Ransomware victims are refusing to pay — but is it working?

A new report has highlighted how ransomware payments to hackers have begun to slow down, with victims continuously opting to not cave in to demands.

Coveware, a company that provides ransomware decryption services, revealed some interesting analytics relating to the state of ransomware during the second quarter of 2022.

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As reported by Bleeping Computer, the average payment pertaining to ransomware demands has indeed increased. However, the median value of these payments have decreased in a big way.

During 2022’s second quarter, the mean average ransom payment totalled $228,125, representing an 8% increase compared to the first quarter of this year.

The median ransom payment value, however, came to $36,360 — that’s a staggering 51% drop when compared to the first quarter of 2022.

The aforementioned fall in value follows consistent drops since the first quarter of 2021. That specific period saw average ransomware payments reach new highs ($332,168), while the median value reached a peak of $117,116. That said, this state of affairs was undoubtedly aided by the pandemic and the rise of individuals using their systems at home.

“This trend reflects the shift of RaaS affiliates and developers toward the mid-market where the risk-to-reward profile of attack is more consistent and less risky than high profile attacks,” Coveware said in its findings.

Coveware also mentioned how large corporations are not entertaining any ransom demands solely due to the amount. “We have also seen an encouraging trend among large organizations refusing to consider negotiations when ransomware groups demand impossibly high ransom amounts.”

A system hacked warning alert being displayed on a computer screen.
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A shift in strategy

Hackers have increasingly shifted their efforts and focus toward smaller organizations that are delivering positive financial results, which is reflected by the fact that the median size of companies affected by ransomware fell during 2022’s second quarter.

Elsewhere, the most popular choices for ransomware list within the report show a few familiar names from the hacking scene. BlackCat controls 16.9% of the ransomware attacks, while LockBit 2.0 accounts for another sizable chunk (13.1%).

As for all the recent shutdowns of ransomware gangs, the individuals from these groups have turned to lower-tier attacks, which has subsequently aided various smaller ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operations popping up.

The report also revealed how the double extortion method — a way to threaten targets that their stolen files will be leaked before the encryption process — is still a favored scare tactic among threat actors, with 86% of the reported cases associated with this specific strategy.

For a considerable number of these cases, hackers will continue with their extortion schemes or leak the files they’ve obtained even if they’ve received the ransom payment.

If you’ve been a victim of ransomware, then be sure to seek the services of this anti-hacker group that provides free decryptors.

Editors’ Choice

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A hacker named Bowser agrees to pay Nintendo $10 million to settle a civil piracy suit

A Canadian hacker named Gary Bowser (yes, like Mario’s nemesis) has agreed to pay the company $10 million to settle . Bowser, who was part of Switch hacking group Team Xecuter, was accused of being part of a “cybercriminal enterprise that hacked leading gaming consoles,” as notes. Nintendo argued Bowser violated the company’s copyright and it seems the hacks were not in another castle.

News of the settlement emerged several weeks after Bowser pleaded guilty to . He was fined $4.5 million in that case and faces up to 10 years in prison. Bowser, who was arrested in the Dominican Republic in October 2020 and deported to the US, admitted to having “developed, manufactured, marketed, and sold a variety of circumvention devices” that let people play ROMs on consoles. 

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Zoom Agrees to Pay Whopping Settlement Fee Over Zoombombing

Zoom, the company behind the popular videoconferencing software of the same name, has agreed to pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit regarding its privacy and security practices.

The suit was brought by users who accused California-based Zoom of sharing their data with third-party companies such as Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn without permission, as well as lax security that led to so-called “zoombombing” incidents where trolls would suddenly drop shocking images or other distasteful content into meetings.

The settlement, announced on Saturday, still needs the approval of U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, but assuming it goes through, Zoom customers can expect to receive a 15% refund on a portion of their subscription fee or $25, whichever is greater. Zoom subscribers outside of the suit could receive a payment of up to $15.

Besides the payment, the terms of the settlement also require Zoom to put in place more robust security measures and provide Zoom employees with special training geared toward improving privacy measures and data handling, Reuters reported.

A number of class-action complaints were brought against Zoom in the spring of 2020 over zoombombing incidents and alleged malpractice. Zoom tried to persuade the court to throw out the suits, and while the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed to dismiss some, it consolidated the remaining ones into a single lawsuit at the center of the agreement announced at the weekend.

Commenting on the case, Zoom said, “The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us.”

Highlighting a series of software updates issued last year in a bid to block zoombombing attacks, as well as changes that it made to address privacy and security concerns, the company added, “We are proud of the advancements we have made to our platform, and look forward to continuing to innovate with privacy and security at the forefront.”

Before the pandemic, Zoom’s videoconferencing software, which launched in 2012, was largely confined to the workplace. But as a rapid spread in coronavirus infections in early 2020 forced many people to stay home, Zoom downloads quickly went off the charts, with millions around the world using it not only for remote working, but also to stay in touch with friends and family. The sudden uptick in users appeared to take the company by surprise, with the increase in demand exposing software vulnerabilities while at the same time shining a light on its broader operations.

Editors’ Choice

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Invisibly wants to pay you for your data

All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. Watch now.

Can the tech world put food on the table? Not just for the programmers, but for the users too? That’s the question that a startup called Invisibly is asking. They’re developing a way for users — that is, all of us on the internet — to earn a paycheck for sharing data. Instead of trading their personal information for services like Facebook or Google, Invisibly is proposing a more explicit contract that rewards the people with cash for parting with the information about what they like to read on the internet.

The trade-offs of the traditional data-driven business model are always cloudy. The users get free access to, say, discussion boards for talking with their friends, search engines, or maybe some basic office apps. In return, the services track everything we do and sell ads targeting them. It started as a pretty straightforward trade, but as stock valuations grow, some are wondering if there’s a better balance.

Invisibly’s plan is to explicitly share the returns with the user. The sales literature proclaims, “We don’t own your data. You do.” The current version is called a “data dividend,” which lets users collect points by giving Invisibly access to their web usage. One hundred points can be converted into one dollar. The company compares the idea to Universal Basic Income, the plan to provide everyone with a regular check just for being part of society.

The company is making plans to expand beyond their data dividend. We sat down for a video call with Don Vaughn, head of product, to understand how they plan to create a steady stream of income for the users.

VentureBeat: Where do you begin trying to pay people for their data?

Don Vaughn: The real fundamental thing that needs to happen is that people need control of their data. It’s a real thing. If businesses have all your data, then they can figure you out and do as they wish with your attention. If you have your data, then you start to get a modicum of power. The problem with that is most people just don’t care. The first thing we’ve got to do is you have to get people paid for their data or nobody cares.

VentureBeat: But it’s more than just the money, right?

Vaughn: We’re starting with money very intentionally, but it’s more than that. It’s our vision that people’s data improves their quality of life. We are using that data as a business insights platform which lets people know what’s going on. What’s coming out in our next release in a few weeks is where we’re gonna get more than just get people paid for their data. We’re gonna let them choose what they want to see and filter on the internet from that data. So they’re gonna basically let them control their reality and what type of stuff they see. They won’t be filtered. Not by Google or Facebook or TikTok or Instagram. They’ll choose. That’s where we’re headed.

VentureBeat: I haven’t watched any broadcast Olympics, but my friends tell me it’s insufferable. It’s all ads and teasers for events that might be coming up later.

Vaughn: That’s all part of the same problem. Tech companies or TV companies or somebody else is telling us what we should be watching, but they don’t know me that well. They should stop that. I need to have a way to pull in what I want.

So I can’t tell you exactly what we’re doing because it’s not released for six weeks, but the data dividend is the very first product. It is the first way to get people interested. And now our next product is going to be absolutely explosive. In my view, it’ll change the world over the next couple years because it’s gonna give people the ability to not just make money out of that data — it will give them control.

We’re gonna get you part of the economic model. We’re gonna split that with you. So you can imagine it’s a brand new business model that’s going to come out where, rather than taking the profits on the backs of all the data from people, you’re going to create a new business model.

VentureBeat: In the press release, you talked about a target of a thousand dollars per year.

Vaughn: Right now people generally think that their data is worth a lot, and I wish it were. But data is actually pretty cheap. It is worth pennies, if not less. Even though it feels like it should be more, an ad unit is about a tenth of a penny.

What’s really more valuable than that is attention. Data is for herding sheep. Attention is valuable. So we think that if we can give you what’s worth your attention — if we can find what you would actually want to see rather than just what Facebook thinks you want to see — then that’s much closer to a thousand dollars of revenue a year.

VentureBeat: So, now I’ve seen a couple different systems over the years that try to pay people. Bing has some way of giving me points, which I never seem to be able to use. And I think Brave the browser has some reward system available.

Vaughn: Generally, those products are about getting paid for watching ads. I wouldn’t call them much of a data empowerment. Invisibly is trying to own the segment that we’re calling data empowerment. We think there is tremendous value in you driving and you actually using your data for your own income, like we’re doing now with the day to dividend or to facilitate your attention, getting the content, and the world that you want. The other approaches are getting you paid for watching ads. Invisibly is creating what I think is the first instance of AI for people. AI right now is a business tool. Every business uses it. It’s being used to manipulate. What’s your defense against that? Your human brain is supposed to figure that out and deploy all the attention to deal with that? It’s a losing battle.

So the only future that I see is AI for people, and that’s the big goal for Invisibly is that a protective layer that advocates on your behalf. It’s to defend you against everybody else trying to mess with you. It’s also acting when you have to find everything that’s worth your time and attention to negotiate prices for you in the future. How come no one’s doing that for me? All that should be AI for people, and that’s where Invisibly is really going. It’s a much bigger vision than ads for dollars.


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Tech News

Galaxy Z Flip 3 FCC filing reveals surprising Samsung Pay feature

When rumored devices pass through the FCC, it is often a sign that their arrival in the US market is nigh. Of course, that only confirms the earlier launch dates rumored for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 as they make their way through the certification process. While the former got some of its features confirmed, the filing for the Galaxy Z Flip 3 reveals one feature that is both unexpected yet surprising at the same time.

It is, of course, expected that the phone would support Samsung Pay as almost all high-end Samsung phones do. What is surprising in PhoneArena’s discovery is that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 still supports MST technology. This is the feature that gives Samsung Pay an edge over other mobile payment solutions since it can work on traditional mag strip terminals as well as NFC.

Despite that advantage, Samsung is believed to be focusing on NFC moving forward. In fact, the Galaxy S21 doesn’t support MST even as it has Samsung Pay. That makes finding the tech in the Galaxy Z Flip 3 a pleasant surprise.

The FCC filing also confirms the 5G bands the phone will support, which includes Verizon’s mmWave. It supports 9W reverse wireless charging, just like what was noted for the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Curiously, there is no mention of UWB so the smaller foldable phone might be skipping that wireless tech.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is expected to bring a larger external cover display and dual cameras on its back. Although it seems to be getting less attention from leaks and reports, the Galaxy Z Flip 3’s rumored sub-$1,000 price tag could actually make it the foldable that more people will gravitate to, simply because it’s the one they will be able to afford.

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Tech News

Researchers say they’ve found the ideal strategy to pay off student loans

When many people near college graduation, they begin to contemplate how they’ll deal with the student loans they’ve racked up over the past few years. The burden — which grows more substantial with every generation — can result in stress and, if not managed properly, may throw one’s life plans off track for several years. Mathematicians with the University of Colorado at Boulder may have a solution, explaining that they developed a mathematical model to explore the ideal repayment strategy.

Generally speaking, college graduates get a brief grace period after graduation during which time they aren’t required to make payments on their loans. Two different options are available once payments start: an income-based repayment strategy that involves paying a certain amount monthly based on one’s salary or simply throwing as much money at the loan as possible to pay it off in a shorter period of time.

In many cases, graduates are often advised to pay the loans off as quickly as possible if the funding amount is on the smaller side. On the flip side, graduates are typically told to take the income-based repayment option if they’ve taken out a substantial amount of funds in the form of student loans. The new study suggests a hybrid approach may be more ideal.

The mathematical model takes into account things like compounding interest rates, the income tax that may need to be paid, and more. The findings indicate that some graduates may benefit from a hybrid-style repayment approach that involves paying off as much as possible for the first several years, then switching over to an income-based repayment plan for the remainder of the balance.

The team of researchers hasn’t made their work available as a calculator for the public, but they do plan to improve it and potentially make it available to existing repayment calculators that may integrate the model. The ideal repayment method will ultimately depend on personal factors that must be accounted for, including things like anticipated salary and more.

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Investments in ‘intangible assets’ like data and branding pay off, Mckinsey says

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.

Investments in “intangible assets” like R&D, digital transformation, and employee training are strongly correlated with increased productivity and growth, according to a study McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) released today.

An MGI survey conducted in March asked 861 corporate executives in 16 countries how much their companies invested over 2018 and 2019 in areas related to innovation, digital platforms and analytics, organizational and managerial capital, partner ecosystems and networks, and brand building. The study found that companies MGI determined were in the top 10% for annual growth had invested 2.6 times more in such “intangible assets” compared to the bottom 50% of surveyed companies measured by growth.

Companies double down on ‘intangibles’

MGI also reported that investment in intangibles has grown 29% as a share of companies’ gross value over the past 25 years in the United States and 10 representative European countries. The trend of spending more in these areas has prevailed through global economic downturns, most recently during the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the management consulting firm.

The study echoed similar research by McKinsey that found spending in innovative areas can be linked to growth. For example, a 2019 survey of companies investing in artificial intelligence (AI) determined that adoption of the technology correlated with revenue increases.

MGI’s latest report, titled “Getting Tangible About Intangibles: The Future of Growth and Productivity?” found that the correlation between intangible investing and growth held true across different industry sectors, like advanced manufacturing; financial services; telecommunications, media, and technology; and retail trade. Sectors where constituent companies invested more than 12% of their gross value in intangible assets saw 28% higher growth than those with less investment, MGI said.

A paradigm shift in the tools of industry

MGI said the trend toward investing more in intangibles was most pronounced in “knowledge-intensive” and “innovation-driven” industries like financial services and telecommunications. But increased intangible investing is happening in all sectors. And globally, the report noted a shift toward a “dematerialized economy” across the board.

“In the 19th century, the tools of growth were industrial machines; the tools of the knowledge economy will be intangible assets. We could well be seeing a new stage in the history of capitalism based on learning, knowledge, and intellectual capital,” MGI council member Eric Hazan said in a statement.

“As economies recover from the pandemic, could a wave of intangibles investment breathe new life into productivity and growth? It is quite possible, but the key will be not only investment in intangibles but ensuring that they are deployed effectively.”

MGI co-chair Sven Smit said it was important to properly define intangible assets beyond just the traditional categories of IP, software, and brand and loyalty management. He said it must also include the development of digital, organizational, and managerial capabilities through training and hiring.

“Take this more up-to-date view, and you get a fuller picture of the full power of intangibles to drive growth,” Smit said.

MGI said the companies reaping the greatest rewards from intangibles investing weren’t just spending more relative to their peers but also doing so more smartly and systematically, with sophisticated risk-reward models and data-driven testing and decision-making processes to “embed data, talent, and innovation in day-to-day operations.”


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  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
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  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
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Should Big Tech Pay You For Your Data? It’s Complicated

Data is apparently the new oil, and unlike the nonrenewable petroleum liquid we unearth with giant drilling rigs, it’s an unlimited resource that can be extracted in seconds. So why do we give it away for free?

To find an answer, you have to look back to the early days of the internet.

Decades ago, tech giants and the people who signed up for their services shook hands on a tacit pact. In exchange for access to their apps for free, companies like Facebook and Google would reserve a portion of our screens for advertisements. At the time, it seemed like a fair deal. After all, we were already used to ads on other content channels such as newspapers and televisions.

While years later the premise remains the same, that agreement’s boundaries have expanded in unimaginable ways at the cost of people’s privacy. Tech platforms have built empires by siphoning heaps of data from our internet (and real-life) activities to predict behaviors, by selling it (often covertly) to third-party brokers, and by leveraging that data to gain insights that other tech companies simply don’t have. Whether you’ve tapped on a button or relocated to a new home, chances are these internet giants know about it.

Hard drives within Facebook’s Luleå data center in Sweden

This business model turned out to be outrageously profitable. In 2007, Facebook made about $150 million. Last year, it earned over $85 billion.

These companies wouldn’t be as profitable as they are if they relied on private subscriptions instead of ads because, with a surplus of data, they can target way more people, extract invaluable insights out of it, and enable endless targeted campaigns, says Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu, a computer science professor and director of the Data Security and Privacy Lab at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“An ad-free version will kill their services,” he added.

A new paradigm: Paying you for your data

So, if our personal information is such an indispensable cog in these multibillion-dollar businesses and the web itself, should we be getting a piece of the pie? A legion of emerging startups believe so, and they want to balance that increasingly uneven trade by paying you for your data.

Most recently, Datacy, a Delaware-based company, raised $2.4 million to help you “make your data earn for you.” Its browser add-on tracks you and collects anonymous data on which websites you visited and what kind of computer you are on, as well as information you may choose to link to from third-party platforms like Facebook.

Datacy puts your data up for sale, alongside other users, and depending on how much buyers bid on it, it deposits a monetary amount in your account. It usually ranges from $5 to $10.

Paroma Indilo, Datacy’s CEO, says if businesses have the option to acquire high-quality data directly from people, they won’t have to rely on shady and intrusive tracking practices. Arming users with controls over what and how much of their data is being processed and in whose hands it’s ending up in will foster a healthier and more transparent market, he added in a conversation with Digital Trends.

“That [healthy data market] can only happen when the relationship between buyers and sellers is more transactional,” Indilo told Digital Trends, “where both parties benefit proportionately and have an informed choice in deciding what to sell, to whom, for what purpose, and for what price.”

Datacy isn’t alone. Several data-monetization apps have cropped up over the years, although most of them haven’t quite been able to capture mass appeal.

Killi, a publicly traded Canadian firm, is one of the more successful ones. It works across mobile and the web, and it allows you to sell a wider range of your information, including your browsing habits, online shopping history, and location. Based on how regularly and how much you’re willing to auction data off, you earn points that you can later swap for vouchers like Amazon gift cards.

So far, Killi hosts more than 100 million accounts — although it’s unclear how many of them are actively trading their data — and claims it’s adding at least a million new ones every week. It also told Digital Trends it has clients in leading companies such as Microsoft and HP that are looking for first-party data.

Microsoft and HP didn’t respond to requests for comment from Digital Trends.

Neil Sweeney, Killi’s CEO, calls the data market a “black box of human arbitrage” and says the company wants to change that by letting people decide what they want to do with their information online.

The idea of selling your data, something which you are already giving away for free, sounds like a bargain many internet users have been waiting for. But there’s a reason why data-monetization apps have struggled to go viral.

A confounding problem

Data’s value lies at scale. Ad platforms, as well as machine learning algorithms, rely on information from billions of data points for effective yields. But these data-monetization apps don’t have that volume to entice data buyers, and if they don’t have enough buyers, they won’t be able to shell out more than a few bucks to users. When Facebook, for instance, began actively tracking its users, it already had millions of profiles.

data center google
Google Data Center Google

But what if Facebook and Google were forced to cough up a data tax by law? A few states and politicians such as Andrew Yang have proposed doing just that. The bottleneck here, however, is that such initiatives will be a nightmare to implement because it’s close to impossible to put a price on an individual’s data. There are dozens of factors that could influence the compensation, and if left up to unregulated tech giants, they can manipulate their models to come up with the lowest figures.

Kantarcioglu feels that as long as there are safeguards to prevent misuse, there’s merit in services like Datacy since they will help shed a light on what is the market value of a person’s data. “It will be an interesting data point for us to understand the value of the data, how we could price it, how we could understand the value creation,” he told Digital Trends.

A digital privacy divide

Irrespective of the value, advocates believe personal data monetization could worsen user privacy and undermine its future as a fundamental right. It can potentially commoditize data and turn it into a product, which ultimately will allow tech companies to exploit it however they wish to by paying just a paltry fraction of their revenues each year.

More importantly, such initiatives couple potentially spawn an environment of pay-for-privacy models that could put vulnerable groups at a disadvantage, says Stacy-Ann Elvy, a law professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law. It will lead to a digital divide between people who can afford to protect their information by opting out of the data tax and those who will have to trade their data to retain free access to services, she added.

What we urgently need today, Elvy says, are movements like the California Consumer Privacy Act that could help consumers better understand their privacy rights and make it easier for them to exercise them. “Whether consumers will trust entities associated with such movements to act on their behalf or in their best interest remains to be seen,” she said.

Editors’ Choice

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Ireland refuses to pay ransom demand in attack on its national health service

Ireland’s health service, the HSE, shut down all of its IT systems on Friday following a “significant” ransomware attack which has disrupted COVID-19 testing and other patient services, the BBC reports. The country’s COVID-19 vaccination program does not appear to have been affected.

A government official tells news station RTE that an international cyber criminal group is responsible for the attack. “This is not espionage. It was an international attack, but this is just a cyber criminal gang looking for money,” says Minister of State for Public Procurement and eGovernment Ossian Smyth.

Micheál Martin, the country’s Taoiseach (prime minister), says Ireland will not be paying any ransom.

According to the Financial Times, the government received a ransom demand to be paid in bitcoin. The attack appeared to affect data stored on the health system’s central servers, reports RTE, but it did not appear any patient data was compromised.

The HSE tweeted yesterday that it had taken down its IT systems as a precaution to protect them from the attack.

The attack had a severe impact on the country’s health and social care services on Friday, but emergency services continued to operate normally, according to health minister Stephen Donnelly. He reiterated that Ireland’s COVID vaccinations were continuing as planned.

The Ireland attack comes less than a week after a similar incident at Colonial Pipeline, which took one of the largest fuel pipelines in the US offline. The company reportedly paid a nearly $5 million ransom to the attackers in that instance, to get its systems back online.

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Tech News

This motorcycle airbag vest stops working if you don’t pay

Motorcyclists around the world routinely take their lives into their hands, sharing the roads with inattentive drivers. There is a lot of different safety equipment designed specifically for motorcyclists to help protect their lives in an accident. One of those safety devices is a vest that motorcyclists wear called an airbag vest.

Just as the name implies, if the motorcyclist is involved in an accident and falls off the motorcycle, the vest inflates to help protect them from an impact. One airbag vest on the market is made by a company called Klim. The vest is the Ai-1 and sells for $400. Rather than selling the vest for that price and calling it done, the manufacturer has a subscription scheme.

The airbag system is made by a company called In&Motion and is known as the In&Box detection module. The module has sensors and computer components inside that can detect a crash and inflate the airbag. After buying the vest for $400, which includes the module, users download an app and choose how to unlock the module to make the vest work.

That means either spending another $400 for permanent access making the vest cost $800, or subscribe for $12 a month or $120 per year. The catch for those who subscribe is if your payment fails to go through, the company deactivates the vest. That opens the door to the life-threatening situation of having a motorcyclist wear a deactivated vest and have their lives put at risk by an airbag vest that the manufacturer has purposefully deactivated.

The manufacturer does say users have a 30 day grace period to update the payment method before the vest is deactivated. The manufacturer also says that the vest has indicators that show if it is in ride-ready state and functional. The manufacturer says if the writer chooses to wear the vest while it isn’t in a ride-ready state, that choice is on them.

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