The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



Leaders of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee met with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, last week amid an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The lawmakers said they will release to the public thousands of Facebook ads linked to Russia after a hearing scheduled for November 1 on the role social media played in the Kremlin’s influence campaign. Representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter are expected to appear at the hearing.

Facebook has acknowledged that last month it shut down 470 Russian-controlled pages and accounts that bought more than 3,000 ads, and has estimated that those ads reached 10 million people. However, the company has declined to say how many users engaged with Russian content overall. Two Facebook accounts--”Blacktivist” and “Secured Borders”--that appear to have ties to Russia amassed more than half a million followers in the past couple of years. Russia denies any interference in the election. (WSJ, Reuters, NYT, WaPo)


North Korea: As much of the world has focused on the rapid advances in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, cybersecurity experts say the Kim regime has quietly developed an army of hackers that is stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and proving capable of causing mass havoc. (NYT)


Russia: It was reportedly Israeli officials who alerted U.S. authorities to the hacking campaign linked to the Russian antivirus company Kaspersky Lab. The Russian operation is known to have stolen classified documents from the National Security Agency. (NYT)

Equifax: Security researchers identified a small piece of code on Equifax’s website that connected users to a domain that serves up malware. The credit-reporting company has had several data breaches in the past year. (WSJ)


Facebook Parody: Anthony Novak, a 28-year-old Ohio man, is suing police for arresting him and putting him on trial in connection with a fake Facebook page he created that mocked the local police department. Novak was acquitted by a jury of the felony charge of disrupting a public service. (Ars Technica)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Encryption: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with senior British officials including interior minister Amber Rudd and the chief of MI5 intelligence to discuss encryption. In a speech, Rosenstein decried what he called “warrant-proof encryption that puts zero value on law enforcement.” (Reuters)

Social Security #s: Some U.S. policymakers are taking aim at what they say is the overuse of Social Security numbers to verify an individual’s identity. The Trump administration’s top cybersecurity official said the number has “outlived its usefulness,” and a top Republican has introduced a bill that would require credit-reporting firms to phase out the use of Social Security numbers to verify consumers’ identities. (WSJ)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Big Tech: Tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have amassed extraordinary influence over the last decade or so, but increasingly they are coming under fire for creating problems instead of solving them. Under growing pressure, the companies are mounting a public relations blitz. (NYT)


Google: The company has unveiled a $1 billion initiative--Grow With Google--to help train Americans for jobs in technology over the next five years. Google plans to provide the money to nonprofits in education and professional training. (NYT)

Autonomous Vehicles: The World Economic Forum is bringing insurers, tech firms, and governments together to find ways to tackle the risks from new technologies such as drones and driverless cars. The initiative will develop at its flagship annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in Jan 2018. (Reuters)

  THE WORLD                                     

China: Beijing is pressing some of China’s largest tech companies—including Tencent, Weibo and a unit of Alibaba—to offer the government a small stake in them and a direct role in corporate decisions. (WSJ)

Australia: A hacker nicknamed “Alf” gained access to an Australian defense contractor’s computers and began a four-month raid that stole information related to sophisticated U.S. weapons systems, including fighter aircraft and warships. (WSJ)


Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend: “Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the questions of the hour are, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is? And do we still have the regulatory tools and social cohesion to restrain the monopolists before they smash the foundations of our society?” writes Noam Cohen in the New York Times.


You Can’t Buy Presidency for $100K: “The fake news about fake news is practically endless. Americans worried about Russia’s influence in the 2016 election have seized on a handful of Facebook ads—as though there weren’t also three 90-minute debates, two televised party conventions, and $2.4 billion spent on last year’s campaign. The danger is that bending facts to fit the Russia story line may nudge Washington into needlessly and recklessly regulating the internet and curtailing basic freedoms,” writes Mark Penn in the Wall Street Journal.

Hacking a Power Grid: “As real as the threat of power-utility hacking may be, not every grid penetration calls for Defcon 1. Responding to them all with an equal sense of alarm is like conflating a street mugging with an intercontinental ballistic missile attack. What's publicly referred to as a "breach" of an energy utility could range from something barely more sophisticated than a typical malware infection to a nation-state-funded moonshot months or years in the making,” writes Andy Greenberg in Wired.


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