The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

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A collection of privacy groups and more than two dozen leading U.S. technology companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and AT&T filed legal briefs asking a California federal judge to rule in favor of Apple in its encryption battle with the Obama administration. Apple is opposing a court order compelling it to write software that would help the FBI access a terrorism suspect’s iPhone. The companies supporting Apple largely echoed the iPhone maker’s main argument: that the 1789 All Writs Act cannot be used to force companies to create new technology, and that Congress, not the courts, should address the encryption challenge.

Meanwhile, relatives of the victims of the San Bernardino attacks weighed in with their own briefs opposing Apple. Three California law enforcement groups, three federal law enforcement groups, and the San Bernardino district attorney also filed in favor of the government. Some legal analysts said it was unusual to see such a wave of high-level briefs this early in a case, and suggested the campaign was intended to have influence beyond the court, with policymakers and others. (Reuters, NYT, Wired, WSJ)
Mac Ransomware: Researchers say they discovered over the weekend the first functioning ransomware attacking Apple's Mac computers. Hackers reportedly infected devices through a tainted copy of a popular program known as Transmission, which is used to transfer data through a peer-to-peer file sharing network. (Reuters)

Recruitment: A new study found that that the process that hackers use to recruit new hires is similar in many ways to typical HR practices. A sparkling Reputation coupled with great references go a very long way, researchers say. (Atlantic)

Encryption Tech: The Chertoff Group, a U.S. security consultancy, issued a report examining encryption technologies, the feasibility of providing law enforcement with extraordinary access, and the implications for U.S. national security. (Chertoff Group)
Turkish Hacker: A Turkish man, Ercan Findikoglu, who U.S. prosecutors say masterminded a series of cyberattacks that enabled $55 million to be siphoned from ATMs around the world pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court. (Reuters)
Encryption Debate: Amid Apple’s legal battle with the FBI, some in Congress and corporate executives are pushing to create a commission to address the challenges posed by encryption. Meanwhile, there are reportedly some divisions within the Obama administration on the issue, particularly between the FBI, the Pentagon, and the Department of Homeland Security. (WSJ, NYT)

China-Iran: The Commerce Department plans to place export restrictions on Chinese telecoms equipment-maker ZTE Corp for allegedly violating U.S. export controls on Iran. The restrictions are expected to take effect tomorrow. (Reuters)
Bug Bounty: The Defense Department announced that it is launching a “Hack the Pentagon” pilot program to pay independent cybersecurity researchers who disclose bugs in its public-facing websites. There are also plans to eventually roll out the initiative to DOD’s less public targets. (Wired)

National Guard: The Guard’s cyber squadrons will play an increasingly important role in assessing the vulnerabilities of U.S. infrastructure and could be asked to join the fight against the Islamic State, said Secretary Ash Carter. (Reuters)
Cloud Computing: Tech industry analysts say that Silicon Valley companies are in a big hunt to recruit top talent that can build and run the massive data centers behind cloud computing. As other tech sectors show signs of slowing, cloud services have created extraordinary demand for highly-educated engineers and mathematicians. (NYT)

Amazon: The retail giant said it plans to restore an encryption feature on its Fire tablets after customers and privacy advocates criticized the company for quietly removing it when it released its latest operating system. (Reuters)
Japan: A researcher in Tokyo has developed a robotic hand that has drawn the attention of the global defense industry. However, a decades-old law prevents most Japanese researchers from performing military research. (FT)

China: The country is looking to become a global leader in technology industries like semiconductors, robotics, aviation equipment, and satellites, according to a new five-year government plan. (Reuters)
Must Reads
Inside the Hack of Ukraine’s Power Grid: “The hackers who struck the power centers in Ukraine—the first confirmed hack to take down a power grid—weren’t opportunists who just happened upon the networks and launched an attack to test their abilities; according to new details from an extensive investigation into the hack, they were skilled and stealthy strategists who carefully planned their assault over many months, first doing reconnaissance to study the networks and siphon operator credentials, then launching a synchronized assault in a well-choreographed dance,” writes Kim Zetter in Wired.

Robotics in American Law: “Robots have been in American society for half a century. And, like most technologies, they have occasioned legal disputes. A small team of research assistants and I went back and looked at hundreds of cases involving robots in some way or another over the past six years. The cases span a wide variety of legal contexts, including criminal, maritime, tort, immigration, import, tax, and other law. Together they tell a fascinating story about the way courts think about an increasingly important technology,” writes Ryan Calo for Slate.

The Lawyer Doing Battle With Apple: “Mr. Comey was in the middle of the court battles that followed the bursting of the tech bubble and, as U.S. deputy attorney-general, he was involved in a furious 2004 dispute within the George W. Bush administration over electronic surveillance that foreshadowed the revelations made by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned exiled whistleblower,” writes Geoff Dyer in the Financial Times.
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