The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

The Stroz Friedbeg Cyber Brief, April 10, 2017
  FEATURED STORY            

MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2017


New York State’s top court rejected an effort by Facebook to quash court-ordered search warrants compelling the social media company to secretly hand over hundreds of users’ account information to New York City prosecutors. The closely-watched decision, which upheld a lower court’s 2015 ruling, marked a defeat for Internet privacy advocates such as the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as big tech firms like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, which supported Facebook’s challenge.


Prosecutors obtained the warrants in connection with a probe into fraudulent Social Security disability claims, including those submitted by retired New York City police officers and firefighters. More than 100 people have reportedly pleaded guilty to felony charges for their roles in the scheme.

Writing for the majority, Judge Leslie Stein said it was up to targets of the warrants, not third parties such as Facebook, to challenge the warrants' validity. The Facebook case is part of a broader battle between the government and technology companies over the limits on law enforcement requests for data under the federal Stored Communications Act. (NYT, WSJ, Reuters)


Russian: A Russian computer programmer, Pyotr Levashov, was arrested in Barcelona, although it was not immediately clear why. Russian network RT reported that he was detained under a U.S. international arrest warrant and was suspected of being involved in hacking linked to alleged interference in last year's U.S. election. (Reuters)


Texas Sirens: Authorities in Dallas suspect unknown hackers were responsible for setting off more than a hundred of the city’s emergency sirens over the weekend. The incident led to a surge in 911 calls. The city said it has asked the Federal Communications Commission to help find those behind the security breach. (Dallas Morning News)

Trade Group: China-based hacking group APT10 reportedly installed a malicious link on the website of a private U.S. trade group weeks ahead of the Florida summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. Analysts say the link was an attempt to collect information to be used to advantage the Chinese government in trade negotiations. (Reuters)


Twitter: The social media company dropped its lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security after the Trump administration backed away from its attempt to unmask an anonymous Twitter user who has been critical of the president. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a DHS agency, issued a summons to Twitter last month seeking the phone number, mailing addresses, and IP addresses associated with @ALT_USCIS. (Guardian)

Driverless Car Tech: Uber has requested that a federal court in San Francisco deny a motion filed last month by Waymo to temporarily halt its driverless-car program while the case plays out. Waymo, a unit of Google, has claimed that Uber stole trade secrets related to a laser-sensor system. (WSJ)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Border Searches: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would require border agents to obtain a warrant before searching a U.S. citizen's electronic devices, and would bar agents from preventing citizens from entering the country if they refuse to provide passwords to unlock their devices. A 2014 Supreme Court ruling granted law enforcement officers greater leeway to search people at the border. (WaPo)


Russia Probe: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced he would step aside from his panel’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential election. The move came shortly before the House Committee on Ethics said he was under scrutiny after reports that he “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” (NYT)


Net Neutrality: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reportedly plans to replace the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules with voluntary agreements to adopt open internet principles. He is expected to unveil his proposal as early as April 27, with an initial vote planned for either May or June, sources say. (Reuters)

FBI Recruiting: FBI Director James Comey has been hinting that the bureau may adjust its hiring requirements, including its tolerance for past drug use, to attract top-notch cybersecurity professionals. (AP)


Chinese Investment: A new Pentagon report says that without tighter government controls on foreign investment in Silicon Valley start-ups, the United States risks handing over to China and other countries sensitive technologies, particularly those with military applications. (NYT)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Facebook: The company has developed new artificial intelligence tools designed to keep so-called revenge pornography off its site for good. Facebook has been sued in the past by victims of revenge porn who accused it of not doing enough to prevent the spread of their images. (NYT)

Taser: The maker of electrical weapons is changing its name to Axon as it moves further into the software business and begins offering free body cameras to police in addition to a year of free access to, its subscription website for managing video evidence. (Reuters)


Protecting the Power Grid: “An adversary with the capability to exploit vulnerabilities within the U.S. power grid might be motivated to carry out such an attack under a variety of circumstances. An attack on the power grid could be part of a coordinated military action, intended as a signaling mechanism during a crisis, or as a punitive measure in response to U.S. actions in some other arena. In each case, the United States should consider not only the potential damage and disruption caused by a cyberattack but also its broader effects on U.S. actions at the time it occurs,” writes Robert Knake for the Council on Foreign Relations.


The Legal Battle Over Driverless Cars: “There’s nothing illegal about an experienced engineer leaving one company to work at another one. And especially in California, where the courts don’t enforce noncompete agreements, there’s nothing illegal about an engineer putting the skills and knowledge he’d developed at one job to use for a new employer. But Google’s new Waymo division believes Levandowski crossed the line by actively recruiting employees for his new venture while he was still on Waymo’s payroll, and by taking confidential documents with him when he left Waymo,” writes Timothy B. Lee for Vox.

A.I. Versus. M.D.: “[Sebastian] Thrun blithely envisages a world in which we’re constantly under diagnostic surveillance. Our cell phones would analyze shifting speech patterns to diagnose Alzheimer’s. A steering wheel would pick up incipient Parkinson’s through small hesitations and tremors. A bathtub would perform sequential scans as you bathe, via harmless ultrasound or magnetic resonance, to determine whether there’s a new mass in an ovary that requires investigation. Big Data would watch, record, and evaluate you,” writes Siddhartha Mukherjee in the New Yorker.



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