Afternoon Coffee: Microsoft among companies hacked in SolarWinds cyberattack; US economy set to expand at record rate in Q3; Ice cream company to help COVID vaccine efforts

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Microsoft was part of the suspected Russian hacking campaign that has hit multiple US governmental agencies by taking advantage of the use of software from SolarWinds Corp., according to Reuters.

Microsoft’s own products were then used to further attacks on others. It wasn’t clear how many Microsoft users were affected by the tainted products. The Department of Homeland Security, which said last week that hackers used multiple methods of entry, is still investigating the matter.

“Like other SolarWinds customers, we have been actively looking for indicators of this actor and can confirm that we detected malicious SolarWinds binaries in our environment, which we isolated and remove,” a Microsoft spokesperson last week told CRN, a website that focuses on IT news. “We have not found evidence of access to production services or customer data. Our investigations, which are ongoing, have found absolutely no indications that our systems were used to attack others.”

The news of Microsoft’s breach came hours after the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said last week that it had evidence of additional initial access vendors beyond the SolarWinds Orion supply chain compromise, CRN reported.

US economy expected to grow at record 33.4% annual pace in Q3

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the US economy is set to expand at a record 33.4% annual pace from July through September, according to the Associated Press.

The three-month growth spurt — upgraded from the Commerce Department’s previous estimate of 33.1% announced last month — marked a sharp recovery from the second quarter’s 31.4% drop, the worst since 1947. Consumer spending surged at an annual rate of 41% and private investment shot up by 86.3% to lead the third quarter rebound, the article said.

An uptick in new COVID-19 cases — now averaging about 220,000 per day — is causing more lockdown orders and keeping Americans at home. Growth for gross domestic product (GDP) — the country’s broadest measure of economic output — is expected to slow to 2.8% in the fourth quarter, the article said. The outlook would be bleaker if Congress hadn’t just passed a $900 billion economic relief package.

How Dippin’ Dots can help in the COVID-19 vaccination effort

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has one very complicating factor: The vaccine must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit — raising concerns that many places won’t have adequate facilities. However, Dippin’ Dots is stepping up to the plate with its freezers that get as cold as -122 F, according to the Today Show.

The pelletized ice cream company developed the ultra-cold storage with another company to help provide equipment to other industries such as medical facilities that raise bacteria cultures. The article said that some of these ultra-cold freezers are already used for vaccine storage.

“Most of our inquiries are coming from pharmacies and places that might be administering the vaccines and are anticipating what they might need for storage,” Stan Jones, the chief development officer for Dippin’ Dots, told the Today Show. “We’ve been getting inquiries, but we’re not overwhelmed with them.”

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