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DOJ takes down global ransomware group

The Department of Justice disrupted a global ransomware gang, known as Hive, for allegedly extorting more than $100 million in ransom payments from more than 1,500 victims around the world.  

Meanwhile, BuzzFeed said this week that it plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to create content.  

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines Kagubare

DOJ dismantles ransomware gang

The Department of Justice announced on Thursday that it dismantled an international ransomware group responsible for extorting more than $100 million in payments from organizations based in the U.S. and around the world. 

The ransomware group, known as Hive, has targeted more than 1,500 victims around the world since its operation began in June 2021, the department said. 

At a press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the group has targeted critical sectors including hospitals and schools. 

He noted a 2021 incident where Hive hackers deployed ransomware on computers of a hospital based in the Midwest.  

  • “At a time when COVID-19 was surging in communities around the world, the Hive ransomware attack prevented the hospital from accepting any new patients,” Garland said. 
  • “The hospital was forced to rely on paper copies of patient information [and] was only able to recover its data after it paid a ransom,” he added. 

Read more here

BuzzFeed to use AI for content creation

News, quiz and games website BuzzFeed plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) in the coming months to create content, the company’s top executive said this week. 

In a memo sent to staff, BuzzFeed Chief Executive Jonah Peretti said the company will be aiming to “lead the future of AI-powered content” and “maximize the creativity of our writers, producers, and creators and our business.” 

“If the past 15 years of the internet have been defined by algorithmic feeds that curate and recommend content, the next 15 years will be defined by AI and data helping create, personalize, and animate the content itself,” Peretti said in the memo, which was reviewed by The Hill on Thursday.

“Our industry will expand beyond AI-powered curation (feeds), to AI-powered creation (content). AI opens up a new era of creativity, where creative humans like us play a key role providing the ideas, cultural currency, inspired prompts, IP, and formats that come to life using the newest technologies.” 

Read more here.

Breaking down the DOJ’s latest Google lawsuiT

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed its second lawsuit against Google this week, highlighting the ongoing bipartisan angst from regulators and lawmakers against tech giants. 

The Biden administration’s case, joined by a handful of states, seeks to break up Google to untangle what the antitrust enforcers say is an anticompetitive dominance in the digital ad market. 

Google denied the allegations and argued they’re similar to ones made in a separate Texas-led case. The government faces a tough road ahead in its challenge. But it adds to the growing courtroom battles facing Google and illustrates how federal and state antitrust enforcers are plowing ahead with plans to crack down on tech giants’ dominance. 

Read more here about what to know about the lawsuit

Google lays off massage therapists

More than two dozen in-house massage therapists were part of the latest round of layoffs that happened at Google last week.  

According to filings reported by CNBC on Tuesday, 27 in-house massage therapists were among the 1,845 employees to lose their jobs with the company in the state of California. 

Twenty-four of the massage therapists who lost their jobs had been based at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., while three more massage therapists employed by the company and based at the Los Angeles and Irvine, Calif. campuses were also let go. 

Google is one of several tech companies that have laid off thousands of employees in recent weeks. 

Read more here

Bits & pieces

An op-ed to chew on: US can’t afford to dawdle on investing in space-based solar power 

Notable links from around the web:  

TikTok’s New Defense in Washington: Going on the Offense (The New York Times / Cecilia Kang, Sapna Maheshwari and David McCabe) 

What Facebook and Trump have in common (The Washington Post / Will Oremus) 

Jobless claims down despite tech layoffs 

New first-time applications for jobless benefits fell last week, even as major technology and media companies announced thousands of layoffs, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. 

In the week ending Jan. 21, initial claims for unemployment insurance totaled 186,000 after seasonal adjustments, down 6,000 from the previous week’s total of 190,000. Roughly 197,500 Americans filed to begin new cycles of jobless benefits each week over the past month, still well below pre-pandemic averages. 

New weekly jobless claims are not necessarily a perfect reflection of layoffs, as some Americans who have lost their jobs may not have applied yet for unemployment benefits. The thousands of layoffs announced by companies such as Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon are also relatively small in proportion to the natural churn of millions of layoffs and new hirings each year. 

Read more here.  

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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