The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



Kremlin-backed hackers reportedly stole top secret information about U.S. cyber activities--both offensive and defensive--from an unidentified contractor working for the National Security Agency. The contractor’s use of the now-banned antivirus software made by Kaspersky Lab, a Russia-based company, reportedly tipped off the hackers to the trove of classified materials.


Analysts say the theft, which occurred in 2015 but wasn’t discovered until last year, is one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It is also the third breach at the NSA involving a contractor’s access to a trove of highly classified materials.

Kaspersky software once was authorized for use by nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies, including several branches of the military, however the Department of Homeland Security banned the company’s products last month amid mounting cybersecurity concerns. (WSJ, Wired, Ars Technica)


Yahoo: The company said that all three billion of its accounts were hacked in 2013, tripling its earlier estimate of the size of the data breach. Yahoo, which is being acquired by Verizon, already faces more than 40 class-action lawsuits in U.S. federal and state courts. (Reuters)


John Kelly: White House officials say that the personal cellphone of Trump’s chief of staff was compromised, potentially as long ago as December. However, it’s unclear what data might have been accessed, if any. (Politico)

Rival hacking: Cybersecurity analysts say that in a growing number of cases business rivals may be responsible for disruptive hacks on competitors. Businesses ranging from online florists to gaming sites to Fortune 500 companies have been the target of rivals, experts say. (FT)


Russian Money Launderer: A Greek court has cleared the way for Alexander Vinnik, a Russian citizen and the alleged mastermind of a $4 billion bitcoin laundering ring, to be sent to the United States where he faces up to 55 years in prison. Moscow said the decision violates international law. (Reuters)

Online Drug Kingpin: Federal authorities arrested Gal Vallerius after the Frenchman reportedly traveled from France to Texas for a beard-growing competition. The accused drug trafficker was transferred to Miami, where he faces a charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. (Miami Herald)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Equifax: Lawmakers heavily criticized Richard Smith, former Equifax CEO, for allowing the recent hack of the credit agency to happen, failing to immediately realize its significance, and for mishandling the aftermath. (WSJ)


Surveillance: A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled legislation to overhaul aspects of the NSA’s warrantless internet surveillance program. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has come under criticism from civil liberties group because it allows U.S. intelligence agencies to incidentally scoop up communications of Americans. The law must be renewed or will expire on Dec. 31. (Reuters)

Code Reviews: Rob Joyce, the top White House cybersecurity official, said that allowing foreign governments to require reviews of software secrets of U.S. technology products is “problematic.” The remarks came after it was revealed recently that Hewlett Packard Enterprise last year allowed a Russian defense agency to review the inner workings of cyber defense software. (Reuters)


Russian Propaganda: An Oxford University study found that Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into online content flowing to U.S. military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook. The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content. (WaPo)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Autonomous Vehicles: Analysts say that many automakers are entering an awkward phase of development where they’re attempting to figure out how to pass control back and forth between driver and machine. (WSJ)

Google: The company for the first time uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited its platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election. The discovery is also significant, analysts say, because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook, which indicates that the Russian propaganda effort may be a much broader problem. (WaPo)


Are Platforms Like Facebook Too Big To Regulate?: “It’s very likely that any approach to regulating Facebook will look more like diplomacy than anything else — a cautious search for détente with an institution that ultimately gets to set its own laws, whether a government likes it or not. Indeed, the company has been presenting itself as a willing, generous participant in American investigations, but more generally as a supranational, self-regulating force for good, and, boldly, as indispensable for the continuation of democracy around the world,” writes John Herrman in the New York Times Magazine.  


How Smartphones Hijack Our Lives: Not only do our phones shape our thoughts in deep and complicated ways, but the effects persist even when we aren’t using the devices. As the brain grows dependent on the technology, the research suggests, the intellect weakens,” writes Nicholas Carr in the Wall Street Journal.

Uber: The Uncomfortable View From the Driving Seat: “You can talk to drivers and you’ll hear them say things like, I just drove a bunch of Uber pools for two hours, I probably picked up 30-40 people and I have no idea where I went. In that state, they are literally just listening to the sounds [of the driver’s apps]. Stopping when they said stop, pick up when they say pick up, turn when they say turn. You get into a rhythm of that, and you begin to feel almost like an android,” writes Leslie Hook in the Financial Times.



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