Jul 2, 2019

Axios Login

Situational awareness: Facebook evacuated workers yesterday after a potential poison was detected in its mailroom, but further tests showed no signs of the substance.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,339 words, ~ 5 minute read.

1 big thing: Ransomware demands put cities in a bind

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The conventional wisdom about ransomware is that when local governments pay the ransom, it encourages more criminals to launch more attacks. But that's not necessarily the case, experts tell Axios cybersecurity reporter Joe Uchill.

Between the lines: The costs of recovering from a ransomware attack are often greater than the cost of the ransom.

Background: The victims of ransomware attacks are typically targets of opportunity, and cities generally aren't the primary targets. Corporations are — and they often pay up.

  • "The fact is, paying a ransom does not create a market," said Forrester Research's Josh Zelonis. "There already is a market."

By the numbers: Riviera Beach and Lake City, Florida, paid a combined $1.1 million in ransom over about a week in June.

  • Meanwhile, Atlanta spent $17 million restoring systems rather than pay a $50,000 ransom last year.
  • Baltimore is likely to spend $10 million restoring its own systems refusing to pay a $75,000 ransom this year. The disruption to its city services may cost another $8 million.

The intrigue: For some cities, the best response might be to pay the ransom, then use the millions of dollars that would have been spent on recovery to strengthen cyber defenses before the next attack.

  • "If you don't learn from the past, you will end up being ransomed again," said Deborah Golden, the new head of Deloitte's cyber consultancy..
  • Whether a city pays, doesn't pay, or has yet to be attacked, prevention will often save money.

What's next: Regardless of the decision a city might make, Golden said, it's important to game plan what will happen in an attack.

  • In some cases, that might mean developing non-digital alternatives to the services that may be put on hold during an attack.
  • "Is there way to do something manually in the time it takes to set up the automation again?" she asked.
2. Tech calls on SCOTUS to recognize LGBTQ rights

Flying a rainbow flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images

More than 200 large businesses, including most of Big Tech, are calling on the Supreme Court to find that existing laws against sex discrimination cover LGBTQ workers.

Why it matters: The Supreme Court is expected to take up that question in a trio of cases in its next session.


  • Companies signing the "friend of the court" brief include Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Comcast NBCUniversal, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intuit, Lyft, Microsoft, Mozilla, Pinterest, Salesforce and Uber.
  • In all, the companies represent more than 7 million employees and generate $5 trillion in annual revenue.
  • The legal brief argues that LGBTQ non-discrimination policies benefit businesses and the broader economy.

What they're saying:

  • Jay Brown, SVP, HRC Foundation: "These employers know first-hand that protecting the LGBTQ community is both good for business and the right thing to do. With so much progress on the line, we are grateful that so many major American companies are standing up for the rights and dignity of their LGBTQ employees, family members and customers.”
  • Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney, Lambda Legal: “When employees can safely bring their whole selves to the workplace, they do better work and that leads to success.”
  • Todd Sears, CEO, Out Leadership: “We’re thrilled to see so many of our nation’s most innovative and profitable businesses coming together to say that LGBT+ Americans are, and should continue to be, protected from discrimination."
3. Career Karma, the bootcamp matchmaker

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

It’s been several years since so-called “coding bootcamps” first emerged, and there are now more than 100 of them, counting both online and in-person providers.

Year-old startup Career Karma thinks it can help sort through the confusion and point potential students to the right one for them, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva writes.

Driving the news: Career Karma, which participated in Y Combinator’s startup accelerator program earlier this year, tells Axios that it has raised a total of just under $2 million in funding from a number of investors, including Kapor Capital, Unshackled Ventures, and Backstage Capital.

How it works:

  • Potential students take a quiz that assesses their preferences.
  • A 21-day program helps them prep for the bootcamps’ interviews and technical assessments, and connects them to alumni for extra help.
  • If a prospective student enrolls in a bootcamp they found through Career Karma, the startup gets a cut of the tuition (and a bit more if the student ultimately lands a job after the program).
  • Enrolled students are placed into a “squad” with a few others to give them a peer support group even if they’re not in the same coding bootcamp or city.

"The reason they get accepted is because the schools give us the requirements,” Career Karma CEO Ruben Harris, who founded the startup a year ago with brothers Timur and Artur Meyster, tells Axios.

  • Harris also says that it helps coding bootcamps cut down on their costs since his company acts as a funnel for new customers.
  • The startup now has more than 16,000 registered users. More than 50 enroll in a bootcamp every month.

The bigger picture: Though his company is focused on coding bootcamps at the moment, Harris says the plan is to expand the approach to other skills and fields over time. He predicts that non-technical roles will remain a bigger segment of the jobs of the future.

Go deeper:

4. CBP investigates Facebook group mocking immigrants

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Customs and Border Protection announced Monday it will launch an inspector general investigation into a private Facebook group of 9,500 current and former Border Patrol agents, Axios' Ursula Perano reports.

The move followed a ProPublica report revealing that members of the group joked about migrant deaths and posted racist and sexually explicit memes about Latinx members of Congress.

What we know: The group, created in August 2016 and titled "I'm 10-15" in reference to the Border Patrol code for "aliens in custody," describes itself as a space for "funny" and "serious" conversation on members' work policing the nation's borders.

  • In one post, members exchanged quips over a May story on the death of a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who passed away while being held at a facility in Weslaco, Texas. One member posted a GIF of Sesame Street's Elmo saying, "Oh well," while another wrote, "If he dies, he dies."
  • In another post on the planned visit of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Veronica Escobar, to a Clint, Texas, border facility, members encouraged agents to throw a "burrito at one of these b--ches" and referred to them as "hoes" and "scum buckets."
  • Two other posts showed false, grotesque depictions of Ocasio-Cortez being forced to perform sexual acts.

What they're saying:

  • U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost: "These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see — and expect — from our agents day in and day out. Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable."
  • Ocasio-Cortez: "9,500 CBP officers sharing memes about dead migrants and discussing violence and sexual misconduct towards members of Congress. How on earth can CBP’s culture be trusted to care for refugees humanely?"

The big picture: CBP has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks as reports of inhumane living conditions for migrant children in border facilities have elevated the issue. Last month, acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders resigned, effective July 5.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • There's not much on the official tech calendar today. Let's stick to that, especially around say noon-2pm PT when the U.S. takes on England in the Women's World Cup semifinals.

Trading Places

  • Eye-tracking company Tobii has hired former Intel VP Anand Srivatsa as divisional CEO of its Tobii Tech unit.
  • Joanne Bradford, who has held top marketing and operations spots at companies including SoFi, Yahoo, Pinterest and Microsoft, is joining the board of OneLogin.
  • Robyn Kanner, who was previously a product designer for Alphabet’s Jigsaw team has joined the Beto O’ Rourke campaign as director of creative and product.


  • Virginia passed a law expanding the definition of revenge porn to include the use of falsely created still or video images. (Ars Technica)
  • A top Samsung executive said that the company rushed out the Galaxy Fold at his urging, but stopped short of offering an apology or offering a new ship date for the foldable phone. (CNET)
  • Meanwhile, Samsung confirmed Aug. 7 as the date for its next Galaxy Unpacked event, where the company is expected to unveil its next Galaxy Note phablet. (Samsung)
  • Study details the impact Russian trolls had on the 2016 election. (Axios)
  • Salesforce Park, the outdoor greenbelt atop San Francisco's transit hub, reopened Monday. Bus service has yet to resume at the complex, which has been shuttered since August over structural concerns. (Curbed SF)
6. After you Login

A good typeface should be relaxing to a point where you can just settle in. May I suggest this couch-themed font from Ikea.