The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            



The FBI arrested a 36-year-old Chinese national, Yu Pingan, at the Los Angeles International Airport early last week on charges that he conspired with two Chinese accomplices to break into the computer networks of unidentified companies in the United States. The complaint, filed in San Diego federal court, said the alleged hackers used a “rare” malicious software tool, known as Sakula, as far back as 2012. Cybersecurity analysts noted that Sakula was a component of the high-profile breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 2014 and 2015.


Prosecutors allege that Yu, who goes by the online alias “goldsun,” sold various hacking tools, including so-called zero-day exploits that allowed other hackers to remotely control victims’ computers and websites.

The case is one of the first brought against a Chinese national since a 2015 agreement between the U.S. and Chinese governments to refrain from computer-related theft of industrial trade secrets. Yu is expected to have a detention hearing on Thursday. (NYT, Reuters, CBS)


Russians: Seven Russians have been arrested or indicted on U.S. cyber crime charges this year, more than triple the average for the last several years, legal analysts say. The uptick indicates that despite President Trump’s hopes to warm relations with Moscow, the U.S. Justice Department is not shying away from prosecuting Russians. (Reuters)

Anti-Trump Site: A D.C. Superior Court judge is compelling DreamHost, a California-based tech company, to provide email addresses and other information about people who visited an anti-Trump website in the months leading up to Inauguration Day. Prosecutors filed felony rioting charges against some 200 people allegedly involved in Inauguration Day riots. (WaPo)


  ON THE HILL                                    

Mueller Probe: Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating what role former national security adviser Mike Flynn may have played in an effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers. (WSJ)


NAFTA Talks: Large U.S. tech firms like Apple and Google are lobbying to get the liability protections they enjoy in the United States inserted into a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement. The industry’s efforts come at a time when the immunity provision is already under fire from lawmakers who say it feeds into sex trafficking. (WSJ)


House: In hearings early this year, the U.S. Armed Services Committee discussed influence campaigns, information warfare, and counter-propaganda strategy. (U.S. House)

Industry Rankings: A new cybersecurity report placed government at 16 out of 18 in a ranking of industries, ahead of only telecommunications and education. The analysis of 552 local, state, and federal organizations found that the government particularly lags on replacing and/or patching outdated software. (Wired)


Botnet Defense: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is gathering proposals for software that can automatically neutralize armies of compromised devices, known as botnets, which can be used to generate malicious traffic. Proposals for DARPA's four-year program are due next month. (NextGov)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Neuralink: The neuroscience company launched by Elon Musk has raised $27 million toward a potential target of up to $100 million. Neuralink aims to develop technology to merge the human brain with computers. (WSJ)

Uber: The ride-hailing giant has chosen Expedia boss Dara Khosrowshahi to be its new chief executive, ending a long search for someone to replace Travis Kalanick. Khosrowshahi was born in Tehran, and his family moved to the United States after the Iranian revolution. (BBC)

  THE WORLD                                     

UK: The British government says it wants to cooperate with the European Union on data protection and have its rules accepted by the bloc after it leaves. Britain was a major player in setting EU data protection rules, called GDPR, which come into force next year. (Reuters)

Iran: Analysts note that Iran’s propaganda machine has been forced to embrace the latest trends and technologies, including online rap videos, to tailor messages to the sensibilities of a new generation. (NYT)


A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization: “Even though Islamists and white nationalists have different views and motivations, there are broad similarities in how the two operate online — including how they spread their message, recruit and organize offline actions. The similarities suggest a kind of blueprint for a response — efforts that may work for limiting the reach of jihadists may also work for white supremacists, and vice versa,” writes Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times.


U.S. Cyber Command Stands Taller: “An elevated Cyber Command is better positioned to fight successfully for resources inside the Defense Department. Cyber Command will no longer be subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command, which means cyber-security interests will be more competitive against other priorities like maintaining the nuclear deterrent or defending against weapons of mass destruction. This might seem like a petty bureaucratic point, but having an equal seat at the table can make a big difference in the fight for dollars,” writes Kate Charlet for War on the Rocks.

The Bitcoin Valuation Bubble: “I’m not here to burst anyone’s bubble. The blockchain will radically alter financial services, much as Napster changed the music business. But at some point the market will wake up and apply rational valuation techniques. That price—$4,361—implies a lot of belief in Bitcoin as a long-term store of value well beyond the economic value of the transaction platform,” writes Andy Kessler in the Wall Street Journal.


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