The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



President-Elect Donald Trump on Saturday once again voiced skepticism of a U.S. intelligence assessment that found that the Kremlin was behind a malicious cyber campaign to manipulate the U.S. presidential race. Once more, the Republican highlighted past U.S. intelligence failures as a cautionary tale, pointing to the CIA’s erroneous assessment in 2002 that said Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. His remarks came two days after the Obama administration retaliated for the hacking, expelling dozens of Russian diplomats and blacklisting several individuals and entities for attempting to interfere in the election. President Vladimir Putin said his government would not expel U.S. personnel in response, noting that he hopes to rebuild Russian-U.S. relations based on Trump administration policies. Intelligence leaders will reportedly brief Trump on the state-sponsored hacking this week.


Many political analysts say the fresh batch of U.S. sanctions on Russia could set the stage for a showdown between Congress and the incoming Trump administration over how Washington should interact with its former Cold War rival. The president-elect’s stated hopes for warmer relations with Russia do not sit well with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, which has promised even tougher measures against Moscow this year. (NYT, WSJ, FT, WaPo)



Behind Russia’s Cyber Strategy: Russia’s military reportedly outlined what is now seen as a blueprint for cyberwarfare with a 2013 article penned by Gen. Valery Gerasimov. (WSJ)


How Russia Recruits Elite Hackers: For years Russian government recruiters have scouted a wide range of programmers, offering jobs to college students, professional coders, and even criminals. (NYT)


A Most Intriguing Russian Hacker: Before Alisa Shevchenko, a minor celebrity in Moscow computer industry circles, was blacklisted by the Obama administration last week, she had reportedly helped U.S. authorities prevent cybercrime.


What is the Attribution Problem? A fundamental concept in cybersecurity and digital forensics is the fact that it is sometimes extremely difficult after a cyberattack to definitively name a perpetrator. (Wired)

How Could Obama Secretly Hack Russia?: Although experts say it's unlikely to do so, the Obama administration has many options to go after Russia in cyberspace, from erasing Russian government databases, to leaking embarrassing documents on Kremlin officials, to releasing copies of Moscow’s elite hacking tools. (Politico)



Twitter: After breaking into Sony Music’s account on the social media platform, a hacker published fake statements that pop music star Britney Spears had died. The fake tweets were soon removed. In some, the online group OurMine took responsibility. (Reuters)

FDIC: The FBI is reportedly investigating a years-long cybersecurity breach at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Senior FDIC officials believe it was sponsored by China's military. (Reuters)


Law Firms: Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged three Chinese citizens with making more than $4 million by trading on information they got by hacking into some of the top merger-advising law firms in New York. (NYT)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Team Trump: The president-elect named Thomas P. Bossert, a top national security aide under President George W. Bush, to be his homeland security adviser. Bossert will reportedly be equal in status to that of Gen. Michael Flynn, whom Trump chose to be his national security adviser. (NYT)

FDA: The federal regulator issued new guidance encouraging medical device manufacturers to monitor their products for bugs and patch any problems that occur. The recommendations are not legally enforceable. Cybersecurity researchers have repeatedly demonstrated how to remotely tamper with popular devices like defibrillators, pacemakers, and insulin pumps. (Verge)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Banking Regs: In response to public comments, New York state's financial regulator issued a revised proposal for the nation's first cybersecurity rules for banks and insurers, loosening some requirements and delaying implementation by two months to March 1. (Reuters)

Insurance: The London insurance market, the largest in the world, is predicting a boom in companies and individuals taking out policies against cyberattacks in 2017 following a 50 percent rise this year. The United States, where legislation regulates how companies must respond to cyberattacks, accounts for the biggest chunk of the demand. (FT)

  THE WORLD                                     

Global: A coordinated effort by Europol and multinational law enforcement agencies has resulted in nearly three dozen arrests for users of distributed denial of service (DDoS) tools that can overload and disable websites. (Federal Times)

Separately, Bitcoin more than doubled last year, pushing the value of the outstanding currency to $16bn. Its resurgence in the face of bad publicity has fed hopes among supporters that it will eventually be a digital currency beyond the influence of national governments. (FT)


Europe: The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international election and war monitor, said it suffered a "major" cyberattack that "compromised the confidentiality" of its IT network. French media reported that a Western intelligence agency believes that Russian hackers were responsible. (AFP)


China: The country’s top cybersecurity body issued a strategy document that laid out the framework for a controversial cybersecurity law released in November, which foreign business groups say could bar overseas firms from competing in the world’s number two market. (Reuters)

Germany: Berlin is completely overhauling the parliament’s computer systems following Russia's suspected hack in 2015, and the government is increasing its guard against cyber warfare more broadly, including the creation of a 13,500-strong cyber unit in the defense ministry. (FT)


Putin’s Real Long Game: “As the definitions of war and peace have blurred, creating impossibly vast front lines and impossibly vague boundaries of conflict, Putin has launched a kind of global imperialist insurgency. The Kremlin aggressively promotes an alternate ideological base to expand an illiberal world order in which the rights and freedoms that most Americans feel are essential to democracy don’t necessarily exist. It backs this up with military, economic, cultural and diplomatic resources. Through a combination of leveraging hard power and embracing the role of permanent disruptor — hacker, mercenary, rule-breaker, liar, thief — Putin works to ensure that Russia cannot be excluded from global power,” writes Molly K. McKew in Politico.


Trump Must Heed Intelligence Agencies: “The dangers of having a U.S. president fundamentally at odds with the FBI and CIA should not need spelling out. First, there is self interest. The CIA knows a lot. Pursuing good relations with its spies is a prudent course for any president. The second point relates to the integrity of institutions that are vital to the running of the US federal government. Mr Trump needs to underline his support for independent intelligence advice that is not politically directed, and that produces actionable findings. The alternative, where no information is deemed reliable, is a scary one,” write editors of the Financial Times.


U.S. Must Join Europe in Resisting Russia: “The critical foreign policy question facing the Trump administration and Congress in 2017 is whether the United States will partner with these and other Western democracies against what has emerged as a global campaign of low-intensity aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Acknowledging the true scale and the scope of the problem is the first step,” writes Josh Rogin in the Washington Post.

The Fable of Edward Snowden: “Russian intelligence uses a single umbrella term to cover anyone who delivers it secret intelligence. Whether a person acted out of idealistic motives, sold information for money or remained clueless of the role he or she played in the transfer of secrets—the provider of secret data is considered an “espionage source.” By any measure, it is a job description that fits Mr. Snowden,” writes Edward Jay Epstein in the Wall Street Journal.


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