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Increased malware attacks from criminal cryptocurrency miners

Criminal cryptocurrency miners are exploiting whatever platform they can find to do illicit mining. Kasperksy found 1.65 million computers infected with mining malware in the first eight months of 2017, a huge increase over 2016. Any and all platforms are being attacked. 25% of all websites run WordPress, so WordPress is an obvious target.

I’ve noticed a pronounced increase in my client’s WordPress sites being probed for vulnerabilities, with attempted logins, hunting for config files and vulnerabilities, etc. It’s not a small increase, it is several times normal. This is almost certainly due to cryptocurrency miners trying to break into the sites to install mining malware, often for Zcash and Monero because they are extremely anonymous and thus favored for hiding money more than Bitcoin is.

Personal computers can also be compromised.

Does your computer seem to running much slower than usual? If so, someone may be using your computer’s processing power to mine bitcoins.

This is precisely what bitcoin mining viruses do, yet many of them can be detected with antivirus programs. Malwarebytes is highly recommended for this purpose. Whether your antivirus program is Malwarebytes which we recommend or something else, running a scan every so often will allay infection concerns.

All the WordPress sites I manage have multiple levels of protection. You have to be proactive. Keep WordPress and all plugins and themes updated. Monitor the site on a regular basis. Anything less is asking for trouble. These attacks are done by professional criminals. Let me know if I can help protect your WordPress site too. Yes, it’s a jungle out there.

IBM’s Dave McMillen told Bleeping Computer via email that attackers used “a wide range of exploits […] to first compromise […] CMS platforms (WordPress and Joomla and JBoss server) prior to launching the subsequent CMDi [command injection] attack,” that installed the cryptocurrency mining tool.

“These [mining] tools were hidden within fake image files, a technique known as steganography, hosted on compromised web servers running Joomla or WordPress, or stored on compromised JBoss Application Servers,” McMillen says.

The expert says attackers usually downloaded a customized version of a legitimate mining tool named Minerd, or a Linux port named kworker.

The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism

Bitcoin was birthed in and is influenced by extremist right-wing libertarian ideology. You are no doubt familiar with their rants. We must protect ourselves from the dammed gummint who wants to take our money and, oh yeah, the Federal Reserve prints money, which causes inflation, and is doing this for nefarious reasons, probably to control us and of course, take our money.

No matter that none of this makes any economic sense, and that such crackpot ideologies are dismissed by actual economists. Right-wing libertarians appear primarily anguished by the thought that a) they have to pay taxes and b) that someone else might gain benefit for their tax money. That they themselves are helped by tax money others have paid never occurs to them.

So then, their goal is to hide as much money as possible from the government, and even if doing so might constitute tax evasion and money laundering, that would be a-ok because they are doing it for a noble cause and the rules don’t apply to them anyway.

Bitcoin is a perfect platform for this. However bitcoin proponents end up being incoherent. They claim paper money printed by governments is unstable and bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) will replace it. Except the price of bitcoin skitters wildly all over the place, so it’s not stable at all. Plus, a few can and do manipulate the price. Thefts and ripoffs are common, and it doesn’t scale. There’s no way bitcoin – which can do a whopping seven transactions a second now maximum – will ever replace actual currencies.

At heart, bitcoin is about eliminating governments and replacing them with a deranged unworkable fantasy of an ungoverned global marketplace with no rules and no regulations, in which everyone is somehow supposed to be free. It’s rubbish. A few on the top, the miners, will control it, and it won’t be decentralized at all.

David Golumbia parses all of this in great detail in The Politics of Bitcoin,  explaining how and why bitcoin emerged from John Bircher nutcase ideology and still owes much to that, and why this should make the rest of us uneasy.

He concludes by saying:

This is not to say that Bitcoin and the blockchain can never be used for non-rightist purposes, and even less that everyone in the blockchain communities is on the right. Yet it is hard to see how this minority can resist the political values that are very literally coded into the software itself. Recent events have shown repeatedly that we discount the power of engineers and/ or ideologues to realize their political visions through software design at our peril. What is required to combat that power is not more wars between algorithmic platforms and individuals who see themselves as above politics, but a reassertion of the political power that the blockchain is specifically constructed to dismantle.

Facebook, Google, Twitter are very concerned about racist ads


Silicon Valley wants you to know they are quite upset about all the horrible racist ads they’ve cheerfully allowed for years, now that everyone has found out about them. So, they are making a great kerfuffle about banning the ads – which of course had to be vetted by them before appearing – and hope we will all be happy now since they’ve been so proactive.

I’m a coder. There is no possible way three huge tech companies could make the exact same blithering idiot mistakes that somehow allowed noxious ads to appear and have it be a genuine mistake. It was by design. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Advertisers wanted ads targeting those who hate Blacks and were perkily told they could expand the range of the ad by also targeting those who hate Jews. I’ve run ad campaigns like these. The ads have to be approved, either by software or a human. Therefore, the ads were vetted and were allowed to appear.

But wait! Silicon Valley says such ad targeting has disappeared. Why it’s almost like they could turn it on and off effortlessly. Twitter was especially comical and unconvincing, saying darn it, those bad words were blacklisted yet somehow appeared in ads anyway. So we are sorry and the bad words truly are blacklisted now. I totally believe them. How about you?

Excerpts from a Quartz article:

Google

Typing in keyword suggestions (which advertisers use to build their ads and figure out who to target) like “why do jews ruin everything” led to the system generating more keyword suggestions like “jews ruin the world” and “jewish parasites.” Buzzfeed was also able to build and launch a campaign around the phrase “black people ruin neighborhoods.”

Facebook

Facebook allowed advertisers to target categories and ideas such as “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world,’” based on interest Facebook users had expressed on the social network and terms with which they had used to describe themselves.

Twitter

A Twitter representative told Quartz about the Daily Beast’s report:

The terms cited in this story have been blacklisted for several years and we are looking into why the campaign cited in this story were able to run for a very short period of time. Twitter actively prohibits and prevents any offensive ads from appearing on our platform, and we are committed to understanding 1) why this happened, and 2) how to keep it from happening again.

Switchgrass heats a Virginia hospital, homegrown renewable energy

Growing switchgrass for biofuel for a Virginia hospital also provides ground cover for quail, income for farmers, captures carbon, and reduces sedimentation into streams. It’s a win-win for everyone. Hospital fuel costs are reduced and they don’t have to worry about fluctuating fuel prices because it’s a fixed price contract. Farmers grow it on unused land, providing them with steady extra income. And it’s a renewable locally-grown source of fuel.

From YouTube:

Biomass has the potential to supply a significant portion of America’s growing energy needs, while increasing energy independence, diversifying sources of domestic revenue, and adding over a million jobs to the workforce. In Nottoway County, Virginia, the Piedmont General Hospital campus partnered with the Virginia Tech Conservation Management Institute, FDC Enterprises, Inc., local farmers and government, and state organizations, to establish a successful supply chain of native warm-season switchgrass to use as biofuel for steam and heat generation for the hospital and its campus. Watch this video to learn how this effort helped Nottoway County and surrounding areas achieve environmental goals through increased perennial land cover, while providing economic opportunities for communities and farmers in the region and significant savings for the taxpayers of the State of Virginia.

Saving stormwater in California

Los Angeles currently captures and reuses about 4% of storm water. With planning and money maybe that number could be 20%, which could help enormously during dry times. Las Vegas, where I live, has a huge system which captures stormwater, cleans it, then stores it in Lake Mead for future use. Sewer water is also cleaned and stored in the lake. Imagine the amount of water that could be saved if such systems were implemented in California. Let’s hope it happens.

The point is that with the conservative future, the amount of stormwater we capture could actually double. It could go to 200,000 acre-feet and if we’re aggressive – if we have the political will and the financing and the like – that number could become 300,000 acre-feet (or close to it). Now this is for the city of Los Angeles. What’s the water demand for the city? Maybe in the future 700,000 acre-feet a year, so the opportunity here is for stormwater to do much more than 4%. It could be as much as 20% or a quarter or something like that. So this is for me an important motivational slide about what’s the opportunity there for us.”