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Europe debuts new travel authorization, not visas, for Americans starting in 2021

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Starting in 2021, Americans will no longer be able to hop across the pond for a spur-of-the-moment visit to Europe without completing pre-authorization paperwork. But they still won’t need a visa.

On Friday, multiple outlets reported that the European Union had announced that Americans would be required to complete a new visa to visit member countries — a shift away from the current policy which allows US citizens to travel through the 26 European members of the “Schengen Area” for up to 90 days without a visa.

In actuality, the EU’s new requirements were announced last year and are much less intensive: Beginning in 2021, American visitors and other visa-free travelers to the EU must first obtain a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) registration. It’s not a full visa application, but a short online application that should cost 7 euros (about $8), the EU told CNN. It does require a valid passport, email account, and a credit or debit card the EU says.

The authorization will last for three years and allows Americans to enter the Schengen Area as many times as necessary during that period.

Some applicants could be rejected, but the EU expects 95 percent of people will be automatically approved — so still a slight shift from the current travel policies, but a less significant one.

Explaining the new requirement, the European Union cited the desire “to improve their security level to avoid any further problems with illegal migration and terrorism.” However, the creation of the ETIAS visa comes after the United States has failed to allow similar travel freedom for all EU members.

According to CNN, the United States currently requires citizens from Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Cyprus to obtain similar pre-authorization to enter the country. These are the only EU members that have a screening requirement for US travel. The US and the EU quarreled over this policy in recent years, with the European Commission releasing a report in 2016 requesting that the US grant visa-free travel to these five countries per EU equal-treatment requirements.

America’s relationship with Europe isn’t going great

The added bureaucracy and red tape on US travel to Europe come as American relations have chilled with the continent under President Donald Trump’s administration. The latest example of the US’s increasingly rocky relationship with its long-standing allies came just last month, when Vice President Mike Pence was met with silence during a speech in Poland as he called on European allies to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

The speech resulted in two “cringeworthy” viral videos, writes Vox’s Aaron Rupar, who noted how they “illustrate how unpopular the Trump administration has become with the United States’ European allies.”

Last year when discussing trade practices, Trump compared the European Union to China, a country that the Pentagon has identified as one of the US’s two major competitors globally. Covering the declining bond, Vox’s Caroline Houck wrote that “to Trump, allies are only allies if the money’s all square”:

“If you want to be America’s ally, in Trump’s book, you better make sure you’ve paid up — whether that’s buying American goods or upping your defense spending.

He routinely brings up the cost of joint military exercises and questions why partner countries don’t pay to host US troops around the world — two actions which benefit US national security. Trump also regularly criticizes NATO countries for not spending enough on defense, and just recently in the run-up to the alliance’s biannual summit sent letters to at least several members hitting those points again.”

Houck explained how Trump described the European Union as a “foe” of the United States. Speaking with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor about American adversaries, Trump said. “I think the European Union is a foe; what they do to us is in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.”

New travel requirements are hardly the actions of foes, but they are the latest update in a relationship that’s had its fair share of recent posturing, from new tariffs and to traded barbs.

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Look at How Much “Game of Thrones” Characters Have Changed Over 8 Seasons

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During the summer of 2019, the final season of Game of Thrones aired. The show had gone on for almost 10 years which is a long time not only for the characters but also for the actors who portrayed them.

Bright Side is remembering what characters looked like in the very first episodes of the groundbreaking series and is comparing them to what they look like in the final season of the show.

1. Cersei Lannister

2. Jon Snow

3. Tyrion Lannister

4. Daenerys Targaryen

5. Sansa Stark

6. Arya Stark

7. Jorah Mormont

8. Varys

9. Jaime Lannister

10. Sandor Clegane

11. Brienne of Tarth

12. Samwell Tarly

13. Davos Seaworth

14. Theon Greyjoy

15. Brandon Stark

Did you watch Game of Thrones? Did you enjoy season 8? Tell us in the comment section below.

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Baltimore’s ransomware attack, explained – Vox

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Thirteen bitcoins are standing between the city of Baltimore and many of the services and processes its citizens rely on after hackers seized thousands of government computers at the start of the month. The ordeal has been going on for two weeks, and there’s no clear end in sight.

Here’s what’s happening: On May 7, hackers digitally seized about 10,000 Baltimore government computers and demanded around $100,000 worth in bitcoins to free them back up. It’s a so-called “ransomware” attack, where hackers deploy malicious software to block access to or take over a computer system until the owner of that system pays a ransom.

Baltimore, like several other cities that have been hit by such attacks over the past two years, is refusing to pay up. As a result, for two weeks, city employees have been locked out of their email accounts and citizens have been unable to access essential services, including websites where they pay their water bills, property taxes, and parking tickets. This is Baltimore’s second ransomware attack in about 15 months: Last year, a separate attack shut down the city’s 911 system for about a day. Baltimore has come under scrutiny for its handling of both attacks.

The ransomware attacks in Baltimore and other local governments across the US demonstrate that as ransomware attacks spread, and as common targets such as hospitals and schools beef up their online systems’ security, there are still plenty targets vulnerable to this kind of hack. It also exemplifies the conundrum that ransomware victims face: pay up and get your access back, or refuse — potentially costing much more in the long run.

What’s going on in Baltimore, briefly explained

Hackers targeted the city of Baltimore on May 7 using a ransomware called RobbinHood, which, as NPR explains, makes it impossible to access a server without a digital key that only the hackers have.

The Baltimore hackers’ ransom note, obtained by the Baltimore Sun, demanded payment of three bitcoins per system to be unlocked, which amounts to 13 bitcoins to unlock all the seized systems. The note threatened to increase the ransom if it wasn’t paid in four days, and said the information would be lost forever if it wasn’t paid in 10 days. Both deadlines have now passed.

“We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY! Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!” the note said.

The city government is refusing to pay, meaning that the government email systems and payment platforms the attack took down remain offline. The attack has also harmed Baltimore’s property market, because officials weren’t able to access systems needed to complete real estate sales. (The city said transactions resumed on Monday.)

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, who’s officially been in his office less than a month, said in a statement on Friday that city officials are “well into the restorative process” and have “engaged leading industry cybersecurity experts who are on-site 24-7 working with us.” The FBI is also involved in the investigation.

“Some of the restoration efforts also require that we rebuild certain systems to make sure that when we restore business functions, we are doing so in a secure manner,” Young said. He did not offer a timeline for when all systems will come back online.

The Baltimore City Council president also plans to form a special committee to investigate this latest attack and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

A similar attack using RobbinHood hit government computers in Greenville, North Carolina, in April. A spokesperson for Greenville told the Wall Street Journal that the city never wound up paying, and that while its systems aren’t entirely restored, “all of our major technology needs are now being met.”

More than 20 municipalities in the US have been hit by cyberattacks this year alone. And such attacks can be expensive, perhaps especially if targets say they won’t pay. In 2018, hackers demanded that Atlanta pay about $50,000 in bitcoins as part of a ransomware attack. The city refused, and according to a report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, the attack wound up costing the city $17 million to fix.

Ransomware attacks aren’t new — but we’re still figuring out how to deal with them

In 2017, a ransomware called WannaCry targeted tens of thousands of computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems in more than 100 countries. Officials in the US and the United Kingdom eventually blamed North Korea for the attack. Also in 2017, corporations in the UK, France, Russia, Israel, and Ukraine experienced ransomware attacks. US hospitals were also targeted.

Here’s how Timothy Lee explained for Vox what was going on and how ransomware had become more prolific:

The basic idea behind ransomware is simple: A criminal hacks into your computer, scrambles your files with unbreakable encryption, and then demands that you pay for the encryption key needed to unscramble the files. If you have important files on your computer, you might be willing to pay a lot to avoid losing them.

Ransomware schemes have become a lot more effective since the invention of Bitcoin in 2009. Conventional payment networks like Visa and Mastercard make it difficult to accept payments without revealing your identity. Bitcoin makes that a lot easier. So the past four years have seen a surge in ransomware schemes striking unsuspecting PC users.

Some ransomware schemes are so sophisticated that they even invest in customer service, helping victims who want to pay their ransoms navigate the complexities of obtaining bitcoins and making bitcoin payments.

Since then, a number of sectors and organizations have made improvements to their security practices to protect against ransomware. But the latest Baltimore attack exemplifies what a whack-a-mole game this is: One area improves its practices and hackers just go looking for another.


Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing — and changing us. Subscribe to Recode podcasts to hear Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka lead the tough conversations the technology industry needs today.

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Cameron Russell for ELLE

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A film by Kai Z Feng of our February 2014 cover.

View at DailyMotion

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