The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



Top U.S. technology brands face growing legal scrutiny for their potential role in facilitating a campaign by Russia-backed actors to influence the 2016 presidential race and sow general political discord.


Federal lawmakers summoned Twitter representatives to the Hill last week to brief them on Russia’s use of the social media platform. Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, panned the company’s presentation, which he said “showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is.” Warner is leading efforts to require internet platforms to reveal who is purchasing online political ads.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Google are also in Congress’ crosshairs amid the Russian influence probe. Facebook is expected to turn over more than 3,000 Russian-linked advertisements to congressional investigators today, while Google is conducting an internal investigation into whether Russian-linked entities used its services to manipulate voters. It plans to share its findings with Congress soon. Lawmakers have asked representatives from all three companies to testify at a public hearing on November 1. (WSJ, Reuters, NYT, The Hill)


Whole Foods: The grocery company, which was recently purchased by Amazon, said that payment card information has been stolen from taprooms, restaurants, and other venues located within some of its stores. The company is reportedly working with law enforcement and cybersecurity forensics firms. (Reuters)

Old Firmware: A study by Duo Security has revealed that out-of-date firmware on Macs and PCs is vulnerable to well-resourced hackers. Computers are supposed to update their firmware automatically whenever a user updates the operating system, but some 4 percent of the sample did not, the report found. (WaPo)


Apple: The iPhone maker received more than 13,000 national-security related requests from the U.S. government in the first half of this year, more than quadruple for the same period last year. (Reuters)

Equifax: New York state’s financial services regulator subpoenaed the company demanding it provide more information about the massive data breach disclosed this month. Equifax announced last week that CEO Richard Smith would leave the company and forgo his 2017 bonus. (Reuters)


  ON THE HILL                                    

Computer Science: Big tech firms including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have pledged a total of $300 million for computer science education as part of a partnership with the Trump administration to prepare students for careers in technology. (NYT)

Driverless Cars: The Senate Commerce Committee is expected this week to vote on a bill aimed at lowering hurdles for the rollout of self-driving cars. A similar bill unanimously passed the U.S. House earlier this month. (Reuters)


Cyber Defense: Hewlett Packard reportedly allowed a Russian defense agency to review the inner workings of software used by the Pentagon to defend its computer networks. Experts said the source code review could help Moscow discover weaknesses in the software and potentially undermine it. (Reuters)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Equifax: The company’s board is reviewing the actions of John J. Kelley, Equifax’s top lawyer, in connection with the potentially illegal share sales by corporate executives in the aftermath of the massive data breach. (WSJ)


Twitter: President’s Trump controversial tweets have fueled an intensifying debate over whether Twitter should suspend his account. Twitter's rules prohibit violent threats, which some users say the president has violated several times. (WaPo)

Robots: Global sales of industrial robots rose by 16 percent in 2016, driven by the electronics industry, and are expected to rise faster in 2017. Analysts say that future drivers of demand would be the industrial internet that links factories with virtual reality, collaborative robots, machine learning and artificial intelligence. (Reuters)

  THE WORLD                                     

Bitcoin: As China has cracked down on Bitcoin activity, Japan and South Korea have both showed growing interest in virtual currencies. Japan’s main Bitcoin exchange, bitFlyer, has become the largest in the world in recent weeks. (NYT)

EU: Europol says that ransomware has eclipsed most other forms of cybercrime. A new report from the police agency also cited data breaches, darknet markets, extortion of youth for child pornography, and payment fraud as growing threats. (Reuters)


How Equifax Epically Bungled Its Breach Response: “The breach of the credit monitoring firm Equifax, which exposed extensive personal data for 143 million people, is the worst corporate data breach to date. But, incredibly, the mistakes and the superlatives don’t end there. Three weeks since the company first publicly disclosed the situation, a steady stream of gaffes and revelations paint a picture of Equifax's deeply lacking response to catastrophe,” writes Lily Hay Newman in Wired.


Zuckerberg’s Preposterous Defense of Facebook: “In a largely automated platform like Facebook, what matters most is not the political beliefs of the employees but the structures, algorithms and incentives they set up, as well as what oversight, if any, they employ to guard against deception, misinformation and illegitimate meddling. And the unfortunate truth is that by design, business model and algorithm, Facebook has made it easy for it to be weaponized to spread misinformation and fraudulent content,” writes Zeynep Tufecki in the New York Times.

Banning Russian Facebook Ads May Be Impossible: “Lost amid the debate over whether Facebook can be trusted to police itself to stop Russian and other foreign interference in future U.S. elections or whether new legislation is necessary to accomplish this task is a potential insuperable roadblock to effective regulation: the conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court and their views of the First Amendment,” writes Richard Hasen for Politico.


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