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Cities, local governments and businesses are being hit because they haven’t updated their Microsoft Exchange software.

Graphic by Pixabay; illustration by CNET

On March 2, Microsoft released an emergency security update for its Microsoft Exchange email and communications software, patching a security hole in versions of the software going back to 2013. But as customers slowly update their systems, there are signs that at least 30,000 organizations across the US have already been hit by hackers who stole email communications from their systems.

The attacks, which were reported by security expert Brian Krebs on Friday, have hit infectious-disease researchers, law firms, defense contractors, higher education institutions and nongovernmental organizations. Krebs said the researchers who identified the flaw had seen attackers exploiting the vulnerability two months ago.

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Microsoft said it’s working with the US government to provide guidance for its customers.

“The best protection is to apply updates as soon as possible across all impacted systems,” Microsoft said in a statement to Krebs. “We continue to help customers by providing additional investigation and mitigation guidance. Impacted customers should contact our support teams for additional help and resources.” Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some of the most high-profile attacks over the years have been a result of hackers targeting organizations slow to update their software. Hackers stole personal information on more than 147.7 million Americans from Equifax by exploiting a vulnerability that would’ve been patched had the credit monitoring company updated its software. Hackers have also used patched software vulnerabilities to attack systems of state and local governments, who are often slow to update their systems.

That’s likely why the White House took the dramatic step of raising the alarm. On Thursday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urged companies to update their software, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki discussed the hack during her daily press briefing on Friday.

“This is a significant vulnerability that could have far-reaching impacts,” Psaki said. “First and foremost, this is an active threat.”

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A senior manager sued Amazon and some of its executives Monday for pay discrimination, racial and gender discrimination, as well as sexual assault by one executive.

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A Black senior manager at Amazon filed a lawsuit Monday the company and some of its employees for alleged race and gender discrimination, as well as pay equity violations, part of a broader pattern of harassment of Black employees at the tech giant. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., also details an alleged sexual assault by one former Amazon senior employee.

Charlotte Newman, who works at Amazon Web Services, alleges that she was assigned work consistent with employees in roles above the one she was hired and paid for. She also alleges that her manager told her she was “too direct,” and “scary,” and that a senior employee pulled her hair and groped her.

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The senior employee “felt free to sexually harass Ms. Newman and at times in plain view of others,” the lawsuit alleges.

Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Newman, who was previously an advisor to Sen. Cory Booker, had earlier filed a complaint to the Washington, D.C. Office Human Rights, according to the lawsuit.

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Apple has earmarked at least $100 million to support social causes since this summer.

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Apple is helping a Utah-based nonprofit expand in four states, offering a community center for LGBTQ youths and families. The program, called Encircle, launched in 2017 and operates out of houses it remodels to offer services like art and music studios, community classes and service projects. It also offers free and subsidized group and individual therapy sessions.

“All people should feel safe and supported enough to be open about who they are with their community and themselves,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement Thursday. “Encircle is helping to bridge divides and bring people together — sending a powerful message that the greatest thing you can aspire to become is who you truly are.”


An Encircle home in Provo, Utah.


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Encircle said the money will help its efforts to open eight new homes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and its home state of Utah. Apple made its investment alongside Ryan Smith and his wife, Ashley, the owners of the Utah Jazz basketball team. Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds and his wife, musician Aja Volkman, also donated Reynolds’ childhood home to the organization. Apple will offer iPads and other products in addition to its $1 million donation.

The move marks Apple’s latest moves with social justice initiatives, which expanded amid racial strife across the US last summer. At the time, Apple said it planned to spend $100 million on education, economic equality and criminal justice reform. Cook said back then it was in order to “challenge the systemic barriers to opportunity and dignity that exist for communities of color, and particularly for the black community.”

Cook’s signaled his interest in charitable giving short after being named CEO in 2011. About a month after he took the job, Cook dipped into Apple’s pile of cash and equivalents, to start employee donation matching programs for up to $10,000 per year. In 2012, Cook told employees Apple had also given $50 million each to Stanford University and Product RED, a products brand of which a portion of proceeds go to help fight AIDS around the world.


Tim Cook, during a virtual Apple product launch event, last year.


Cook, who grew up in Alabama during the 1960s and out as gay since 2014, has spoken out on LGBTQ issues.

Apple’s $1 million investment in Encircle may seem small in comparison to some of its other efforts, but organization head Stephanie Larsen said its programs — which have shifted online during the pandemic — are as important as ever. “Studies repeatedly have shown that LGBTQ+ youth across the country struggle with depression and suicidality far more than their heterosexual peers, and the pandemic has made that sense of isolation so many feel harder than ever before,” she said in a statement. “This incredible support makes our nationwide expansion possible and will improve countless LGBTQ+ lives — reminding them that they are perfect, just as they are.”

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