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Week in 5

US President Donald Trump (C) talks to the press as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Mike Pence look on after the Republican luncheon at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA)

By Jack Hervela

Major data breach recovers astronomical number of stolen email addresses and passwords

More than 772 million email addresses and over 21 million passwords were found to have been leaked on a hacking forum in an expansive data trove titled “Collection #1.”

“While it’s difficult to confirm exactly where all that info came from, it appears to be something of a breach of breaches; that is to say, it claims to aggregate over 2,000 leaked databases that contain passwords whose protective hashing has been cracked,” reported Wired on Wednesday.

The leak was uncovered by Troy Hunt, security researcher and founder of the site Have I Been Pwned (an equal parts breath of fresh air and paranoia inducer.) Luckily, the breach does not include information such as Social Security or credit card numbers.

Still, the compromised data makes those affected still very vulnerable.

“The accumulated lists seem designed for use in so-called credential-stuffing attacks, in which hackers throw email and password combinations at a given site or service. These are typically automated processes that prey especially on people who reuse passwords across the whole wide internet,” Wired reported.

“Collection #1’s” biggest take away is the age-old lesson of never repeating passwords across servers online and enabling two-factor identification on apps to ensure a password is not your only defense.  

To make sure your information was not compromised, head to Have I Been Pwned, here.

True number of children separated at border again unknown in wake of new report

The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services released a new report, finding up to “thousands” of children were separated from family at the U.S.-Mexico border but were never tallied in official counts.

While the Trump administration’s practice of family separation caused uproar throughout the spring of 2018, it ended in an executive order placing separated children back with their families.

Yet, as Vox reports, “Separated children who had already been released from the government’s custody — usually by being placed with a sponsor — weren’t identified and reunited as part of that lawsuit. In the new report, HHS is admitting that there could be thousands of such children, and that they’ll never have any way of knowing how many for sure.”

Within the report there is no way of tracking where these unidentified children went, yet as is the case with those who cross the border unaccompanied, evidence points close relatives inside the U.S.

Of course, the whole process of family separation, while inherently troublesome for record keeping, is also muddled in bureaucratic stops which make such a process almost for naught once a child is separated from their family and placed with a sponsor by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Because of the federal government’s failure to keep records about which children in its care had been separated from their parents, the public will never know the full scope of the Trump administration’s use of family separation against border crossers in Trump’s first year and a half in office,” Vox reported.   

For an in-depth, personal outlook on the new report, head to the Los Angeles Times, here.

Suicide bombing kills four Americans in northern Syria

Four Americans were among 19 people in the northern Syrian city of Manbij Wednesday in what appears to be a suicide bombing.

As reported by the New York Times, “The attack targeted an American military convoy in the northern city of Manbij while troops were inside the Palace of the Princes, a restaurant where they often stopped to eat during patrols, residents said. While the Americans were inside, a nearby suicide attacker wearing an explosive vest blew himself up.”

The attack comes mere weeks after President Trump withdrew all troops from Syria, promptly declaring ISIS defeated. Around 2,000 troops still remain at this time.

Vice President Mike Pence offered condolences from the White House, still insisting, “As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to re-establish their evil and murderous caliphate — not now, not ever.”

As for those killed Wednesday, 10 were civilians, five Syrian firefighters and two service members, a civilian employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a military contractor.

For an in-depth account of the situation, the state of ISIS and where the U.S. stands with Syria, head to the New York Times, here.

Company found to be polluting air with carcinogen on Grand Rapids’ West Side

Those living around 520 Watson St. SW near Lexington Avenue on Grand Rapids’ West Side are officially tenants of Michigan’s highest-risk-for-cancer-due-to-air-pollution neighborhood.

According to WOOD TV8, “The state recently notified Viant that it was in violation because it was polluting the air with ethyline oxide, a known carcinogen. It also issued a violation last July.

The state on Jan. 4 gave the company two weeks to respond.”

These emissions are harmful to those living an entire lifetime in the Watson neighborhood, but short-term proprietors need not worry.

“We’re not recommending that people do anything differently in their lifestyle or their activities to try to reduce their exposure, or leave the area or anything of that nature,” said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality supervisor Robert Sills.

The DEQ is currently working with Viant, a Massachusetts based medical company who uses ethyline oxide to sanitize medical equipment, to fix the emissions.

Those seeking further terminology, descriptive West Side maps or reactions from locals, head here.  

Kardashian-Jenner Instagram reign is over, easy

Nearly 48 million Instagram users (at the time of writing) have now made a simple picture of an egg the most liked photo on the platform.

Initially uploaded Jan. 4, the egg’s caption read, “Lets set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this!”

Beating out Kylie Jenner’s previous record of 18 million likes, the egg’s page owner is still anonymous, yet Serghei Platanov has been identified as the photographer.

“My goal was to take a simple picture of an egg. For fun. Never ever I could think that it would be a sensation like this. Egg is just an egg,” Platanov told Vice in a Thursday interview.

As Vice columnist River Donaghey states, “It is a baffling tale seemingly tailor-made for these baffling times, just some meaningless sh*t gaining popularly based solely on its inherent meaninglessness. But nevertheless, the masses have somehow deemed this speckled brown egg worthy of love, so here we are.”

An interview with a slightly confused Platanov on his original egg picture can be found, here.

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