The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            

MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017


The Trump administration is reportedly close to filing charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other members of his organization that could include conspiracy, theft of government property, and violations of the Espionage Act. Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. The news comes as administration officials have toughened their rhetoric on Assange in recent days, with CIA Director Mike Pompeo characterizing WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service” aided by Russia, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions called his arrest a “priority.”

The Justice Department’s investigation of Assange dates back to at least 2010, when WikiLeaks garnered wide attention for publishing a trove of documents stolen by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning. But federal prosecutors have struggled with whether First Amendment protections precluded their going after Assange. They are now reportedly trying to determine the extent to which WikiLeaks encouraged or directed sources to engage in illegal activity. Barry Pollack, Assange’s attorney, has said WikiLeaks is just like the Washington Post and the New York Times, which routinely publish stories based on classified information. (CNN, WaPo, The Hill, AFP)


Intercontinental: The hospitality chain said 1,200 of its franchised hotels in the United States, including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, were the target of a three-month hacking campaign at the end of last year that sought to steal customer payment card data. (Reuters)

North Korea: Amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, experts say the United States should keep its guard up in cyberspace. North Korea’s military reportedly has an increasingly sophisticated group of hackers capable of launching attacks on Western targets. (ABC)


Russian Fraudster: A federal court in Seattle has sentenced Roman Valerevich Seleznev, the man behind a huge credit card and identity theft operation, to 27 years in prison--the longest prison term handed down for hacking-related charges in the United States. Seleznev was arrested at a Maldives airport in 2014. (NYT)


Spam King: A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, CT, indicted Pyotr Levashov, the man allegedly behind the sprawling Kelihos botnet. Levashov was arrested in Barcelona earlier this month, and the Justice Department is seeking his extradition. (AP)

Waymo: Google’s self-driving car unit has accused Uber of intentionally hiding a key project from a federal court that it alleges demonstrates that the ride-hailing company copied Waymo’s design plans for a laser sensor. (WSJ)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Twitter: The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general is investigating the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s decision last month to issue a summons to Twitter asking for information associated with an account that has been critical of President Trump. (WSJ)

Senate: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is urging the Committee on Rules and Administration's leadership to require two-factor identification to protect the Senate’s email and digital networks. (The Hill)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Google: The company’s smart home hub is now able to handle multiple accounts and differentiate between those speaking to it. Although this feature offers certain advantages, it also raises some privacy concerns, experts say. (WaPo)

Neuralink: Elon Musk’s newest company hopes to merge computers with brains so humans could one day engage in “consensual telepathy.” In the meantime, he said that in a few years Neuralink hopes to market a device that would help treat brain injuries, including strokes, cancer lesions, paralysis, and memory problems. (WSJ)

  THE WORLD                                     

Australia: Canberra has reached a cybersecurity agreement with Beijing under which both governments pledged not to conduct or support the theft of intellectual property or trade secrets from each other. (FT)

Germany: Thousands of companies will be converging in Hanover this week to showcase their latest technology in artificial intelligence, big data, and virtual reality at the world’s largest industrial trade fair. (FT)


Charging Assange Could Put Press on Trial: “WikiLeaks may not look like a traditional journalism outlet, but it shares the same ends—publishing true information from its sources. And that means legal action against [Julian] Assange could threaten the freedom of the press as a whole,” writes Andy Greenberg in Wired.


Uber’s CEO Plays With Fire: “A blindness to boundaries is not uncommon for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. But in Mr. Kalanick, that led to a pattern of repeatedly going too far at Uber, including the duplicity with Apple, sabotaging competitors and allowing the company to use a secret tool called Greyball to trick some law enforcement agencies,” writes Mike Isaac in the New York Times.

Bad Intelligence Behind the Wheel: “In the future it will be hard to find a business that artificial intelligence hasn’t disrupted. But be ready for a mangy mop of mesothelioma lawyers rushing headfirst into the artificial-intelligence injury racket. The industry desperately needs a safe harbor—much like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which kept legal paws off the emerging web,” writes Andy Kessler in the Wall Street Journal.


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