The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



President Barack Obama may dismiss Adm. Michael Rogers from his posts as head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. A recommendation to sack Rogers, who was promoted to his positions two years ago, came last month from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Administration and intelligence officials say the recommendation was motivated by multiple security breaches at the NSA during Rogers’s tenure. Moreover, Carter and Clapper had previously recommended to the White House that the NSA be uncoupled from Cyber Command and led by a civilian.

Meanwhile, President-Elect Donald Trump is considering Rogers for top posts in his government, including director of national intelligence. Rogers, reportedly without notifying his bosses, met with the Republican at Trump Tower in New York on Thursday. (WaPo, NYT, The Hill)


Mirai Botnet: Security researchers say that the malware could be evolving to allow it to infect more internet-of-things devices. Mirai seems to have been designed as more of an updating software platform capable of adding new features rather than a one-off attack, they say. (Wired)


Adult FriendFinder: A hack against the popular adult dating company has reportedly exposed data related to more than 400  million user accounts, one of the largest such breaches on record. The stolen data stretches back 20 years and includes usernames, emails, join dates, and the date of a user’s last visit. (WaPo)


Critical Infrastructure: A pair of researchers is studying the potential cascading effects of a cyberattack on the country’s critical systems, including the electrical grid. The effort is expected to last three years and is funded by the Energy Department and Esri, a mapping software firm. (CSM)

Election: The White House confirmed that days before the presidential election, the United States “contacted the Russian government directly regarding malicious cyberactivity” that was “targeting U.S. state election-related systems.” It sent the message over a hotline connecting the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers in both countries, which they had agreed three years ago could also be employed to deal with major cyberincidents. (NYT)


Snowden: President-Elect Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Mike Pompeo, has called for the former NSA contractor to be brought back from Russia, tried, and “given a death sentence” for exposing U.S. national security secrets. (Ars Technica)

British Hacker: The UK's home secretary signed an extradition order agreeing that Lauri Love should face trial in the United States. Love has been charged with various hacking offenses for his targeting of the U.S. military and other federal agencies. Love's lawyers have two weeks to mount an appeal. (Ars Technica)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Cyber Committee: Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) said that he plans to recommend a new select committee on cybersecurity, noting that the issue “crossed jurisdictional lines” and is too important to leave without a specific home. (The Hill)


FCC: The Federal Communications Commission is signaling that it may not be passing any more controversial rules this year, an acknowledgment that the incoming Trump administration could take things in a very different direction. Until last week, the FCC appeared to be moving forward with its agenda despite the looming transition in power. (WaPo)


China-Germany Deal: A federal committee that advises the White House on foreign investments recommended that the proposed acquisition of Aixtron, a German semiconductor firm, by Fujian Grand Chip, a Chinese company, be scuttled. (NYT)

Bitcoin: The IRS is looking into people who may have used Bitcoin to evade taxes. The tax agency sent a request last week to Coinbase, the largest Bitcoin exchange in the United States, asking for the records of all customers who bought virtual currency from the company from 2013 to 2015. (NYT)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Facebook: CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a detailed letter describing ways the company was considering dealing with the posting of fake news. The message follows a week of accusations that the spread of phony stories on Facebook may have affected the outcome of the presidential election. (NYT)

Symantec: The cybersecurity giant said it would acquire U.S. identity theft protection services company LifeLock Inc for $2.3 billion, in a deal that it hopes will prop up sales at its Norton antivirus unit. (Reuters)

  THE WORLD                                     

Global: Messaging apps are facing increased pressure from government authorities as digital rights around the world are slipping, according to a new Freedom House report that looks at online access, censorship, and surveillance in 65 countries around the world. (WaPo)

Russia: The U.S. government said it was deeply concerned over Moscow’s decision to block public access to the professional networking site LinkedIn, saying it created a precedent that could be used to justify blocking other sites operating in Russia. (Reuters)

America’s Top Spy Talks Snowden Leaks and Our Ominous Future: “In his final months in the role, Clapper and more than a dozen of his top aides and advisers provided WIRED with an unprecedented series of interviews discussing the state of America’s intelligence apparatus and the threats they’ll be handing off to a new administration come January 20. Even six years in, such exchanges don’t come naturally. “In this job,” Clapper says, “I’ve found the less I talk, the better,” writes Garrett M. Graff in Wired.


How Fake News Goes Viral: “While some fake news is produced purposefully by teenagers in the Balkans or entrepreneurs in the United States seeking to make money from advertising, false information can also arise from misinformed social media posts by regular people that are seized on and spread through a hyperpartisan blogosphere. Here, The New York Times deconstructs how Mr. Tucker’s now-deleted declaration on Twitter the night after the election turned into a fake-news phenomenon,” writes Sapna Maheshwari in the New York Times.

Inside a Moneymaking Machine Like No Other: “Few firms are the subject of so much fascination, rumor, or speculation. Everyone has heard of [Renaissance Technologies]; almost no one knows what goes on inside. (The company also operates three hedge funds, open to outside investors, that together oversee about $26 billion, although their performance is less spectacular than Medallion’s.) Apart from Simons, who retired in 2009 to focus on philanthropic causes, relatively little has been known about this small group of scientists—whose vast wealth is greater than the gross domestic product of many countries and increasingly influences U.S. politics1—until now,” writes Katherine Burton for Bloomberg.


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