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Esports News UK’s Top 10 Interviews of 2023

Smooya and Dobbo win their first Insomnia CSGO LAN with Into the Breach amidst server problems
April 2022 saw Insomnia Gaming Festival return for the first time in a couple of years after the pandemic, and we had a mix of talent playing in the LAN Opens.

We had the opportunity to chat to UK CS talent new and old after Into the Breach’s CSGO win, with veteran Smooya and up-and-coming player Dobbo, plus a bonus surprise appearance from Thomas. The interview also came following some major technical issues at the event which affected teams and players – and Smooya gave a surprising answer when asked about this.

Frankie Ward on balancing parenthood with esports, returning to CSGO’s centre stage and the challenges of social media.

CSGO was blessed with a few decent majors last year, and rising caster, interviewer and host Tom ‘Sneaky’ Taylor travelled to the PGL Antwerp Major to conduct some interviews. One of which was with charismatic British host Frankie Ward, who had just returned to esports work at the time after becoming a parent, resulting in an open, frank (ahem) and interesting interview.

Interview with Caedrel as he returns to Excel Esports as a content creator.

Popular British League of Legends streamer and LEC caster, Marc ‘Caedrel’ Lamont, returned to Excel Esports as a content creator in February 2022, a role he balanced with his LEC casting. We had an in-depth chat with him over his career and how his streams became so popular.

In-depth video interview: Rams ‘R2K’ Singh on going from pro gamer to esports lecturer, being part of the old Dignitas family, race in esports and how playing got him through some tough times.

At Insomnia 68, Esports News UK had the chance to speak with one of the UK’s early pro gamers, Rams ‘R2K’ Singh, who is programme co-ordinator senior lecturer in esports at the University of Chichester.

We spoke with everything from how esports has changed over the past couple of decades, the perception of esports degress and education, and lots more.

Interview with fredy122 on Rogue’s Worlds 2022 progress and the Koi partnership.

UK head coach Simon ‘fredy122’ Payne has been with Rogue since their first foray into the LEC in 2019. Megalodontus spoke to him at Worlds 2022 and he talked about Rogue’s form, preparation going into Worlds, as well as some brief thoughts on the Rogue Koi merger.

William ‘mezii’ Merriman is one of few UK CSGO pros playing at the top level. Often overlooked for the more public persona of smooya and others, mezii is a solid player and comes across smart, calm and grounded. To get to know him better, we enlisted British esports personality and host, James Banks, to speak to him in this in-depth interview broadcast live on Twitch.
Interview: Head of VCT Game Changers EMEA Ashley Washington answers questions from women in UK Valorant on the effects of Riot’s tournament series and potential future changes.

Esports News UK was offered an interview with Head of VCT Game Changers EMEA, Ashley Washington, to ask about the effects Game Changers is having within the game and the industry.

Rather than just have a man ask questions about a scene that’s for women, Esports News UK enlisted a trio of women actually working in the space to ask Ashley guest interview questions direct: British Esports’ Women in Esports manager Billie Purdie, Game Changers tournament admin and NUEL women & non-binary product manager Lauryn Halpenny, and Durham Uni esports lead Kylie Kendrick.

DonJake calls out NLC and UK orgs for not doing enough to build their identity or create better content

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Russian hackers exploit six-year-old Cisco flaw to target US government agencies

APT28, a state-sponsored hacking group operated by Russian military intelligence, is exploiting a six-year-old vulnerability in Cisco routers to deploy malware and carry out surveillance, according to the U.S. and U.K. governments.

In a joint advisory issued on Tuesday, U.S. cybersecurity agency CISA along with the FBI, the NSA and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center detail how the Russia-backed hackers exploited Cisco router vulnerabilities throughout 2021 with the aim of targeting European organizations and U.S. government institutions. The advisory said the hackers also hacked “approximately 250 Ukrainian victims,” which the agencies did not name.

APT28, also known as Fancy Bear, is known for carrying out a range of cyberattacks, espionage and hack-and-leak information operations on behalf of the Russian government.

According to the joint advisory, the hackers exploited a remotely exploitable vulnerability patched by Cisco in 2017 to deploy a custom-built malware dubbed “Jaguar Tooth,” which is designed to infect unpatched routers.

To install the malware, the threat actors scan for internet-facing Cisco routers using a default or easy-to-guess SNMP community string.

SNMP, or Simple Network Management Protocol, allows network administrators to remotely access and configure routers in place of a username or password, but can also be misused to obtain sensitive network information.

Once installed, the malware exfiltrates information from the router and provides stealthy backdoor access to the device, the agencies said.

Matt Olney, director of threat intelligence at Cisco Talos, said in a blog post this campaign is an example of “a much broader trend of sophisticated adversaries targeting networking infrastructure to advance espionage objectives or pre-position for future destructive activity.”

“Cisco is deeply concerned by an increase in the rate of high-sophistication attacks on network infrastructure — that we have observed and have seen corroborated by numerous reports issued by various intelligence organizations — indicating state-sponsored actors are targeting routers and firewalls globally,” Olney said.

Olney added that in addition to Russia, China has also been spotted attacking network equipment in several campaigns.

Earlier this year, Mandiant reported that Chinese state-backed attackers exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Fortinet devices to carry out a series of attacks on government organizations.

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South Florida counties gear up for stinky seaweed season

Sargassum making its annual voyage to South Florida’s shorelines, threatening tourism and coastal ecosystem.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Large patches of what will become stinky shoreline seaweed, stretching from the west coast of Africa to just off the southern cost of Cuba, are making their way to South Florida and local leaders are getting ready.

Local 10 News Photojournalist Curt Calhoon recently spotted sargassum, surface floating patches of brown micro algae, off the deck of a ship cruising through the Caribbean.

Brian Barnes is one of the University of South Florida researchers tracking a bloom via satellite.

“We call it the great Atlantic sargassum belt,” Barnes said. “They range in size from a handful to a square mile.”

In the ocean, it serves as a floating nursery for a variety of marine species.

The problem happens when it comes on shore. If not cleaned up properly, it can shade out corals and sea grass and create near-shore dead zones as it decays.

“It uses up all of the oxygen in the area and you can get a dead zone,” said Barnes. “As it decays, it can fall in the weather column and straight smother those ecosystems.”

As it starts to decompose, the sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

“Some people with asthma may have some respiratory issues, but not the broader population,” said Barnes.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county will gear up as needed.

“We have a contract in place with a company that is removing sargassum from some of the hot spots,” she said.

Researchers who have been tracking the steady annual increase in sargassum say there are a variety of factors at play regarding why the naturally occurring micro algae is blooming patches upwards of a square mile in size, from warming seas to oceans rich in nutrients like human sewage and fertilizer run-offs from the world’s rivers into the sea.

“Definitely we are on alert and making sure there should be an increase — our current cost is $3.9 million per year for the contract,” said Levine Cava. “We do have requests for support from state and federal sources, so we are gearing up to bring attention to the fact that we do need help.”

Sargassum season typically runs from May to October, the same window as sea turtle nesting season.

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South Florida counties gear up for stinky seaweed season
Sargassum making its annual voyage to South Florida’s shorelines, threatening tourism and coastal ecosystem
South Florida coastal counties preparing for stinky seaweed season

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MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Large patches of what will become stinky shoreline seaweed, stretching from the west coast of Africa to just off the southern cost of Cuba, are making their way to South Florida and local leaders are getting ready.

Local 10 News Photojournalist Curt Calhoon recently spotted sargassum, surface floating patches of brown micro algae, off the deck of a ship cruising through the Caribbean.

Brian Barnes is one of the University of South Florida researchers tracking a bloom via satellite.

“We call it the great Atlantic sargassum belt,” Barnes said. “They range in size from a handful to a square mile.”

In the ocean, it serves as a floating nursery for a variety of marine species.

The problem happens when it comes on shore. If not cleaned up properly, it can shade out corals and sea grass and create near-shore dead zones as it decays.

“It uses up all of the oxygen in the area and you can get a dead zone,” said Barnes. “As it decays, it can fall in the weather column and straight smother those ecosystems.”

As it starts to decompose, the sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

“Some people with asthma may have some respiratory issues, but not the broader population,” said Barnes.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county will gear up as needed.

“We have a contract in place with a company that is removing sargassum from some of the hot spots,” she said.

Researchers who have been tracking the steady annual increase in sargassum say there are a variety of factors at play regarding why the naturally occurring micro algae is blooming patches upwards of a square mile in size, from warming seas to oceans rich in nutrients like human sewage and fertilizer run-offs from the world’s rivers into the sea.

“Definitely we are on alert and making sure there should be an increase — our current cost is $3.9 million per year for the contract,” said Levine Cava. “We do have requests for support from state and federal sources, so we are gearing up to bring attention to the fact that we do need help.”

Sargassum season typically runs from May to October, the same window as sea turtle nesting season.

“Every day, there are people looking for where nests might be, marking off those areas, making sure they are not disturbing any nests while cleaning up the sargassum,” Levine Cava said.

In Monroe County, officials said they are planning for twice-daily cleanings.

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Antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high, the ADL reports

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. rose 36% in 2022, an annual audit by the Anti-Defamation League shows.

The report, released Thursday, tracked 3,697 incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault targeting Jewish people and communities last year. It is the third time in five years that the tally has been the highest number ever recorded since the ADL first began collecting data in 1979.

«This escalation in antisemitic incidents comes just as ADL has reported on Americans’ highest level of antisemitic attitudes in decades,» the report says, adding that public officials, famous artists and social media stars have been instrumental in normalizing longstanding antisemitic tropes.

The ADL report comes on the heels of an FBI report earlier this month, stating that hate crimes reported across the country increased nearly 12% in 2021 from 2020.

5 states account for more than half of the incidents
According to the latest ADL analysis, surges in each of the major audit categories occurred in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Antisemitic harassment increased 29%, from 1,776 to 2,298
Antisemitic vandalism increased 51%, from 853 to 1,288
Antisemitic assaults increased 26%, from 88 to 111.

New York is the state with the highest number of reported incidents: 580. California follows with 518, New Jersey with 408, Florida with 269 and Texas with 211. «Combined, these five states account for 54 % of the total incidents.

Schools and synagogues are growing targets
Another alarming finding is the number of bomb threats towards Jewish institutions, including schools and synagogues, spiking from eight to 91. It is the highest number of bomb threats since 2017.

Young children and educators in K-12 schools were victims of threats or assaults in 494 incidents. Meanwhile, 219 incidents were reported on college campuses.

People who presented as Orthodox Jews were targeted in 59 of the assault incidents nationally.

The Goyim Defense League is behind more than half of all propaganda incidents
The ADL also found activity doubled among organized white supremacist groups, which were linked to 852 incidents of distributing antisemitic propaganda.

While the study cites a number of factors contributing to the surge, the organization concluded the massive uptick in the spread of anti-Jewish propaganda was «largely due to the growth of the Goyim Defense League,» known as the GDL.

The GDL network, which has significant crossover with other white supremacist groups and movements, was responsible for at least 492 propaganda incidents in 2022, a dramatic increase from the 74 recorded in 2021.

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