What’s new in tech
Spying on babysitters gets harder
Facebook and Twitter are cracking down on an automated child-care rating system that analyzes potential babysitters’ social media feeds, said Drew Harwell in The Washington Post. The California startup Predictim offered ratings of whether babysitters are at risk of drug abuse, bullying, or having a “bad attitude”—using artificial intelligence to scour the candidates’ online histories. But systems such as Predictim’s “present their own dangers by making automated and possibly life-altering decisions virtually unchecked.” Facebook is conducting an investigation, while Twitter said it’s revoked the startup’s access to tools that help it search users’ accounts. Predictim chief Sal Parsa said the service is a vital tool for any parent who wants to detect abusive babysitters who “have mental illness or are just born evil.”
Hackers indicted in Atlanta attack
San Diego. Atlanta. Kansas Heart Hospital. Those are just a few of the 200 targets that fell “victim to SamSam, a pernicious strain of ransomware that has spent the past three years rampaging throughout the U.S.,” said Brian Barrett in Wired. The Justice Department indicted two Iranian men last week for allegedly perpetrating the attacks. The DOJ estimated the hackers collected $6 million in ransom and caused $30 million worth of damage. Using sophisticated technology, the men essentially shut down entire municipal, hospital, or business systems, then forced victims to pay in Bitcoin to get their data back. They don’t seem to have been working on behalf of Iran’s government. The U.S. has no extradition deal with Iran, so the hackers are unlikely to be jailed.
The fake tech support scam
You know those ominous-seeming warnings that pop up on your computer screen? ask Vindu Goel and Suhasini Raj in The New York Times. “Your computer has been infected with a virus. Call our toll-free number immediately for help.” Most people ignore them, but some do call the fake tech-support center—and 6 percent actually pay to “fix” a problem that never existed. They’re usually calling India, the “illicit backbone” of such fraud. Last week, law enforcement authorities, working with Microsoft, raided 16 such centers in New Delhi and arrested three dozen people. Last month, there were 10 similar raids. According to one study, some scammers can make upwards of $10 million in just two months. The scams are run by well-organized groups that share data and even use outsourced calling centers.