring large data without Wi-Fi or wires, has filed a trade secret theft lawsuit against Essential Products, the smartphone startup led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, according to Reuters.

Keyssa alleges that the two companies were in conversations about Essential potentially using its technology for 10 months before it decided to use a competing chip from SiBEAM, a division of Lattice Semiconductor. However, Essential's implementation uses a lot of the techniques Keyssa has developed, says the company. Essential Products declined to comment to Reuters as it hasn't been served yet.

Old connection: Essential was co-founded by Andy Rubin, who co-created Android. Keyssa is in part funded by Tony Fadell, who first rose to prominence as the "godfather" of Apple's iPod (which led to the iPhone).

Featured

Amazonization kills America's oldest hardware store

Elwood Adams' storefront in Worcester, Massachusetts. Screengrab via CBS Sunday Morning on YouTube.

When Elwood Adams Hardware Store first opened its doors, the bestselling items were clock bells and pinions. That was 1782. Now, on October 20th, the oldest continuously run hardware store in America will close its doors for good, CBS reports, a victim of Amazonization.

The big picture: Elwood Adams, established in Worcester, Massachusetts, survived two wars on U.S. soil, the Great Depression and the Great Recession. But those were less damaging than the shift to online shopping. "I think Amazon or the larger big-box stores have probably just been too much to compete against," city manager Ed Augustus told CBS.

  • The demise of Elwood Adams illustrates the profound challenge to brick-and-mortar retail, and another hit to the mom-and-pop shops that once dominated Main Street.
Featured

Nordstrom and Sears lead retail's miserable day

Customers enter Nordstrom's downtown Seattle location. Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP

Though the S&P 500 was in the black on Monday, stocks of retail companies fell broadly, with shares of Nordstrom, Sears, and cosmetics vendor Ulta all losing favor with investors during trading hours.

  • Nordstrom shares lost more than 5% after the company announced it was suspending efforts to take itself private after struggling to find interested investors.
  • Sears tumbled nearly 12% on the news that Bruce Berkowitz, one of its largest investors and a close associate of CEO Eddie Lampert, would be leaving the board of directors.
  • Ulta lost 2.5% of its value, following a decision by Goldman Sachs to downgrade the stock — citing slowing growth in the beauty products space. Other analysts have warned that Amazon threatens cosmetics retailers like Ulta and Sephora.
Why it matters: Sears' struggles have been long-standing, but both Nordstrom and Ulta have been at various points cited as traditional retailers immune to Amazon's on-line power, and poised to avoid the struggles of the broader industry.
Facts Matter Featured

The big picture on Puerto Rico

Jesus Soto Rosado puts his socks on after spending the night at a school-turned-shelter for residents left homeless by Hurricane Maria. Photo: Ramon Espinosa / AP

Nearly four weeks after Hurricane Maria first made landfall in Puerto Rico, the island is still far from recovered. 86% of the island is still without power, 28% is without potable water, and 13% of grocery stores are still closed.

The official death toll has risen to 48, but the actual number is expected to be much higher as several parts of the island remain cut off from communication. Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) issued a request Thursday to audit the death count, stating that the misreported number is "distorting the grim realities facing the Island." Meanwhile, roughly 117 people are unaccounted for after last month's hurricane, per CNN.

What they're saying

  • President Trump, during a press conference today: "We now actually have military distributing food [in PR] — something that, really, they shouldn't have to be doing."
  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-PR) warned that "this could become another Flint" in an interview with CNN. "We're talking about contaminants, toxins, material, oil that are in this water. You're telling me that this water can be used for — as drinking water? I don't think so."

The facts

The latest on what we know from Puerto Rico, per FEMA and the PR government site:

  • Boots on the ground: More than 20,000 federal civilian personnel and military service members, including more than 1,700 FEMA personnel, are on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • State help: 31 U.S. states are helping in PR, and 20 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Electricity: 13.7% of the island has power, up from 9% Friday. Roughly 43% of cell towers have been restored.
  • Food: Approximately 87% of grocery stores are open (396 of 456).
  • Gas: Roughly 79% of retail gas stations are operational (872 of 1,100).
  • Shelter: 5,037 people remain in shelters across the island, down from 5,602 Friday. 105 shelters are open and operating.
  • Transportation: Only 392 miles of Puerto Rico's 5,073 miles of roads are open. All commercial airports and federally maintained ports are open, some with restrictions.
  • Water and waste: Approximately 72% of Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) customers have potable water, up from 63% Friday. 56% of waste water treatment plants are working on generator power, the same as Friday.
  • Medical care: 95% (64/67) hospitals are open, down from 97% Friday. Many remain on backup power systems, and are without air conditioning. 95% (46/48) of Dialysis Centers are open, the same as Friday.
  • Banks: 50% of bank branches (157 of 313) are open and operating.
Go deeper: The storm has passed, but Puerto Rico's health faces prolonged recovery (STAT News); Sending Relief by Air and Sea to Puerto Rico From the Bronx (NY Times); Puerto Rico struggles with massive environmental crisis (Washington Post).
This post is being updated with the latest information on the Puerto Rico recovery efforts.