The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

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The Cyber Brief
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President Obama is asking Congress for $19 billion in federal cybersecurity spending for 2017, a 35 percent increase from this year. The request is one of the largest bumps ever sought in this area, and is part of a larger package of initiatives the administration is calling the Cybersecurity National Action Plan or CNAP. Officials said the funds would be used to replace ageing computer systems, help recruit the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, and boost capabilities at the Pentagon and civilian agencies. Among other things, CNAP calls for creating a chief information security officer to manage cybersecurity policy across the federal government, establishing a commission of outside experts to advise on national cybersecurity, and launching a campaign to raise public awareness of cybersecurity issues. (CSM, WashPost, FedNewsRadio)
Encryption: A new global survey illustrates just how rich the catalogue of encryption products is and why government attempts at banning or undermining the technology may be futile. (Wired)

IRS: The tax agency said a recent outage of its web processing was caused by a mechanical failure and was not the result of a cyberattack. The news marked the latest in a series of computer problems that have embarrassed the IRS, and, in some cases, raised the risk that taxpayers' personal information could be accessed. (USAToday)

NYPD: New York police have used covert cellphone tracking devices, known as stingrays, more than a 1,000 times since 2008, according to a civil liberties group. NYPD reportedly said it had no written policies governing the use of the devices but, in practice, obtains orders under a specific provision of state law that allows the collection of call data related to a specific phone. (NYT)
UK: British authorities arrested an unnamed 16-year-old suspected of being involved with a group that hacked into the email accounts of high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials, including John Brennan and James Clapper. (CNN)

Uber: The ride-booking company will pay $28.5 million to settle charges that its marketing and in-app information misled consumers about how safe the service was. The proposed settlement covers all Uber customers who took a ride in a U.S.-based Uber between Jan 2013 and Jan 2016. (WashPost)
Threat Assessment: The U.S. intelligence community deemed cyber-related threats as its top global concern for the fourth year running. Leading cyber-threat actors the United States must monitor included Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. (Senate)

North Korea: A bill to sanction the Asian country for its burgeoning cyber warfare efforts is headed to the president’s desk. The House approved the North Korea Sanctions Policy and Enhancement Act, which would, among other things, mandate penalties on those caught aiding the country’s malicious cyber activities. (The Hill)

FBI: The Bureau is asking Congress for $38 million in funding to combat the risk of “going dark,” a 23 percent increase over what the agency spent last year to counter the growing use of encryption technology. (The Hill)

FCC: The agency is expected to craft controversial regulations in the coming months on how broadband providers handle sensitive customer data, and advocates for consumers and industry are gearing up for the debate. (The Hill)
IBM: The tech giant is becoming the biggest backer of blockchain, a technology that underpins the Bitcoin digital currency. IBM is one of a number of companies that seeks to build an open source repository of blockchain code that will address existing gaps in technology. (WSJ)

Facebook: Under pressure from U.S. government officials, Facebook is more aggressively policing material it views as supporting terrorism. The news follows a recent announcement by Twitter that it was actively removing violent extremist content. (WSJ)

Google: The company will soon block access to certain disputed links from all of its domains when people in Europe use its online search engine. It is Google’s latest move to comply with a 2014 data privacy ruling, known as the “right to be forgotten”, by Europe’s highest court. (NYT)
South Korea: Responding to the government's elevation of its cyber alert level, South Korea's financial entities have bolstered their cybersecurity measures in the wake of renewed tensions with North Korea. (Yonhap)

Must Reads
Obama’s Cybersecurity Plan: Writing in Wired, P.W. Singer highlights notable aspects of the president’s proposal and why it may succeed. “The plan is actually a great illustration of how cybersecurity is one of those rare issues yet to split down a clear right/left partisan divide. And that may well be why it has a chance to work,” he says.

Twitter and Terrorism: In this three-part series, the Lawfare blog examines current litigation against Twitter for aiding ISIS and whether the social media company can be held liable under the material support for terrorism law for hosting accounts linked to violent extremist groups. “In our view, the answer is probably that it is. The more difficult question is whether the Constitution precludes applying that law against to Twitter for activity that bears some significant relationship to publication and speech,” write Wittes and Bedell.

Creating a Computer Voice That People Like: “A new design science is emerging in the pursuit of building what are called “conversational agents,” software programs that understand natural language and speech and can respond to human voice commands. However, the creation of such systems, led by researchers in a field known as human-computer interaction design, is still as much an art as it is a science,” writes John Markoff in the New York Times.
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