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Instagram expands its TikTok clone ‘Reels’ to new markets – TechCrunch

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Instagram is expanding its TikTok competitor known as “Reels” to new markets, following its launch last year in Brazil. Starting today, Instagram is rolling out further access to Reels in France and Germany, allowing users to record short, 15-second video clips set to music or other audio, then share them on the platform where they have the potential to go viral.

The Reels feature is similar to TikTok in that it presents a set of editing tools that make it easier to film creative videos. At launch, for example, Reels offered a countdown timer, the ability to adjust the video’s speed, and other effects.

The company learned from its early tests in Brazil and has since rethought key aspects to the Reels experience.

Before, Reels were meant to be shared only within Instagram Stories. But the Instagram community said they wanted the ability to share Reels with followers and friends in a more permanent way, and also have the opportunity to expand that distribution more broadly if desired.

In addition, the community said they wanted a dedicated space where they could easily compile Reels and watch other people’s Reels.

With the expansion in Germany and France, Instagram has moved Reels to a dedicated space on the user Profile and in Explore — the latter for public accounts — so people can share with a new audience and share on their Instagram Feed, a company spokesperson tells TechCrunch.

These changes offer the chance for more exposure for both Reels and their creators, as Reels becomes more of a destination in the app — like the Stories row is today, for instance.

Reels are not Facebook’s first attempt at challenging TikTok’s growing popularity.

The Instagram parent company had previously launched short-form video app Lasso, but it has so far failed to gain significant traction. With Reels, however, Instagram is able to tap into its existing base of creators and leverage users’ familiarity with its video editing tools.

The challenge for Reels is in getting Instagram users to create a different type of content than they do today in Feed posts and in Stories. Those video tend to be more personal in nature — like clips from someone’s day or a vlog, for example. Meanwhile, more professional creator content has been relocated to IGTV.

TikTok videos, on the other hand, tend to be rehearsed and choreographed. Users learn a dance, perform a trick, make jokes, lip-sync to songs or audio, or replicate a popular meme in their own way. These videos are not typically off-the-cuff, as on Instagram. Encouraging this content requires a different editing tool set and workflow, which is what Reels offers.

Instagram didn’t say when it plans to roll out Reels globally or when it expects to bring the product to the U.S., but says the further expansion will allow the company to continue to build on the existing experience and evolve the product.

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US government says North Korean hackers are targeting American healthcare organizations with ransomware – TechCrunch

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The FBI, CISA, and the U.S. Treasury Department are warning that North Korean state-sponsored hackers are using ransomware to target healthcare and public health sector organizations across the United States.

In a joint advisory published Wednesday, the U.S. government agencies said they had observed North Korean-backed hackers deploying Maui ransomware since at least May 2021 to encrypt servers responsible for healthcare services, including electronic health records, medical imaging, and entire intranets.

“The FBI assesses North Korean state-sponsored cyber actors have deployed Maui ransomware against Healthcare and Public Health Sector organizations,” the advisory reads. “The North Korean state-sponsored cyber actors likely assume healthcare organizations are willing to pay ransoms because these organizations provide services that are critical to human life and health. Because of this assumption, the FBI, CISA, and Treasury assess North Korean state-sponsored actors are likely to continue targeting [healthcare] organizations.”

The advisory notes that in many of the incidents observed and responded to by the FBI, the Maui ransomware caused disruption to healthcare services “for prolonged periods.”

Maui was first identified by Stairwell, a threat-hunting startup that aims to help organizations determine if they have been compromised, in early-April 2022. In an analysis of the ransomware, Stairwell principal reverse engineer Silas Cutler notes that Maui lacks many of the features commonly seen with tooling from ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) providers, such as an embedded ransom note or automated means of transmitting encryption keys to attackers. Rather, Stairwell concludes that Maui is likely manually deployed across victims’ networks, with remote operators targeting specific files they want to encrypt.

North Korea has long used cryptocurrency-stealing operations to fund its nuclear weapons program. In an email, John Hultquist, vice president of Mandiant Intelligence, said that as a result “ransomware is a no-brainer” for the North Korean regime.

“Ransomware attacks against healthcare are an interesting development, in light of the focus these actors have made on this sector since the emergence of COVID-19. It is not unusual for an actor to monetize access which may have been initially garnered as part of a cyber espionage campaign,” said Hultquist. “We have noted recently that North Korean actors have shifted focus away from healthcare targets to other traditional diplomatic and military organizations. Unfortunately, healthcare organizations are also extraordinarily vulnerable to extortion of this type because of the serious consequences of a disruption,” he added.

The advisory, which also includes indicators of compromise (IOCs) and information on tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) employed in these attacks to help network defenders, urges organizations in the healthcare industries to strengthen their defenses by limiting access to data, turning off network device management interfaces, and by using monitoring tools to observe whether Internet of Things devices have become compromised.

“The FBI, along with our federal partners, remains vigilant in the fight against North Korea’s malicious cyber threats to our healthcare sector,” said FBI Cyber Division assistant director Bryan Vorndran. “We are committed to sharing information and mitigation tactics with our private sector partners to assist them in shoring up their defenses and protecting their systems.”

The U.S. government’s latest warning follows a spate of high-profile cyberattacks targeting healthcare organizations; University Medical Center Southern Nevada was hit by a ransomware attack in August 2021 that compromised files containing protected health information and personally identifiable information, and Eskenazi Health said in October that cybercriminals had access to their network for almost three months. Last month, Kaiser Permanente confirmed a breach of an employee’s email account led to the theft of 70,000 patient records.

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Hotel giant Marriott confirms yet another data breach – TechCrunch

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Hotel group Marriott International has confirmed another data breach, with hackers claiming to have stolen 20 gigabytes of sensitive data including guests’ credit card information.

The incident, first reported by Databreaches.net Tuesday, is said to have happened in June when an unnamed hacking group claimed they used social engineering to trick an employee at a Marriott hotel Maryland into giving them access to their computer.

“Marriott International is aware of a threat actor who used social engineering to trick one associate at a single Marriott hotel into providing access to the associate’s computer,” Marriott spokesperson Melissa Froehlich Flood told TechCrunch in a statement. “The threat actor did not gain access to Marriott’s core network.”

Marriott said the hotel chain identified, and was investigating, the incident before the threat actor contacted the company in an extortion attempt, which Marriott said it did not pay.

The group claiming responsibility for the attack say the stolen data includes guests’ credit card information and confidential information about both guests and employees. Samples of the data provided to Databreaches.net purport to show reservation logs for airline crew members from January 2022 and names and other details of guests, as well as credit card information used to make bookings.

However, Marriott told TechCrunch that its investigation determined that the data accessed “primarily contained non-sensitive internal business files regarding the operation of the property.”

The company said that it is preparing to notify 300-400 individuals regarding the incident, and has already notified relevant law enforcement agencies.

This isn’t the first time Marriott has suffered a significant data breach. Hackers breached the hotel chain in 2014 to access almost 340 million guest records worldwide – an incident that went undetected until September 2018 and led to a £14.4 million ($24M) fine from the U.K’s Information Commissioner’s Office. In January 2020, Marriott was hacked again in a separate incident that affected around 5.2 million guests.

TechCrunch asked Marriott what cybersecurity protections it has in place to prevent such incidents from happening, but the company declined to answer.

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Rivian says it’s on track to deliver 25,000 vehicles this year – TechCrunch

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Rivian said Wednesday the company produced 4,401 vehicles at its manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois, and delivered 4,467 vehicles for the quarter ended June 30.

“These figures remain in line with the company’s expectations, and it believes it is on track to deliver on the 25,000 annual production guidance previously provided,” Rivian said in a statement.

In the first quarter of 2022, Rivian produced 2,553 vehicles and delivered 1,227 vehicles.

The production figures include a mix of the Rivian R1T pickup truck, R1S SUV and the commercial vans it is making for Amazon.

Developing...

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