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DuckDuckGo surpasses 100 million daily search queries for the first time


DuckDuckGo

Image: DuckDuckGo

Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo reached a major milestone in its 12-year-old history this week when it recorded on Monday its first-ever day with more than 100 million user search queries.

The achievement comes after a period of sustained growth the company has been seeing for the past two years, and especially since August 2020, when the search engine began seeing more than 2 billion search queries a month on a regular basis.

DuckDuckGo’s popularity comes after the search engine has expanded beyond its own site and now currently offers mobile apps for Android and iOS, but also a dedicated Chrome extension.

More than 4 million users installed these apps and extension, the company said in a tweet in September 2020.

But the search engine’s rising popularity is also due to its stated goal of not collecting user data and providing the same search results to all users.

As it highlighted last year, this lack of granular data sometimes makes it hard for the company to even estimate the size of its own userbase.

But this dedication to privacy has also helped the company gain a following among the privacy-conscious crowd. DuckDuckGo has been selected as the default search engine in the Tor Browser and is often the default search engine in the private browsing modes of several other browsers.

Historic week for privacy apps

DuckDuckGo’s historical milestone comes in a week when both Signal and Telegram, two other privacy-centric apps, also announced major periods of growth.

Telegram announced on Monday that it reached 500 million registered users, while Signal’s servers went down on Friday after seeing “millions upon millions of new users” in a sudden influx the company said exceeded even its most optimistic projections.

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Ryuk Ransomware Profits: $150 Million


Cybercrime
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Fraud Management & Cybercrime
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Ransomware

Researchers Track Funds in 61 Crypto Wallets

Ryuk Ransomware Profits: $150 Million

Researchers say cryptocurrency wallets used by the operators behind the Ryuk ransomware strain and the gang’s affiliates hold more than $150 million.

See Also: Top 50 Security Threats

Brian Carter, principal researcher at security firm HYAS, and Vitali Kremez, CEO of Advanced Intelligence, report that they have identified 61 bitcoin addresses that the Ryuk cybercriminal gang and its affiliates use to receive ransomware payments from victims.

Two of the bitcoin exchanges the group uses for transferring funds are Asia-based Huobi and Binance, the researchers say in a new report. The group also uses lesser-known exchanges.

Shadow Network

A January 2020 report by blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis found that the Huobi and Binance cryptocurrency exchanges are part of a shadow network that helps convert illegally gotten bitcoins and other virtual currencies into cash. These two exchanges also appear to circumvent anti-money laundering and “know your customer” rules (see: How Cybercriminals Are Converting Cryptocurrency to Cash).

“Ryuk receives a significant amount of their ransom payments from a well-known broker that makes payments on behalf of the ransomware victims,” the research report, released Thursday, notes. “These payments sometimes amount to millions of dollars and typically run in the hundreds of thousands range. After tracing bitcoin transactions for the known addresses attributable to Ryuk, the authors estimate that the criminal enterprise may be worth more than $150,000,000.”


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U.S. coronavirus cases eclipse 20 million


Daily cases averaged more than 178,000 and daily deaths 2,280 over the past week despite holiday data disruptions, according to the COVID Tracking Project. More than 125,000 people are hospitalized with the disease.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Friday said that the federal government must step up its vaccination planning and administration efforts. The effort to date “is woefully behind,” he said, calling on the Trump administration to add vaccination sites at schools across the country. So far the federal government is leaning on retail pharmacies and hospitals to administer the bulk of Covid-19 shots.

“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” Romney said.

As of Dec. 30, states had received 12.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. But only 2.8 million people have gotten the first of a series of two shots of either vaccine, according to CDC data.

While the data is likely lagging behind actual numbers of vaccinations, federal officials have acknowledged the country failed to accomplish the Trump administration’s year-end goal of getting 20 million shots into arms.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer, has repeatedly called on the government to rapidly deploy all available doses of Covid-19 vaccines instead of holding back half to ensure second doses are available for those who received an initial dose.

Earlier this week, a new Covid-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom that appears more transmissible — but not more deadly — was discovered in California, Colorado and Florida.

“I think we need a sense of urgency about this,” Gottlieb told CNBC’s Closing Bell Thursday. “And the new variant I think adds to that risk. Because if we don’t get control of this epidemic wave more quickly — and the vaccine is a tool to do that — it creates more opportunity for this new variant to start spreading more widely.”

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Rakuten exposes 1.48 million sets of data to access from outside


Japanese online shopping mall operator Rakuten Inc. said Friday that a computer security problem at the group exposed 1,486,291 sets of personal and corporate information to access from the outside.

Of the affected data, managed by Rakuten, credit card subsidiary Rakuten Card Co. and e-money business Rakuten Edy Inc., at least 614 sets were accessed from abroad.

The incident pccurred because the Rakuten group failed to notice or deal with a change in the security settings of an external sales management system the group uses.

The change, which occurred as part of a system update Jan. 15, 2016, left the data accessible from the outside. The group recognized the security hole Nov. 24 this year after being warned by an external expert.

The group completed a necessary setting change by Nov. 26. Since then, no access by a third party has been confirmed, Rakuten said.

At Rakuten Card, the exposed information included the names of corporate representatives and sole proprietors who applied for business loans, amounts of outstanding loans, use of borrowed funds and data from the drivers’ licenses of guarantors.

Among other affected information were data on companies and employees that requested documents to open stores at the Rakuten cybermall and the names and telephone numbers of individuals who asked for transfers of Edy e-money when their smartphones failed.

Rakuten apologized for causing concern and problems to customers and promised to compensate for any damage stemming from misuse of exposed personal information.

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