The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



In a speech this afternoon, President Donald Trump will present his first national security strategy, which is expected to characterize China and Russia as states intent on upending the geopolitical status quo. The 67-page document will reportedly highlight the need to protect critical U.S. infrastructure from hackers, but it is not expected to dwell on Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, and is not expected to include plans to guard against meddling in future U.S. elections.

Although some past national security strategies have been derided as thick with platitudes and short on policy prescriptions, some have been strong predictors of future action. For instance, it was President’s Bush’s strategy, in 2002, that stoked a national debate about the justifications for preemptive military action. (WSJ, Reuters, NYT, WaPo)


Critical Infrastructure: The cybersecurity firm FireEye revealed the existence of a family of malware built to compromise equipment sold by Schneider Electric, which is often used in oil and gas facilities as well as in nuclear energy facilities and manufacturing plants. Experts say it represents just the third-ever known malware focused on damaging or disrupting physical equipment. (Wired)


Instagram: A researcher at Columbia University has shown how the social-photo service was widely used by Russian trolls to distribute disinformation and propaganda, and how it continues to be a hub for those images to be shared and shared again. (NYT)

Digital Currencies: The South Korean government says North Korean hackers were responsible for cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges this year in which nearly $7 million worth of cryptocurrencies were stolen. The digital currency’s value has increased tenfold since then. (Reuters)


Net Neutrality: Attorneys general for the states of New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania plan to file suit against the Trump administration for its move last week to reverse landmark 2015 net neutrality rules. (Reuters)


Uber: A document has surfaced in the legal dispute between Uber and Waymo that alleges that the ride-hailing firm hired CIA-trained contractors to spy on a competing firm’s executives and hack into their systems to gain trade secrets. “Uber has engaged, and continues to engage, in illegal intelligence gathering on a global scale. This conduct violates multiple laws,” alleges the document. (WSJ)

Botnet: Three men pleaded guilty in New Jersey federal court to crimes related to the creation and sale of the Mirai botnet, a network of infected electronics equipment that was used to knock major websites offline in 2016. (Reuters)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Kaspersky Software: President Donald Trump signed into law legislation that bans the use of products made by the Russian firm within the U.S. government. The ban was part of a broader defense policy spending bill. Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government. (Reuters)

Mueller Probe: President Trump’s lawyers have significantly increased their political attacks on the special counsel’s office, particularly amid claims that those investigating the president may be biased. However, Trump has said he was not considering firing Mueller. (NYT)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Andrew Ng: One of the biggest names in artificial intelligence has launched a new venture,, with Foxconn to bring AI and so-called machine learning onto the factory floor. (Reuters)

Chipmakers: Industry analysts point out that as the founders of many chip companies, typically technical experts, are retiring or stepping down, they are being replaced by an aggressive set of chief executives who are quicker to push big acquisitions, slash costs, and drive up profits. (NYT)

  THE WORLD                                     

G20: France is expected to propose that the G20 group of major economies discuss regulation of the bitcoin virtual currency next year at their April summit in Argentina. Bitcoin’s prices have risen more than 1,700 percent since the start of the year. (Reuters)

North Korea: The Asian country now has about four million mobile-phone subscribers—roughly one-sixth of the population and four times the number in 2012, according to reports. However, nearly all North Korean devices run on locally developed operating systems that are stocked with censorship and surveillance tools. (WSJ)


China’s Scary Surveillance Technology: “Step by step, China has been rolling out surveillance technology that is remarkably intrusive, comprehensive and ubiquitous. Eager to exploit gains in technology, Beijing seems little concerned about human rights or privacy violations,” write editors of the Washington Post.


A Gentle Primer on Bitcoin: “The soaring price of bitcoin—the virtual currency is now worth more than $250 billion—has gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks. But the real significance of bitcoin isn't just its rising value. It's the technological breakthrough that allowed the network to exist in the first place. Bitcoin's still anonymous inventor, who went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, figured out a completely new way for a decentralized network to reach a consensus about a shared transaction ledger. This innovation made possible the kind of fully decentralized electronic payment systems that cypherpunks had dreamed about for decades,” writes Timothy B. Lee for Ars Technica.

The War over Net Neutrality: “What matters more is that the rules are being changed two years after they were put in place. Effective regulatory regimes need to be stable. Remember, this is an infrastructure industry. Outlays are heavy, and business decisions have to look forward over a span of years and even decades. There were lawsuits when the Obama administration acted; there are lawsuits again. A regulatory system in a perpetual state of upheaval is a heavy tax on investment and innovation,” write editors of Bloomberg.


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