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400 Cybersecurity Pros Volunteer to Fight Hacking Tied to Coronavirus

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An international group of nearly 400 volunteers with expertise in cybersecurity formed on Wednesday to fight hacking related to the novel coronavirus.

Called the COVID-19 CTI League, for cyber threat intelligence, the group spans more than 40 countries and includes professionals in senior positions at such major companies as Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc .

One of four initial managers of the effort, Marc Rogers, said the top priority would be working to combat hacks against medical facilities and other frontline responders to the pandemic. It is already working on hacks of health organizations.

Also key is the defense of communication networks and services that have become essential as more people work from home, said Rogers, head of security at the long-running hacking conference Def Con and a vice president at security company Okta Inc.

The group is also using its web of contacts in internet infrastructure providers to squash garden-variety phishing attacks and another financial crime that is using the fear of COVID-19 or the desire for information on it to trick regular internet users.

“I’ve never seen this volume of phishing,” Rogers said. “I am literally seeing phishing messages in every language known to man.”

Phishing messages try to induce recipients to enter passwords or other sensitive information on websites controlled by the attackers, who then use the data to take control of bank, email or other accounts.

Rogers said the group had already dismantled one campaign that used a software vulnerability to spread malicious software. He declined to provide details, and said that in general the group would be reluctant to reveal what it was fighting.

Rogers said law enforcement had been surprisingly welcoming of the collaboration, recognizing the vastness of the threat.

Rogers is a UK citizen based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Two other group coordinators are American, and one is Israeli.

“I have never seen this level of cooperation,” Rogers said. “I hope it continues afterwards, because it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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California Commissioner Orders Insurance Claim, Coverage Deadline Extensions

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California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has issued a notice to insurers ordering them to stop enforcing policy or statutory deadlines on policyholders for claims or coverage until 90 days after the statewide “state of emergency” or other “state of emergency” has ended related to COVID-19.

The California Department of Insurance said the aim of the notice is to protect policyholders from losing, limiting, or waiving policy benefits as a result of the current national state of emergency.

Insurers have been notified that they should not attempt to enforce statutory deadlines on their policyholders for claim forms, proof of loss, medical examinations, and physical inspections, or any other deadlines which, if not met, could force policyholders to lose their coverage.

Wildfire Claims

CDI additionally said it has received complaints from consumers indicating some insurance companies are telling their insureds who suffered losses from the November 2018 fires they must continue to repair or rebuild their homes during this COVID-19 crisis in order to obtain the full replacement cost and additional living expense (ALE) benefits owed to them

However, CDI said applicable law requires that insurers provide no less than 36 months, plus additional six-month extensions for “good cause,” for insureds to collect full replacement cost and ALE for delays in the reconstruction process that are the result of circumstances beyond the control of the insured such as unavoidable construction permit delays, lack of necessary construction materials, and lack of available contractors to perform the necessary work.

According to Commissioner Lara and the CDI, the current COVID-19 pandemic is a circumstance beyond the control of the insured, thereby constituting “good cause” under the applicable laws.

Source: CDI

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Mississippi Businesses Shift Production During Pandemic

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As the nation hunkers down and people shelter in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, several Mississippi businesses have stayed open, switching gears to make much-needed products.

A jeans company is making face guards, a coffeehouse is making loaves of bread and distilleries are making hand sanitizer. They’re hoping to keep their employees working as they help fellow Mississippians battle the outbreak.

“Americans roll up their sleeves. Mississippians roll up their sleeves,” Josh West, CEO of Blue Delta Jeans, said at the company’s manufacturing plant in Shannon, where the production of custom jeans has been retooled for mask-making. “We’ve dealt with disasters before, nothing like this, but it’s just kind of ingrained, especially in the manufacturing community.”

Ten seamstresses, wearing gloves and masks, sat behind sewing machines stitching together sheets of fabric and elastic bands to create a face guard. Three layers of white fabric provide enough protection to keep elements from leaving or entering a person’s mouth and nose.

The first batch will be going to Memphis, Tennessee, for distribution by the local government. Masks will then be sent to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

“We don’t want to be the distribution point. The government agencies know where they need to go,” West said. “We just want to ship our bulk to them and let them distribute the face guards to people.”

West estimates a single seamstress can produce about 42 face guards in an hour. With many of his employees ready for the challenge, he has set a goal to make up to 10,000 masks daily.

“(Being able to work) means a lot to me,” said Sarah Richey, an aide at Blue Delta Jeans who is a widow and has her son and granddaughter living under her roof. “I’m just glad that we work for a company that has found us something else to do. It makes you feel proud.”

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 3.28 million unemployment claims were filed in the week that ended March 21.

“I’m so grateful to be considered an essential employee,” said Laura Hallmark, the head baker at Strange Brew Coffeehouse in Tupelo. “I’m grateful to be working at an essential establishment that is providing food for our community. I’m grateful because my husband is out of work right now, so I’m the breadwinner.”

Strange Brew Coffeehouse has 75 employees at three locations in northern Mississippi and is adding up to six more workers. Each location is making up to 50 loaves of fresh homemade bread per day.

“I know it’s exciting that we are hiring this week, which is a word that you don’t hear too much around the city right now,” Strange Brew Coffeehouse owner Katelyn Reed said moments before interviewing potential employees. “Even in times like this, being able to bring on extra hands to to be able to meet the demand is really important, and I’m really proud of that.”

At the Tupelo location, customers don’t have to leave their car because they’re able to pick up on the drive-thru window at the building that was once a gas station.

Customer Maggie Reeder, an occupational therapist in Tupelo, rolled by the drive-thru and bought a loaf of fresh bread while picking up coffee with her friend Kylie Waldrop.

“In the store it’s been really hard to find like toilet paper, bread, milk, eggs,” Reeder said.

Lazy Magnolia Brewery in Kiln and Cathead Distillery in Jackson are now producing alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cathead, which usually makes vodka, announced Monday that it is setting up 55-gallons (208-liter) barrels of hand sanitizer outside four stores in Jackson where people could fill up their own containers for free. Officials were asking people to take no more than 12 ounces (340 grams) each.

“That’s pretty much the heart of small business,” Reed said. “It’s doing whatever you can to keep as many people employed as long as you can. We were lucky to find a way that also serves the community.”

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Gender Reveal Party Sparks 10-Acre Fire in Florida

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A gender reveal party mixed with explosives sparked a 10-acre fire in Florida.

It happened Saturday in Brevard County, WESH-TV reported.

The county has prohibited open burning because of an increase in fires, and officials are urging people to follow the rules and avoid calls that can strain medical resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Something as seemingly innocent as a gender reveal can turn into a large-scale disaster,” said Mark Schollmeyer, the county’s Fire Rescue Chief.

A violation of the burn ban comes with a fine of up to $500 and jail time.

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