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Work is where your laptop is: meet the globetrotting digital nomads | Work & careers

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Samantha Scott does not miss her daily commutes in London, particularly “the dread of having to wake up and get on the tube, and heading into work sweaty and flustered. I’m still waking up at 6 or 7am, but I’m able to go for a walk on the beach before I start work.”

When she and her partner Chris Cerra arrive with their luggage in a new city, they can easily be mistaken for tourists. But they are part of a new generation of “digital nomads” who hop from country to country to live and work.

The global shift to flexible working triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic means more people are considering ditching their long-term homes to flit around the world, working from their laptops, tablets or smartphones.

Samantha Scott and Chris Cerra.
Samantha Scott and Chris Cerra. Photograph: Chris Cerra

Last week, a report from Airbnb entitled Travel & Living showed that 11% of the company’s long-term stay bookers in 2021 have reported living a nomadic lifestyle, and 5% plan to give up their main homes.

Delia Colantuono, a 31-year-old freelance translator from Rome, became a digital nomad five years ago when it was not a “big thing”.

She has now lived on all five continents and says the nomadic lifestyle is “not just for rich people – it’s for anyone who can work remotely and wants to do it”.

Many places are keen to attract long-term visitors, meaning bargains can be found. Colantuono has been renting a villa in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands with three other nomads for €450 (£390) a month each.

Delia Colantuono from Rome, Italy.
Delia Colantuono from Rome, Italy. Photograph: Delia Colantuono

Cerra, 28, a research and development technical consultant for a finance boutique, lived in several cramped flatshares in London and later rented an apartment with a friend for £1,000 a month per person. Since he became a nomad, accommodation costs have varied from £300 in Asia to more than £1,000 in Stockholm, Sweden.

High-speed wifi is top of the wishlist for nomads, followed by good workspace – desks or a large dining room table – a decent kitchen, and comfortable beds.

Chanin Kaye, 51, and her partner Jason Melton, 46, are six months into a seven-year road trip from Mexico to Argentina, staying for about a month in each city. They decided to leave their home in Seattle because they love travelling, and to save money to pay off large student debts.

“Seattle has a very high cost of living,” Kaye says. “We had a large house with two other roommates – and we were still paying $2,400 (£1,690) a month including utilities. Here [in Mexico] we never pay more than $1,200 all inclusive, and often less.”

They realised during the pandemic that they could keep in touch with their grown kids remotely “and feel close even when we aren’t physically close”.

Melton left his sales job and the couple now run an accounting business remotely together that Kaye has set up. “We work all day and go on adventures all weekend,” she says.

Kaye reckons the couple save 70% by living on the road, and wants to be debt free within five years – and buy a property somewhere eventually.

Colantuono and others are aware of the environmental impact of their jetsetter lifestyle, and want to settle down eventually. Several people, writing on a Facebook digital nomads forum with 15,500 members, say age is not a barrier but stress the importance of being fit and healthy; and one says a drawback of this lifestyle might be a sense of rootlessness.

There do not appear to be many digital nomad families with children; traditionally, only a few families – who usually home-school – have travelled the globe. Erin Elizabeth Wells, a 41-year-old productivity consultant from Massachusetts, started travelling around the US with her husband and daughter Eleanor, who is nearly four now, in October 2018, and says they are a “world schooling family”.

Travelling with family means they travel slowly, but that means they make friends everywhere they visit, she adds. They are living in Airbnbs or other full-furnished rentals and “plan to continue indefinitely until there’s some reason our family needs something else”.

Erin Elizabeth Wells with her husband, and daughter Eleanor.
Erin Elizabeth Wells with her husband, and daughter Eleanor. Photograph: Family

As parts of the world gradually reopen after Covid restrictions, growing numbers of people are enjoying new flexibility to work from anywhere. Last year, nearly one in five Airbnb guests used the site to travel and work remotely; and this year 74% of people across its five-country survey have expressed an interest in living somewhere other than where their employer is based. Brian Chesky, the Airbnb chief executive, said: “The boundaries between travel, life and work are blurring.”

Cerra says: “For a long time, this kind of lifestyle was considered really, really out there, quite off the beaten track. What we’re seeing is that everything is trending towards this being a bit more normal now, more accepted.”

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Apple’s new lockdown mode to protect from spyware such as Pegasus

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Coming to devices this autumn, the new lockdown mode aims to make Apple devices ultra-secure at the expense of functionality.

Apple has developed a new ‘lockdown mode’ for its devices to give extra security to users who are more susceptible to targeted spyware cyberattacks.

Individuals such as journalists, lawyers, government officials and human rights activists have been reportedly targeted by authoritarian governments and criminals using spyware such Pegasus by Israel’s NSO Group or, more recently, Italian spyware Hermit.

The new lockdown mode will be made available on the iPhone, iPad and Mac devices later this year, when Apple – known to make some of the most secure devices and software in the market – is expected to release a suite of software updates.

Apple describes lockdown mode as “an extreme, optional protection for the very small number of users who face grave, targeted threats to their digital security”. Turning it on secures the device’s defences, but comes at the cost of functionality.

Once turned on, lockdown mode blocks most message attachment types other than images and disables features such as link previews. Web browsing technologies such as just-in-time JavaScript compilation are disabled except for sites trusted by the user.

Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are also blocked if the user has not previously interacted with the person initiating the call or request. Wired connections with a computer or accessory are also blocked when the iPhone is locked.

Lockdown mode is not compatible with the kinds of device management software often used by larger organisations.

“Lockdown mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture.

Krstić noted that the “vast majority of users” will never be victims of highly targeted cyberattacks. But for the ones who may be at risk, Apple will work “tirelessly” to protect them.

“That includes continuing to design defences specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organisations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”

Last November, Apple sued the NSO Group behind Pegasus spyware in a bid to “hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users”, two months after it had to issue an urgent security patch for a Pegasus backdoor on all devices.

NSO Group develops surveillance technology that can be used to track targeted iOS and Android users. It claims its products are only used by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent and investigate serious crime and terror incidents.

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Bridie Connell: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

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Ah, the internet. My reliable friend. I turn to it when I need to smile (cute pet videos), when I need to cry (war veterans being reunited with their kids), and when I need to destroy what’s left of my self-esteem (Instagram). There are plenty of arguments about why life would be better without it, and honestly? It probably would be. But it also wouldn’t be as funny. Here’s a bunch of things from the world wide web that never fail to make me laugh.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than people trying to make the world a better place. Particularly when they make the world better in a way they’d never intended. I can just imagine the conversations that took place in the drafting process for this campaign:

“We need a catchy and educational campaign to tackle the horrors of addiction.”

“Yes, one that shows we’re in this together, as a community.”

“One that doesn’t stereotype addicts.”

“I’ve got it!”

The result is what I believe they call a “swing and a miss.” A+ for effort, though.

If there was an award for best award acceptance speech, this would win. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is brilliantly funny (while accepting an award for being brilliantly funny) and she remains my hero.

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Here’s one for my fellow theatre kids. This pitch perfect sketch is from comedian and writer Jacob Kaplan. Does it make me laugh? Yes. Does it make me tense every single muscle in my body and hold my breath while I try not to think about the time that 14-year-old Bridie wrote a play about the dangers of DRINK-DRIVING and also DRUGS, which inexplicably culminated in a peppy dance routine? … No comment.

Amber Ruffin is one of the most versatile and talented comedians around. I love a lot of what she does, but this song is a special favourite. Hilarious, a little creepy and downright catchy: a winning combo!

This sketch from the late 1990s sketch group Big Train still delights me. Short, sharp, silly. Please and thank you!

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Adrian Bliss, Certified Internet Star™, is a go-to for inventive sketches (and a seemingly endless supply of costumes). Many of his skits feature historical characters, like this one about a Greek soldier inside the Trojan horse. That layer of awkwardness that the Brits do well drives this skit, and now that I’ve seen it I can only hear The Aeneid being read in Bliss’s voice: “I sing of arms and a man, innit.”

Now this, THIS is some relatable content. Don’t pretend you’ve never tied one on and woken up on a golf course/boat/gold lame suit, because I won’t believe you. Perfectly encapsulating the delight of a great night-turned great story, I give you this hungover Scotsman who woke up in the wrong house. Of course, it’s made all the better by the Glaswegian accent.

*Assumes elderly wizard voice* I have been studying and performing improv since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, so the Whose Line crew are some of my longtime heroes. This game is one of my faves, not just because it’s so funny and clever, but because the “mistake” that happens around the 2:20 mark encapsulates the joy and collaboration that good improv is all about. Oh dear, this got more earnest than I intended. Just watch it!

A masterclass in physical comedy, from one of the greats.

Last but not least, here’s a video to save for a day where you need a bit of a pick-me-up. This is my favourite of all “laughing baby” videos, a classic in a crowded genre. And sure, if we’re measuring “funny” by incisive satirical commentary or well crafted punchlines, then this is a fail – but no other video fires up my mirror neurons and makes me laugh as much as this one.

Seriously, if you watch this and don’t feel at least a little bit better, then call a cardiologist because you have NO HEART.



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North Korean ransomware dubbed Maui active since May 2021 • The Register

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For the past year, state-sponsored hackers operating on behalf of North Korea have been using ransomware called Maui to attack healthcare organizations, US cybersecurity authorities said on Wednesday.

Uncle Sam’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI, and the Treasury Department issued a joint advisory outlining a Pyongyang-orchestrated ransomware campaign that has been underway at least since May, 2021.

The initial access vector – the way these threat actors break into organizations – is not known. Even so, the FBI says it has worked with multiple organizations in the healthcare and public health (HPH) sector infected by Maui ransomware.

“North Korean state-sponsored cyber actors used Maui ransomware in these incidents to encrypt servers responsible for healthcare services – including electronic health records services, diagnostics services, imaging services, and intranet services,” the joint security advisory [PDF] reads. “In some cases, these incidents disrupted the services provided by the targeted HPH Sector organizations for prolonged periods.”

The Feds assume the reason HPH sector organizations have been targeted is that they will pay ransoms rather than risk being locked out of systems, being denied data, or having critical services interrupted.

Maui, according to Silas Cutler, principal reverse engineer at security outfit Stairwell, is one of the lesser known families of ransomware. He says it stands out for its lack of service-oriented tooling, such as an embedded ransom note with recovery instructions. That leads him to believe Maui is operated manually by individuals who specify which files should be encrypted and exfiltrated.

The advisory, based on Stairwell’s research [PDF], indicates that the Maui ransomware is an encryption binary that a remote operator manually executes through command line interaction. The ransomware deploys AES, RSA, and XOR encryption to lock up target files. Thereafter, the victim can expect a ransom payment demand.

According to SonicWall, there were 304.7 million ransomware attacks in 2021, an increase of 151 percent. In healthcare, the percentage increase was 594 percent.

CrowdStrike, another security firm, in its 2022 Global Threat Report said North Korea has shifted its focus to cryptocurrency entities “in an effort to maintain illicit revenue generation during economic disruptions caused by the pandemic.” For example, consider the recent theft of $100 million of cryptocurrency assets from Harmony by the North Korea-based cybercrime group Lazarus. But organizations that typically transact with fiat currencies aren’t off the hook.

Sophos, yet another security firm, said in its State of Ransomware Report 2022 that the average ransom payment last year was $812,360, a 4.8X increase from the 2020 when the average payment was $170,000. The company also said more victims are paying ransoms: 11 percent in 2021 compared to 4 percent in 2020.

The advisory discourages the payment of ransoms. Nonetheless, the FBI is asking any affected organization to share information related to ransomware attacks, such as communication with foreign IP addresses, Bitcoin wallet details, and file samples. The advisory goes on to suggest ways to mitigate ransomware attacks and minimize damage.

Last month, the US Justice Department outlined its Strategic Plan for the next four years and cited enhancing cybersecurity and fighting cybercrime among its objectives. One of its key metrics for success will be the “percent of reported ransomware incidents from which cases are opened, added to existing cases, or resolved or investigative actions are conducted within 72 hours.” ®

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