The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



Lawmakers from both parties took turns lambasting attorneys from some of the nation’s leading technology firms for their failure to halt or at least mitigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. “I don't think you get it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told lawyers representing Facebook, Google, and Twitter at a Senate Intelligence committee hearing on Wednesday, the second of three separate hearings last week examining the issue. “What we're talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we're talking about is the beginning of cyberwarfare. What we're talking about is a major foreign power with sophistication and ability to involve themselves in a presidential election and sow conflict and discontent all over this country. We are not going to go away gentlemen. And this is a very big deal,” she said.


While all three company attorneys said they were disturbed by the Russian influence campaign, they also sought to portray the magnitude of content as small parts of the overall flow of information on their platforms.

National legislators are, for the first time in years, debating whether to impose new restrictions on how these companies operate, particularly when it comes to political advertising. Facebook alone revealed that more than 140 million of its users may have seen content posted by Russia-linked agents. Some lawmakers are pushing Facebook to notify the millions of Americans who might have been targeted by Russian propaganda. (WaPo, WSJ, Reuters, NYT)


Fancy Bear: The effort by Russian intelligence to influence the 2016 U.S. election appears to be just one of many projects within the Kremlin’s global hacking campaign. The Russia-linked hacking group Fancy Bear accidentally exposed a digital “hit list” of targets in 116 countries, including the U.S., Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Syria. (AP)


Trump’s Twitter: A rogue contractor working for Twitter unexpectedly but deliberately disabled the president’s account for 11 minutes last Thursday. The incident has sparked praise, censure, and fear, with some pondering the consequences if this individual had instead tweeted that U.S. missiles had been fired at North Korea. (BI)

Cryptocurrencies: The total value of all cryptocurrencies surpassed the $200 billion mark last week, with the best-known, bitcoin, hitting a record high of $7,500. Many analysts are concerned the market is a bubble, with the latest warning coming from the head of Credit Suisse. (Reuters)


Russians: The Justice Department has reportedly identified several members of the Russian government involved in hacking the DNC’s computers during the 2016 presidential election. Sources say prosecutors could bring charges next year. (WSJ)


Search Results: A San Jose federal judge ruled that Canada’s courts can’t compel Google to censor particular search results inside the United States. Analysts say the decision marks a significant win for Google in its effort to prevent any one country from dictating what can be posted or searched online around the world. (WSJ)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Russia Probe: There are reportedly at least nine Trump associates who had contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign or transition. Some are well-known, like former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, and others, such as George Papadopoulos, have been more on the periphery. (WaPo)


Sex Trafficking: Leading internet companies have signaled their support for a U.S. Senate bill aimed at curbing online sex trafficking after obtaining some key concessions from lawmakers. The change now being debated would allow underage victims, as well as local prosecutors, to file civil lawsuits or take other legal action against businesses that facilitate online trafficking. (WSJ)

Bin Laden Files: The CIA released nearly half a million files seized at Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound after the 2011 raid that killed him. The files expand on a collection of declassified documents from Abbottabad that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has published over the last three years. (Wired)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Energy: A consortium of companies including BP and Royal Dutch Shell will develop a blockchain-based platform for energy commodities trading expected to start by end-2018. The new venture is seeking regulatory approvals and would be run as an independent entity. (Reuters)

  THE WORLD                                     

China: Tech companies from across the world convened at one of the world’s biggest surveillance trade shows in Shenzhen to demonstrate their latest wares. Seagate Technology, Qualcomm, and United Technologies were among the foreign companies to exhibit. (WSJ)

EU: A group of mainly German automakers plan to open ultra-fast electric vehicle charging stations this year and then a pan-European network of 400 by 2020. The car consortium’s new chargers are expected to cost about 200,000 euros each. (Reuters)


Kremlin Cash Behind Billionaire’s Investments: “No one has suggested that [Yuri] Milner or his companies had any connection to the propaganda operation. For his part, Mr. Milner said in a pair of recent interviews that the Russian government money was no different from the financing he had received from his many other investors around the world. Even so, his use of the state-directed apparatus employed by so many Russian oligarchs to enrich themselves shows how the Kremlin has extended its long financial arm not only to his company but to some of America’s technology giants,” writes Jesse Drucker in the New York Times.


Russia, Trump, and the 2016 Election: “As a matter of law, the central question is not whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated or colluded with Russia, but whether they conspired with Russians to break a criminal statute, or whether they broke the law themselves. For instance, investigators will ask whether any member of the Trump campaign conspired with Russian agents to hack into Democratic National Committee (DNC) email accounts, which violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” writes Jonathan Masters for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Net States Rule the World: “Net-states are digital non-state actors, without the violence. Like nation-states, they’re a wildly diverse bunch. Some are the equivalent to global superpowers: the Googles, the Facebooks, the Twitters. Others are mere gatherings of pranksters, like Lulzsec (whose sole purpose for action is “for the lulz”—the laughs). Others still are paramilitary operations, such as GhostSec, an invite-only cyberarmy specifically created to target ISIS. There are also hacktivist collectives like Anonymous and Wikileaks. Regardless of their differences in size and raison d’etre, net-states of all stripes share three key qualities: They exist largely online, enjoy international devotees, and advance belief-driven agendas that they pursue separate from, and at times, above, the law,” writes Alexis Wichowski in Wired.


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