The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Breif

  FEATURED STORY            



On Friday, the U.S. Special Counsel’s office charged thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for crimes connected to their attempts to interfere in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election. The 37-page indictment marks the first time that the team led by Robert Mueller has brought criminal charges dealing with the core of its mission: to investigate Moscow’s influence in the recent presidential campaign. The accused described their actions as “information warfare against the United States,” with the aim of promoting social friction and undermining public faith in democracy, prosecutors say.


Over the weekend, President Trump responded to the indictments by taking to social media to scold the FBI and Democrats. In a tweet, Trump linked the recent school shooting in Florida with the FBI’s “spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.” In another he blamed former President Obama for doing too little to counter Russian interference. However, Trump has consistently played down the significance of interference in the 2016 contest despite concerns that future elections, including the upcoming midterms, could be disrupted by the Russians. (WSJ, FT, Wired, WaPo)


WSJ: For Tech Giants, Halting Russian Meddling in U.S. Politics Won’t Be Easy

NYT: How Unwitting Americans Encountered Russian Operatives Online

Wired: Worldwide Threats Briefing: Five Takeaways

Ukraine Attack: The White House has joined British authorities in blaming Russia for the devastating ‘NotPetya’ cyberattack last year that crippled parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers in countries across the globe. Many private sector security experts had done so months ago. (BBC)


Russian Bank: Russia’s central bank said that unknown hackers stole $6 million from a unnamed Russian bank last year in a cyberattack using the SWIFT international payments messaging system. (Reuters)

Not-So-Virtual Heists: Criminals are increasingly using weapons and the threat of physical harm to coerce victims into handing over large sums in bitcoin and other digital currencies, analysts say. For instance, a New York City man was held captive by a friend until he transferred over $1.8 million worth of Ether. (NYT)


Intel: The U.S. chipmaker said shareholders and customers have filed nearly three dozen class action lawsuits against it in connection with recently-disclosed security flaws in its products. (Reuters)


Russian Hacker: A New Jersey federal court sentenced Vladimir Drinkman, a Russian national, to 12 years in prison for his role in a worldwide hacking and data breach scheme that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Drinkman pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally access computers and conspiring to commit wire fraud in 2015. (RFE/RL)

Houston Hacker: A federal grand jury in California charged Oriyomi Sadiq Aloba, a man from Houston, with hacking into the accounts of several Los Angeles Superior Court employees and sending out some two million phishing emails. He faces up to 17 years in prison. (CBS)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Election Security: A group of Democrats in the House have unveiled a new bill outlining a plan for funding and enforcing minimum security standards for all U.S. election systems. Three related bills have already been introduced, but neither the Senate nor the House has held an election security hearing so far. (Wired)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Facebook: The social media company said it’s planning to start using postcards sent by U.S. mail to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site. Foreigners are prohibited from contributing or donating anything of value in connection with any election in the United States. (Reuters)


Cybersecurity Charter: A group of large multinational corporations including Siemens, Airbus, and IBM signed a charter urging both the public and private sector to set stronger safeguards against cyberattacks on digital systems that control homes, hospitals, factories and other infrastructure. (Bloomberg)

Google: The tech giant quietly ran a test of new technology to make it easier for 911 operators to locate cellphone callers. Test participants said the results were promising. (WSJ)

  THE WORLD                                     

UK: A British judge upheld an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for the second time in a week. The decision is a significant setback for Assange, who has spent five and a half years evading authorities by living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. (NYT)


What’s in the Latest Mueller Indictment?: “The special counsel’s office not only appears to be decidedly leak-resistant, everything that has emerged [from] the investigation so far suggests that the special counsel’s office has information well beyond that which it has made public. This is another reason to avoid making predictions about the innocence of the Trump campaign—or its guilt, for that matter—based on the limited scope of the indictment. Nobody knows how much more to come there is, and anyone pretending to, either by way of claiming vindication for those not yet indicted or by way of asserting confidently what the next shoe to drop will be, deserves a healthy measure of skepticism,” write editors at Lawfare.


Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic: “I keep coming back [to] the slapdash nature of Trump’s 2016 operation, and the chaos and dysfunction that everyone who covered that campaign saw play out each day. Like the Trump White House, the Trump campaign was a viper’s nest of incompetence and intrigue, with aides leaking viciously against one another almost daily. So much damaging information poured out of Trump Tower that it’s hard to believe a conspiracy to collude with Moscow to win the election never went public. If there was such a conspiracy, it must have been a very closely guarded secret,” writes Blake Hounshell in Politico.

Don’t Let Criminals Hide Data Overseas: “We can build an international system in which rights-respecting countries can have access to the data they need to investigate serious crimes regardless of where companies choose to store it. This legislation is the first step. The authority is critical. With it, law enforcement officials in the United States, Britain and other countries with similar due-process standards would be empowered to investigate people suspected of terrorism and serious crimes like murder, human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children, regardless of where the suspects’ data happens to be stored,” write Thomas Bossert and Paddy McGuinness in the New York Times.


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