May 17, 2022

Colonial Pipeline CEO Paid Ransom to Hackers; Microsoft Retiring Internet Explorer; HBO Max Released the Trailer of Friends: The Reunion; Organizations Join Chicago Al fresco Dining Program; Nurses Union Disagrees with Lifting of Chicago Mask Mandate

Colonial Pipeline CEO Paid Ransom to Hackers “for the country”

The CEO of Colonial Pipeline, Joseph Blount, claims he did not follow the FBI’s advice and paid over a $4.4 million ransom to the hackers called DarkSide because “it was the right thing to do for the country.” He moved to pay the ransom on the same day the company learned of the hacking, he said in a report published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Blount decided to pay the ransom after he consulted with the experts who had dealt with DarkSide before. However, he declined to name the experts he consulted, the Journal reported. 

“I know that’s a highly controversial decision,” Blount told the Journal in what were his first public remarks since the hack. “I didn’t take it lightly. I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this.”

Businesses are advised by the FBI not to pay when hit by malicious software that locks up a user’s data. In a ransomware attack, the hackers demand a ransom before they unlock or return the affected data. Paying ransom creates incentives and encourages more attacks, and supports criminal groups, according to the FBI.

“The FBI does not support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack,” the FBI’s website says plainly. “It [paying ransom] also encourages perpetrators to target more victims and offers an incentive for others to get involved in this type of illegal activity.”

The cyberattack on the pipeline caused a shutdown of one of the largest US oil pipelines for six days. The incident resulted in panic buying of gas and fuel shortages across the Southeast.

The hackers provided a decryption tool to Colonial to unlock the crippled systems in exchange for the payment. However, the company was still not able to restore its operations fully. 

Alpharetta, a Georgia-based company, still cannot bill customers because the hacking caused issues with their financial system. Blount said Colonial’s overall hit is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Microsoft Announces the Retirement of Internet Explorer

Microsoft announced on Wednesday its plans to retire its Internet Explorer browser starting June 15 of next year. The software giant said its Internet Explorer 11 desktop application would no longer be supported for certain versions of the company’s Windows software. 

Internet Explorer has gradually weakened from prominence over the years. Its rival browsers, Chrome from Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit and Safari from Apple Inc., have gathered the majority of audiences’ preference. As of April, Internet Explorer for desktop computers acquired less than 2% of the global browser market, according to Statcounter, a web analytics firm. Chrome has more than 65% of that market share, followed by Safari’s 10%, and Microsoft Edge has 8%.

More than 20 years ago, Internet Explorer was soaring high. It was a prominent feature in the browser battle two decades ago and in the antitrust battle against Microsoft by the U.S. government.

It is a simple case of big names transitioning from digital reality to corporate history after being passed by their competitors. For instance, AOL Instant Messenger was retired in 2017 after users opted for other platforms such as Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp. Then, Tumblr, the microblogging site and social media network, was sold after being overtaken by Facebook. BlackBerry Ltd., the authority in mobile email and whose devices became staple for many businesses, ceased selling its devices after Apple’s success with the iPhone.

Microsoft’s decision to sunset the browser reflects how the habits around accessing the internet have changed. The popularity of tablets and smartphones supplanting the use of personal computers as their primary way to connect. 

The browser push now is centered on Microsoft’s Edge, launched in 2015, and shares underlying technology with Chrome.

Microsoft is offering an “IE mode” with its Edge browser for those people who just can’t let go. It allows users to access applications and websites that haven’t transitioned away from Internet Explorer.

HBO Max Released the Trailer of Friends: The Reunion

HBO Max released on Wednesday a full two-minute trailer of the highly anticipated special feature, Friends: The Reunion. It showed actual footage of the cast reuniting on the set of the show. The video was revealed during the upfront presentation to advertisers by WarnerMedia. For the fans and cast members, it brought out the nostalgia of the Fresh Prince reunion.

The trailer shows Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer not just hanging out, reminiscing, and exploring a recreation of the set, but they’re doing scenes. Iconic scenes. And they’re hanging out with James Corden. 

The six stars of Friends were overwhelmed with emotion. The cast is all hugging, kissing, and crying a lot. Stepping back onto Stage 24 at Warner Brothers Studios, the former castmates were taken aback by the sight of the recreated setting of a home they hadn’t visited in 17 years: Monica and Rachel’s apartment, Joey and Chandler’s bachelor pad, even the orange couch which was always reserved for them.

Friends was one of the highest-rated television shows of all time by the end of its 10-season run. Now, the six actors are reunited for only the second time since the finale aired in 2004, for two days to film Friends: The Reunion, a non-scripted celebration of the NBC series to be shown on HBO Max.

The special will feature a ton of special guests, Aside from the main cast and Corden. Most of whom were part of the show back in the day. That includes Reese Witherspoon (Rachel’s younger sister Jill), Maggie Wheeler (Janice), Thomas Lennon (Joey’s identical hand twin), James Michael Tyler (Gunther), Tom Selleck (Richard), Christina Pickles, and Elliott Gould (Monica and Ross’ parents), and even Larry Hankin (Mr. Heckles).

The special showcase will also feature big names such as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, David Beckham, Cindy Crawford, BTS, Kit Harington, Cara Delevingne, Mindy Kaling, and the famous activist Malala Yousafzai.

Community Organizations Participate in Chicago Al fresco Dining Program

Fifteen Chicago neighborhoods will be participating in the first round of the Chicago Al fresco program. It is the city’s initiative to open certain streets for walking, biking, and dining. The city will issue grants to help create more permanent outdoor spaces to be used for eating, arts, and other community events.

In total, the Chicago Al Fresco Dining Program will provide $2.3 million in grants, which will be divided among the 15 participating neighborhood organizations. The East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce is looking to install some improvements.

“Can we put some decorative fencing, can we do some planters, can we make this look a little better than what we have been in the past,” said Maureen Martino, the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.

The event will close Broadway from Belmont to Wellington for two weekends every month. There will be live music performances, too. Some residents have traffic concerns about the roadblocks, but most of the community are thrilled to dine al fresco, hang out with friends, and take a leisure walk.

“We love it,” Lakeview resident Michael Bleb said. “We don’t drive much, and I know traffic is a concern for a lot of residents, but for us, we have an almost 2-year-old who loves to run up and down the street. We like to see it. We think it’s good for the businesses.”

These are the 15 community organizations partnering with the city:

  1. Austin Chamber of Commerce for W Madison St. and W Chicago Ave.
  2.  Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council for W 47th St. & S Honore St.
  3. Greater Chatham Initiative for E 75th St., E 79th St. & E 71st St.
  4. Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce for N Broadway St.
  5. Little Village Community Foundation for Perez Plaza
  6. Logan Square Chamber of Commerce for Woodard Plaza
  7. Morgan Park Beverly Hills for 103rd St. & Wood St.
  8. Northwest Side CDC for W Fullerton Ave. & W Grand Ave.
  9. Puerto Rican Cultural Center for W Division St.
  10. Rogers Park Business Alliance for W Jarvis Ave. & N Glenwood Ave.
  11. South Shore Chamber of Commerce for E 71st St.
  12. South Chicago Parents & Friends for S Commercial Ave.
  13. Uptown United for W Argyle St.
  14. West Ridge Chamber of Commerce for W Devon Ave.
  15. Woodlawn Chamber of Commerce for E 62nd St. and S Ingleside Ave.

Nurses Union Disagrees with Lifting of Chicago Mask Mandate

Chicago has lifted its mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents following the announcement of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. 

National Nurses United is cautioning against easing restrictions. The union held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss what they claim is faulty science behind the CDC’S new guidelines on wearing masks.

“The science shows this is exactly the wrong time to be relaxing, our multi-pronged approach to infection control that studies show actually works to control the virus,” said Jean Ross, president of National Nurses United.

 “As a nation, we are logging very high infection numbers. Only 37% of people are vaccinated, new variants of concern are growing by the week, and there are still so many other unknowns.”

According to the Nurses Union, the studies cited by the CDC are inadequate, and people should keep their masks on, even when vaccinated, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The nurses said the science behind the CDC pronouncement ignores the asymptomatic transmission of the COVID-19, retaining the virus in circulation and allowing it to eventually mutate. Masks, social distancing, and handwashing, together with vaccinations, they insist, remain the best public health policy.

The Illinois Nurses Association agrees with the statement of the national group, stating that the CDC has yielded to public pressure from a society weary of the pandemic. The vaccine availability is also a challenge for the vulnerable populations, specifically the working-class black and brown people with hesitation to get vaccinated.

The new CDC guidelines are confusing to many people, including business owners that cannot check the vaccination status of every customer. 

“Really, at this point, as you know, enforcement is a challenge,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Chicago’s new mask guidelines came after a surge of complaints from businesses that are having difficulty determining which customer was vaccinated and who are just claiming they are.