On Friday morning, you may have gone to your favorite site only to find it wasn’t working. Well, you weren’t the only one. Many internet users found themselves without access to major sites such as Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix. Hackers used everyday “smart” household items to help bring down these sites. How exactly did hackers take down so many big sites so easily? And how safe are you from having your smart devices compromised?
What is the Power of Internet of Things to Take Down the Internet
On Friday, unknown hackers targeted Dyn, a major Domain Name System, or DNS, service provider. DNS service providers translate URLs into numerical IP addresses for the servers that actually host sites, so your browser can actually connect to them. That one attack caused service to stop for sites such as Amazon, Amazon Web Services, Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, and PayPal. This left many businesses without the ability to access needed information of process payments, and many users upset about personal service issues with their favorite sites.
The scariest thing about the attack is that hackers used “Internet of Things” devices to do it. The Internet of Things is a term used to describe the inter-connectivity of everyday devices such as baby monitors, thermostats, Webcams, DVRs, and internet routers.
Hackers used an advanced malware called “Mirai” to hijack IoT devices and continuously launch junk traffic at a target until the site can no longer accommodate legitimate users. Basically, hackers overloaded Dyn servers, causing Dyn to no longer handle any actual users, which resulted in a massive internet outage where sites could not recognize visitors due to lack of IP address. According to Dyn’s Chief Strategy Officer, the attacks came from tens of millions of IP addresses, meaning millions of devices were hijacked to aid in toppling Dyn.
— Duncan Blues (@DuncanBlues42) October 21, 2016
Does this mean your IoT devices are under attack? What can you do to make sure your devices are safe from being hijacked?
In all honesty, not much. If a hacker is determined to hijack your device, s/he can. However, you can take precautions. The main thing is to password protect your devices. And not just with the default username and password. The Mirai botnet looks for certain IoT and smart home devices, especially those using default usernames and passwords, and turns them into bots to use in cyberattacks. By simply changing the login information from default to custom, your odds of not being attacked are significantly better. Chinese electronics company Hangzhou Xiongmai is recalling web cameras using its components that were identified as making up a good portion of the devices involved for having default passwords that were easy to guess, making it simpler for attackers to crack their logins.
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The aftermath of this attack (and another similar one earlier this year) may well end up being heightened security regulations by congress. However, until that time comes, use custom passwords and be careful when sharing information with sites, particularly on public networks.
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Federal CARES Act Provides Relief to Businesses Hurt by COVID-19
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by both Congress and signed into law by President Trump, also known as the CARES Act, offers major financial support for companies impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The most vital policy provisions for businesses affected by the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are:
- Slowing the payment of payroll taxes to allow businesses to have more cash to keep employees on their payrolls.
- Loans and grants for small businesses.
- Creating a bridge loan facility to allow businesses with significantly less or no available revenue to continue to pay employees.
The chamber has published an interactive map for businesses to learn how available aid under the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program can help small businesses in each state. The website lists the amount aid available in each state, the number of small businesses and small business employees. To access the interactive map, click here.
The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, has published a summary of the CARES Act’s key provisions.
- The “Paycheck Protection Program” provides $S250 billion to support loans for employers with less than 500 employees.
- The “Loan Program and Credit Facility” provides $500 billion in both direct and indirect lending in Federal Reserve credit.
- The “Unemployment Insurance Provision” provides assistance for unemployed workers, including those who have exhausted regular state and feral unemployment compensation in addition to short-term compensation programs.
- The “Business Tax Provisions” includes tax provisions for retailers to offset the cost of retaining employees during the economic downturn.
For the full National Retail Federation summary, click here.
“Securing these funds could make the difference between keeping a business up and running over the coming weeks or being forced to reduce salaries, lay off employees, or shutter businesses entirely,” Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO, said in a press release.
For the latest updates on how the coronavirus is affecting the kiosk industry, click here.
IRS, Treasury Department and Department of Labor Give Guidance on Small Business Leave and Tax Credit
The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) have announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees.
This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act), signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020.
The Act will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members.
The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.
* Paid Sick Leave for Workers
* For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid child care leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or child care providers are unavailable.
* Complete Coverage
* Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.
* Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.
* Employers face no payroll tax liability.
* Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.
* Fast Funds
* Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.
* An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided
* Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.
* Small Business Protection
* Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.
* Easing Compliance
* Requirements subject to 30-day non-enforcement period for good faith compliance efforts.
To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.
The Act provided paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons and created the refundable paid sick leave credit and the paid child care leave credit for eligible employers. Eligible employers are businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees that are required to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family and medical leave under the Act. Eligible employers will be able to claim these credits based on qualifying leave they provide between the effective date and December 31, 2020. Equivalent credits are available to self-employed individuals based on similar circumstances.
The Act provides that employees of eligible employers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis. An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay. An employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, may in some instances receive up to an additional ten weeks of expanded paid family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.
Paid Sick Leave Credit
For an employee who is unable to work because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days. For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child’s school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.
Child Care Leave Credit
In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child care leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.
Prompt Payment for the Cost of Providing Leave
When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees’ paychecks federal income taxes and the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.
Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.
The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.
If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week.
If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.
If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.
Equivalent child care leave and sick leave credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances. These credits will be claimed on their income tax return and will reduce estimated tax payments.
Small Business Exemption
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the leave requirements relating to school closings or child care unavailability where the requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria that make it available in circumstances involving jeopardy to the viability of an employer’s business as a going concern. Labor will provide emergency guidance and rulemaking to clearly articulate this standard.
Labor will be issuing a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. Under this policy, Labor will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. Labor will instead focus on compliance assistance during the 30-day period.
For More Information
For more information about these credits and other relief, visit Coronavirus Tax Relief on IRS.gov. Information regarding the process to receive an advance payment of the credit will be posted next week.
Stocks Soar During Historic Day For The Dow
Stocks soared yesterday on news that the $2 trillion stimulus bill was “on the five yard line” and close to be finalized by both the Democrats and Republicans.
The stimulus package will provide relief for companies that have been caught up in the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Delays in the bill’s passage were due to the Democrat’s concerns that the bill favored Wall Street over Main Street.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared on CNBC and told Jim Cramer that there is “real optimism” of a stimulus deal being reached. “We think the bill has moved sufficiently to the side of workers,” she said.
After news broke of the deal nearing completion, stocks went on to stage a historic rally that lifted all three major indexes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 11.37%, or 2,112 points, for its biggest one-day percentage gain since 1933 and its largest point gain ever. The S&P 500 rallied 9.38% for its best day since October 2008 and the Nasdaq climbed 8.12%.
With the stimulus bill close to passing and the markets staging a historic rally, some were willing to look ahead and predict the end of the bear market.
Michael Novogratz, CEO of Galaxy Digital, was on CNBC’s Squawk Box and said “From a market perspective… it feels like we’re coming to the end of it,” and said he started buying again on Monday.
Far more investors, however, view yesterday’s rally as nothing more than a one-day rebound.
“This was a one-day bull market,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said on “Closing Bell” on Tuesday. “You had stocks that moved so much they basically moved as if the second half of the year is going to be good. I struggle to find out why the second half of the year should be good …I hate this kind of rally. This was a machine driven rally, just like the sell-offs … I want to wait to see.”
Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, a managing director at JPMorgan, said the rally could be partly due to short sellers covering their positions to grab profits. He said there could be “considerable short covering from here,” which would temporarily lift equity prices.
Others believe it may be nothing more than a simple bounce due to so many stocks being oversold.
Sam Stovall, chief investment officer at CFRA Research said “Even in bear markets, you can end up being oversold, and I think that this market was stretched like a rubber band that, at least in the near term, was ready to snap back.”
That “snap back” rally is adding to the market volatility. Last week, the index climbed to 82.69, beating the highest reading during the 2008 financial crisis. The volatility index (VIX) did drop yesterday 1.2%, to 60.85.
What remains to be seen is if the rally can last for more than a single day, and if buyers will continue showing up before the coronavirus is contained. Many believe that the rally is nothing more than optimism surrounding the stimulus plan, and that a lasting rebound in the markets won’t happen until there’s clear evidence that the coronavirus has slowed.
Fed Bank Predicts 53 Million Americans Out of Work, 32% Unemployment Rate
Stocks Continue to Rally on Mixed News, Hopes For A Coronavirus Vaccine
Federal CARES Act Provides Relief to Businesses Hurt by COVID-19
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