New ransomware: BadRabbit

On Tuesday, reports surfaced that a new kind of malware was spreading around Europe. The apparent ransomware which researchers are calling Bad Rabbit bubbled up in Russia and Ukraine and appears to also be affecting Turkey and Germany, though spread isn’t fully known at this time.


Initial targets include Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Kiev’s public transportation system. The Russian news service Interfax also issued an official update stating that it had been hacked and that it was working to restore its systems. Kaspersky reports that Russian news group Fontanka.ru was also affected and focuses on the trend of targeted media outlets in its initial analysis. So far, Kaspersky and ESET have both noticed ties to the malware known as NotPetya or ExPetr.

“Our researchers have detected a number of compromised websites, all news or media sites,” the Russian security company, now embroiled in controversy, writes on its blog. “Based on our investigation, this is a targeted attack against corporate networks, using methods similar to those used in the ExPetr attack. However, we cannot confirm it is related to ExPetr.”

Unlike other recent malware epidemics which spread through more passive means, Bad Rabbit requires a potential victim to download and execute a bogus Adobe Flash installer file, thereby infecting themselves. Security researchers have come up with an early “vaccine” against the malware, which should inoculate systems from becoming infected.

Whoever created Bad Rabbit appears to be a Game of Thrones fan, as the malware makes reference to Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons and Grey Worm, a beloved character who is definitely not the skin disease known as greyscale.

Computers infected with the malware direct the user to a .onion Tor domain where they are asked to pay .05 Bitcoin or roughly $276 USD in exchange for their data. A countdown on the site shows the amount of time before the ransom price goes up. While this year has seen some instances of destructive malware disguised as ransomware, it’s not yet totally clear if Bad Rabbit actually collects a ransom and decrypts the goods in all cases, though one researcher had some luck in testing.

As always, anyone infected is discouraged from paying the ransom. For one, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the data back but importantly, refusing to pay the ransom discourages future ransomware attacks.

Bad Rabbit joins NotPetya and WannaCry, 2017’s two other major ransomware-style malware outbreaks.

Intel announces Core X processor lineup

The battle for the title of the most powerful PC processor in the world has just become even bloodier.

Intel has announced its first 18-core processor at Computex in Taipei, officially named i9-7980XE

The 7980XE, which will cost from $1,999, represents the very top of Intel’s high-end offerings, marking the eighth generation of its Core processor chips.

This is a processor built for the most demanding of desktop users, with Intel saying that many different industries will find things to love about the new chip, particularly those carrying out CPU heavy tasks such as video editing or coding.

Besides this model, Intel has also announced 10, 12, 14 and 16-core i9 processors, all in the 3.3Ghz range in standard and 4.5GHz range in Turbo Boost 3.0 operation modes.

Slightly less demanding users will be able to find comfort in 4-core i5 processors, as well as 4-core, 6-core and 8-core i7 models from Intel’s new X series of processors.

All of these are expected to hit the shelves in the next half of this year.

Intel Launches Core War With Unveiling Of Core i9 Extreme

Earlier this week at Computex, Intel announced the new Intel Core i9 Extreme processor. “Extreme” seems like an accurate descriptor for a CPU with 18 cores, capable of executing 36 simultaneous threads. I feel like Intel missed an opportunity to have had Tim Allen reprise his Tim “The Toolman” Taylor role from the sitcom Home Improvement, grunting like a gorilla and calling for “more power”. One thing is for sure—the gloves are off between Intel and AMD.

Don’t expect to find the new Core i9 Extreme in any run-of-the-mill PCs. This beast is specifically intended for hardcore enthusiasts. At just under $2,000, the Core i9 Extreme costs more than most people spend on their entire computer. Intel will also offer a 16-core / 32-thread Core i9 for $1,700 and a 10-core / 20-thread version for $999.

“Intel’s announcements at Computex, including its new 4 to 18-core X-series processor family, new x299 motherboard, new Compute Card for integrating third party devices and the 30 percent performance improvements it expects from its upcoming 8th gen “Cannon Lake” Core processors show why the company is such a formidable competitor,” proclaimed Charles King, principal analyst for Pund-IT.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, shared some thoughts on the new Intel processors. “This is interesting largely because this is what Otellini wanted to do was drive a core war. But Intel shifted sharply to mobile and cores largely got forgotten as did much of their PC effort. But PC sales started to come back, AMD focused back on PCs, and Intel was left scrambling. But, apparently, Intel is still really good at scrambling because they were able to get their own high core processor at least to announcement topping AMD’s 16 Threadripper with an 18 Core, Teraflop i9. I think AMD has a better brand for gaming as Teraflop sounds very corporate but that could allow it to play better for workstations.”

Enderle points out that most of the horsepower of a massive multi-core processor will go unused with today’s software. Few programs are designed to effectively use 5 cores, let alone 16 or 18. Outside of high-end photo or video editing apps, or possibly some engineering / CAD applications, the power of the cores will mostly remain untapped.

Enderle notes that AMD has been aggressively positioning itself in this segment, and Intel seemed to be caught flat-footed, but recovered quickly with a formidable response.

“It isn’t just a matter of Intel developing compelling new products or leveraging its considerable manufacturing muscle so much as it is the company’s ability to craft and deliver multi-dimensional solutions,” explains King. “That places more limited competitors, like AMD, at a distinct disadvantage, especially when Intel uses a high-visibility event like Computex to announce its new solutions’ pricing schema. That is likely to put the squeeze on AMD both in terms of its ability to effectively compete and to reap sustainable margins from its new Ryzen Threadripper silicon.”

Enderle summed up, “It should be noted that AMD should actually get to market first and that by the time the Intel i9 arrives they too could have more cores you likely yet need, but whatever else happens, the core war is on!”

Why AMD’s Radeon graphics cards are almost impossible to buy right now

It’s impossible to buy anything but the most entry level Radeon graphics cards right now.

That’s expected at the high-end, as AMD’s enthusiast-focused Radeon RX Vega graphics cards won’t launch until the very end of July. But even “sweet spot” mainstream graphics cards like the superb Radeon RX 570 and RX 580 can’t be found right now, with all models either out of stock or selling for wildly inflated prices online. You’ll find a couple of PowerColor RX 580s ostensibly selling at standard cost on Amazon, but if you look closely you’ll see the models are out of stock. Amazon’s selling first dibs on inevitable restocks. You probably shouldn’t expect to see the cards in your hands any time soon.

So what’s going on? Computer Base asked hardware vendors about the shortage at Computex 2017 and the answer can be summed up in a single word: Miners.

Cryptocurrency users can use graphics cards to “mine” new coins and generate a profit, and AMD’s graphics cards happen to be particularly well-suited for the task. This isn’t new: Bitcoin and Litecoin miners gobbled up every Radeon graphics card they could get at the end of 2013, creating a global shortage and inflated pricing. As cryptocurrency matured, however, ASIC hardware dedicated specifically to mining surpassed the efficiency of consumer graphics cards, easing the pressure.

Then came Ethereum, a cryptocurrency that can be mined like Bitcoin.

The Ethereum network was built to be resistant to ASIC hardware, making mining Ether with graphics cards viable. Ethereum’s enjoying a Bitcoin-esque bubble of mammoth proportions right now, with the price of Ethereum skyrocketing from under $19 at the beginning of March to roughly $220 today. That’s the perfect recipe for making Radeon cards disappear.

Budget graphics cards aren’t as good for mining, so the Radeon RX 550 ($80 on Amazon) and RX 560 ($110 on Amazon) are still available at standard prices. That modest hardware simply can’t deliver top-notch 1080p gaming experiences like the RX 570 and RX 580 can, however. While the RX 570 and RX 580 juuuust edge out Nvidia’s similarly priced offerings in PCWorld’s guide to the best graphics cards for PC gaming, they’re damned close. The 3GB GeForce GTX 1060 ($190 on Amazon) and 6GB GTX 1060 ($240 on Amazon) match up very competitively with AMD’s offerings. Nvidia’s graphics cards aren’t selling for crazy sums, either—at least for now.

If you’re in the market for a new $200-ish graphics card, the RX 570 and 580 still earn our top recommendation, on the off chance you can find one at an affordable cost. But if you can’t, and you can’t wait for Radeon prices to plunge back to earth (because who knows when that will be?), Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 cards won’t let you down. They’re damned fine hardware too. Fingers crossed these dark times end soon, though.