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Is 'Internet Addiction' Real?

May 18, 2017

When her youngest daughter, Naomi, was in middle school, Ellen watched the teen disappear behind a screen. Her once bubbly daughter went from hanging out with a few close friends after school to isolating herself in her room for hours at a time. (NPR has agreed to use only the pair's middle names, to protect the teen's medical privacy.)

"She started just lying there, not moving and just being on the phone," says Ellen. "I was at a loss about what to do."

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And let's begin with a new job for a former FBI director.

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The morning that the space shuttle Columbia was supposed to return home, Wayne Hale was at the landing site. At age 48, Hale was an up-and-coming manager with NASA. He'd just taken a job overseeing shuttle launches. But since this was a landing day, he didn't have much to do.

By latest counts, more than 200,000 computers in some 150 countries have been hit by a cyberattack using ransomware called WannaCry or WannaCrypt, which locked the data and demanded payment in bitcoin. The malware was stopped by a young U.K.

It seems the malicious software known as WannaCry — which was unleashed on hospitals, individuals and a host of others last week — originated as an NSA tool that exploited a flaw in older Windows software.

Now Microsoft is calling out the NSA for “stockpiling” exploits like this.

The WannaCry ransomware that attacked computers in 150 countries has lines of code that are identical to work by hackers known as the Lazarus Group, according to security experts. The Lazarus hackers have been linked to North Korea, raising suspicions that the nation could be responsible for the attack.

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Cops have a decent shot at catching run-of-the-mill online scammers — say, the guy selling a car that's just too good to be true on Craigslist. But catching ransomware attackers is generally much more difficult — unless they slip up.

Microsoft has had a whirlwind last few days. The company's Windows operating system was the target of a massive cyberattack that took down hundreds of thousands of computers across 150 countries. While it's too soon to say the worst is over — there could be another wave — the president of the company does have two big takeaways.

One takeaway is sexy and edgy. The other is boring, plain vanilla — but no less important to Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.

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A ransomware attack that began in Europe on Friday is lingering — and hitting new targets in Japan and China. The WannaCry software has locked thousands of computers in more than 150 countries. Users are confronted with a screen demanding a $300 payment to restore their files.

The cyberattack has hit more than 300,000 computers, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said at Monday's midday White House briefing. He added that the rate of infection has slowed over the weekend.

When the National Security Agency lost control of the software behind the WannaCry cyberattack, it was like "the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen," Microsoft President Brad Smith says, in a message about the malicious software that has created havoc on computer networks in more than 150 countries since Friday.

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The ransomware attack unleashed on Friday has affected more than 100,000 organizations in 150 countries, according to Europe's law enforcement agency Europol on Sunday.

The malware, which locks files and asks for payment to unlock them, hit businesses and institutions across the world, including shipper FedEx, train systems in Germany, a Spanish telecommunications company, universities in Asia, Russia's interior ministry and forced hospitals in Britain to turn away patients.

No one likes to take tests. Sitting down to take a standardized test on a beautiful Saturday morning would not, almost certainly, be categorized as a fun weekend activity. Yet, it's a requirement many of us face at one point in life. So we sharpen our No. 2 pencils and get to work.

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Updated Sat. May 13 at 10:10 a.m. ET

Cyber security experts are still scrambling to contain a global ransomware attack that has infected tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, Ukraine, and India.

#fakenews isn't just a U.S. thing. And it isn't just about politics. In India people are putting their health at risk by following spurious advice dispensed on forwards on Whatsapp, the phone-based messaging app.

"The death of the MP3 was announced in a conference room in Erlangen, Germany, in the spring of 1995."

With barely an Internet whimper, Pepe the Frog, the anthropomorphic cartoon character turned symbol of hate, was put down by his creator, Matt Furie, over the weekend, in a single-page comic strip. The final images were of Pepe dead in a casket, with three former roommates paying tribute by pouring some liquor on Pepe's face and drinking the rest.

Washington has a big problem to solve: Can it stop cyber mischief, trolls and disinformation from becoming as much a part of American elections as yard signs, straw hats and robocalls?

National security officials warn that unless the United States takes strong steps to prevent or deter meddling, foreign nations — especially Russia — won't quit.

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