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We’re seeing 800% increase in cyberattacks, says MSP • The Register

Revenge and inflation are key drivers behind an 800 percent increase in cyberattacks seen by a managed services provider since the days before the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, according to the company’s top executive.

The attacks are coming not only from groups inside of Russia but also from within the region as well from Russia allies like North Korea and Iran, historically sources of global cyber-threats, Emil Sayegh, president and CEO of Ntirety, an MSP that focuses on security, told The Register.

The US-headquartered biz, which was formed in 2019 after the merger of web hosting companies Hostway and Hosting.com, serves about 2,400 companies around the world, most of them small businesses and midsize enterprises and most in North America. Sayegh said Ntirety has seen the spike in cyberattacks throughout its customer base.

Sayegh attributes the sharp rise to pro-Russian cybercriminal groups linked to nation states lashing out at countries – first Ukraine and then Western countries – angry at the sanctions being leveled against Russia. At the same time, the sharp inflation that is spreading around the world is also hitting hackers, who need to make money to keep up with rising costs.

“It’s retaliation,” he said. “We know that [ransomware groups] Conti and REvil are associated with [Russian] intelligence agencies, so it is retaliation for Western countries backing Ukraine. However, the second piece this is … that even cybercriminals suffer from inflation pressures, so they have to make money. At the end of the day, this is their job. Just like you and I show up every day and do our jobs, this is their job and that’s essentially what’s going on there.”

The sanctions are putting more pressure not only on them, but threat actors throughout the region.

“That’s not now restricted just to Russia, where there’s impact of the sanctions, but they’re also impacting other countries that source their food from the Ukraine and Russia and source materials from Ukraine and Russia,” Sayegh said. “There’s incredible hyper-inflation, so we’re starting to see threats coming from there as a money-making scheme and as an extension of REvil- and Conti-type activities in those countries.”

The CEO has seen the evolution of cybercrime over more than a decade, in both the hosting space – he also was CEO of Codero Hosting – as well as the cloud, with both Hewlett Packard Enterprise and before that, with Rackspace, where he led the cloud business and began to understand the depths of the dark web at a time when the threat primarily came from hacker in their basements.

“They were not organized criminals and you would see them and there was maybe a network of individuals, but it was more into illicit, nefarious activities, some things like child porn or potentially online gambling,” he said. “I’ve been talking about this for 15 years, literally since 2006. … Most people that in my social circles and even my professional circles don’t understand how dark that that layer of hackers is and what they do.”

Now most threats are coming from highly sophisticated criminal groups, some associated with nation-states and their intelligence agencies. With Russia’s attack raging in Ukraine, many group are taking sides. That trend spilled out into the open when an anonymous source – thought by some to be a Ukrainian member of Conti angered over the group’s support of Russia – leaked a trove of information about the group that included everything from messages and chats to organizational data, all of which have been pored over and analyzed by threat intelligence groups.

Groups choosing sides also has fueled the revenge angle of some of the recent attacks that mostly have been aimed at Ukraine but have started spill over to other countries, Sayegh said. The threat actors are using a broad array of attack avenues, including phishing, man-in-the-middle and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and at times are using them in combinations.

The big money-making scheme is ransomware and some groups are putting a nasty twist on it. Typically, if a business pays a ransom, they are able to get their data returned unencrypted. For the bad actors, making good on their promises so means that their chances of getting paid for other attacks grow – they gain a reputation for making the ransom worth the cost – and they also can return to these victims with future attacks, given that they’ve paid before.

However, what Sayegh is seeing is that in some cases, the attackers are erasing all the data before returning the empty files. Most of these incidents have occurred against financial institutions in Ukraine, but they probably won’t stay there.

“Right now, there’s a revenge thing,” he said. “There’s a ‘we’re going to stick it to them’ thing. That is what we all need to be worried about, because it’s like vandals. If they want to steal, that’s fine, but why do you want to cut up my wedding pictures and my kids’ baptism pictures? That’s what’s going on right now. There’s a revenge that’s personal. These people actually feel cornered.”

It’s also why it’s important for companies around the world to have a disaster recovery plan in place, the CEO said. The threat to them is that they could lose the money paying the ransom because their data is never recovered.

The threat actors also are coming after companies of all sizes and not only larger ones that have the means to pay high ransom demands or the critical infrastructure organizations that represent a way to attack the United States and other countries. SMBs represent easy prey for cybercriminals in need of fast money.

“It’s SaaS [software-as-a-service] companies that sell software to the healthcare industry, it is consumer goods like silverware and cookware,” he said. “You wouldn’t think that these types of companies are a target, but they are the soft underbelly of our economy. They’re going after them for whatever they can get – a half a million, a million, even a few thousand dollars. Then they go to the next one because they’re easy targets.”

There is some good news, Sayegh said, pointing to the extradition this week of a member of the Conti group from Poland to the United States. Like the leak of the Conti information, that could help investigators learn more about how the organization is built and operates. That said, he expects Conti and other groups adapt and change.

In addition, attacks are going to get more pointed and more expensive, putting pressure on companies to understand where they’re vulnerable, to protect their infrastructures and create a disaster recovery plan.

People also have to understand that what they’re seeing in the Russian invasion of Ukraine is what they’ll see in all conflicts going forward.

“This is a hybrid global war,” Sayegh said. “You have multiple countries that are being involved on the cyber-front. Perhaps not on the kinetic physical fronts, but they’re involved in the cyber war. … It’s just a very complicated geopolitical landscape from a from a kinetic standpoint [and] from a physical standpoint. But the global cyber war is already raging.” ®

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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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