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It’s worth a shot: Washington dangles tech gadgets, $1M prize and more to encourage COVID vaccines

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(Image via Gov. Jay Inslee)

YOU get an Xbox! YOU get an Echo! YOU get a Switch! … But did you get a shot?

Step aside, Oprah. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is playing the giveaway game as part of a plan to incentivize people in the state to get their COVID-19 vaccination.

Prizes from some of the leading tech companies in the state are among more than $2 million in cash and gifts that Washington will give out as part of its “Shot of a Lifetime” promotional event this month.

Seeking to reach a vaccination initiation level of 70% of eligible adults in the state, Washington is currently at approximately 63% for those 16 and older who have had at least one shot. The state is set to reopen fully on June 30, or when the percentage reaches 70%, whichever comes first.

Teaming with tech companies, sports teams, higher education institutions, state agencies and others, Inslee is following the lead of other states, agencies and companies that have dangled everything from free donuts and beer to free guns and million-dollar lotteries to get people to get with it.

“These generous programs will encourage more Washingtonians to take this life-saving vaccine,” Inslee said Thursday.

For the tech geeks, game systems and smart speakers are being offered up including 300 Xboxs and GamePasses from Microsoft; 100 Echo Dots from Amazon; 25 Google Nests; and an undisclosed number of Nintendo Switch game consoles.

Among the other items:

  • One drawing a week for a $250,000 cash prize for four weeks, with an additional final drawing for a $1 million prize.
  •  Higher education prizes including free tuition and help with books.
  • Tickets for everything from Alaska Airlines flights to Seattle Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, Storm, Reign and Kraken games.
  • Gift cards such as 80 “one week of free camping” cards worth $250 each from Washington State Parks.

All vaccine incentive prizes will be drawn from the Department of Health immunization database to determine winners, according to the governor’s office. “The only action that Washingtonians need to take to win any of the prizes is to get vaccinated. All individuals who have been previously vaccinated are eligible.”


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Free games including GTA V have infected 222,000 PCs with cryptojacking malware

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In brief: Once again, we’re being reminded of the inherent dangers that come with free cracked games from forums and other sketchy sources. Malware called “Crackonosh,” which installs cryptomining software on a device, has been found in 220,000 computers, a result of downloading games such as GTA V for nothing.

Security researchers at Avast write that Crackonosh, which has been around since 2018, has been found in free games given away on forums and torrent sites. They include Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K19, Far Cry 5, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018.

Once infected, the malware surreptitiously installs cryptomining software that mines Monero without a user’s knowledge. It’s thought to have earned over $2 million for its authors, who are believed to be from the Czech Republic—Crackonosh means “mountain spirit” in Czech folklore.

Avast writes that Crackonosh installs itself by replacing critical Windows system files and abusing the Windows Safe mode to impair system defenses. It’s able to avoid detection by disabling security software, operating system updates, and using other anti-analysis techniques, making discovery and removal very difficult.

Diagram of Crackonosh installation

As with all cryptojacking, users often only discover something is wrong when their system slows down, components wear out quickly, and electricity bills skyrocket.

Crackonosh has been found in more than a dozen countries, including:

  • Philippines: 18,448 victims
  • Brazil: 16,584 victims
  • India: 13,779 victims
  • Poland: 12,727 victims
  • United States: 11,856 victims
  • United Kingdom: 8,946 victims

Being even more difficult to trace than cryptos such as Bitcoin, Monero, which launched in 2014, is a digital currency popular among cybercriminals. JavaScript-based Monero miners, usually provided by Coinhive, were found to have been planted on several services a few years ago, including The Pirate Bay, Showtime, Kodi, and more. Coinhive itself, a legitimate service, closed down in 2019, though Monero cryptojacking hasn’t gone away, as this discovery proves.

This is the second example this month of malware being spread in free games. A report revealed that millions of PCs had been infected using pirated games. Once compromised, the trojan stole data and even hijacked webcams to photograph users.

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Windows 11 is free, but your CPU might not be supported

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Windows 11 is arriving later this year as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, but many are discovering that their hardware isn’t compatible. Microsoft has altered its minimum hardware requirements, and it’s the CPU changes that are most surprising here. Windows 11 will only support 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, alongside Apollo Lake and newer Pentium and Celeron processors.

That immediately rules out millions of existing Windows 10 devices from upgrading to Windows 11, and even devices like Microsoft’s own Surface Studio 2 which the company is still selling right now for $3,499.

Windows 11 will also only support AMD Ryzen 2000 and newer processors, and 2nd Gen or newer EPYC chips. You can find the full list of supported processors on Microsoft’s site, but here’s the basic breakdown:

Windows 11 support for Intel

  • Intel 8th Gen (Coffee Lake)
  • Intel 9th Gen (Coffee Lake Refresh)
  • Intel 10th Gen (Comet Lake)
  • Intel 10th Gen (Ice Lake)
  • Intel 11th Gen (Rocket Lake)
  • Intel 11th Gen (Tiger Lake)
  • Intel Xeon Skylake-SP
  • Intel Xeon Cascade Lake-SP
  • Intel Xeon Cooper Lake-SP
  • Intel Xeon Ice Lake-SP

Windows 11 support for AMD

  • AMD Ryzen 2000
  • AMD Ryzen 3000
  • AMD Ryzen 3000
  • AMD Ryzen 4000
  • AMD Ryzen 5000
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2000
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3000
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3000
  • AMD EPYC 2nd Gen
  • AMD EPYC 3rd Gen

Many Windows 10 users have been downloading Microsoft’s PC Health App (available here) to see whether Windows 11 works on their systems, only to find it fails the check. As Microsoft now requires a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), this has led to some additional confusion around hardware support.

Windows 11 will require a TPM capable of 2.0 support, and UEFI Secure Boot. Both of these technologies are designed to improve the security of Windows, and prevent malware and ransomware from tampering with encryption keys and other secure elements of the operating system.

While Microsoft has required TPM support for OEM hardware certification since Windows 10, it hasn’t actively required Windows to have this fully enabled. That’s changing in Windows 11, and it means if your laptop or PC shipped without these BIOS options enabled then you’re going to have to go searching for a setting to switch on.

Windows 11 has new hardware requirements.

“Almost every CPU in the last 5-7 years has a TPM,” explains David Weston, director of enterprise and OS security at Microsoft. Weston is recommending that Windows 10 users failing Microsoft’s Windows 11 upgrade checker requirements should ensure BIOS options for “PTT” on Intel systems are enabled, or “PSP fTPM” on AMD devices. As every BIOS has different settings, you might need to refer to your laptop’s manual if you’re struggling to find the option.

If you’ve enabled TPM support but you’re still not passing the Windows 11 upgrade checker, it’s likely because your CPU isn’t supported. Intel has confirmed Microsoft’s Windows 11 CPU requirements. “A broad range of Intel-based platforms are expected to support Windows 11: 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, as well as Intel Pentium processors and Intel Celeron processors from the ‘Apollo Lake’ generation and newer,” says an Intel spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

This is the first significant shift in Windows hardware requirements since the release of Windows 8 back in 2012, and the CPU changes are understandably catching people by surprise. Microsoft is also requiring a front-facing camera for all Windows 11 devices except desktop PCs from January 2023 onwards. It’s another change that will shape the hardware that Windows 11 will run on in the coming years.


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3 dead, hundreds injured by rare tornado in Czech Republic

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A rare tornado has torn through southeastern Czech Republic, killing at least three people and injuring hundreds of others

PRAGUE — A rare tornado tore through southeastern Czech Republic, killing at least three people and injuring hundreds, rescue services said on Friday.

The tornado formed late Thursday as strong thunderstorms hit the entire country. Seven towns and villages have been badly damaged, with entire buildings turned into ruins and cars overturned. Over 120,000 households were without electricity.

They were using drones and helicopters to search the rubble.

The regional rescue service said at least three people have died.

“It’s a huge tragedy,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. Babis was in Brussels to attend an EU summit and was planning to visit the damage-hit region on Friday.

Marek Babisz, deputy mayor of Hrusky, told Czech public radio half of his town was almost completely destroyed.

“The church is without the tower, the elementary school has no roof and insulation any more, only walls remained from what were houses. There’re injured, it’s really terrible.”

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