The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief

  FEATURED STORY            

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018


The Trump administration issued an alert last Thursday saying that “Russian government cyber actors” had for at least two years been penetrating U.S. critical infrastructure, including energy, nuclear, water, aviation, and manufacturing facilities. While the hackers did not sabotage or shut down systems guiding plant operations, cybersecurity experts say they could have. U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly became aware of the attacks in late 2016. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI first alerted utility companies last June.

Last week’s notification is the first time the Trump administration formally named Russia as the culprit behind the attacks. It coincided with a decision by the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on several Russian individuals and groups, including Moscow’s intelligence services, for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other cyberattacks. (NYT, Bloomberg, Reuters)


Adrian Lamo: The 37-year-old hacker best known for breaching computer networks at the New York Times and other major corporations, and for reporting the Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to the U.S. authorities, has died. Cause of death was not immediately known. (Guardian)


Saudi Hack: Experts say that an unattributed cyberattack on a Saudi petrochemical company last August was most likely intended to cause an explosion that would have killed people, but a bug in the attackers’ code inadvertently shut down the plant’s production systems. (NYT)

Chinese Botnet: Security researchers say that a Chinese malware operation is currently building a massive botnet of nearly 5 million Android smartphones. (Bleeping Computer)


Equifax: Federal prosecutors charged former Equifax executive Jun Ying with insider trading, alleging that he profited from confidential information about the massive breach last year. (WaPo)

Crypto Scheme: A federal court has halted the activities and frozen the assets of four people who allegedly promoted illegal cryptocurrency schemes. Analysts say the case marks the FTC's latest effort to stem a wave of deceptive activity in the digital currency world. (WaPo)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Mueller Probe: The special counsel’s office has reportedly subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents related to Russia and other topics. It’s the first known instance of Robert Mueller’s team demanding records directly related to President Trump’s businesses. (NYT)

Sex-Trafficking Bill: The U.S. Senate is expected to debate controversial legislation this week that would help prosecutors and victims sue websites that have facilitated the internet sex business. The House passed a version of the bill last month. (WSJ)


AI: The Center for a New American Security is creating a task force of former U.S. officials, academics, and representatives from private industry to explore how the federal government should embrace artificial intelligence and cooperate more effectively with tech companies. (NYT)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Facebook: The social media company is once again at the center of a political firestorm, this time over how it manages third-party access to its users’ information. Facebook said Cambridge Analytica, a firm with ties to the 2016 Trump campaign, improperly kept data for years despite saying it had destroyed those records. (WSJ, FT)


Broadcom: The company officially withdrew a $117 billion takeover bid for rival chipmaker Qualcomm last Wednesday, two days after President Trump blocked the acquisition effort on national security grounds. (NYT)

Coca-Cola: The beverage company is partnering with the U.S. State Department to launch a project using blockchain to create a secure registry for workers that will help fight forced labor worldwide. (Reuters)

  THE WORLD                                     

China: Technology giants Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are trying to elbow their way into the auto industry, marketing subscriptions to features like shared autonomous vehicles and high-speed mobile internet. (WSJ)

France: The country's finance minister said the government is preparing legal action against Google and Apple for anticompetitive business practices against local startups. (AFP)


Meet the Data War Whistleblower: “In 2014, Steve Bannon – then executive chairman of the ‘alt-right’ news network Breitbart – was Wylie’s boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – ‘information operations’ – then turn it on the US electorate,” writes Carole Cadwalladr for the Guardian.


Cyberattacks: The Risks of Pricing Digital Cover: “Cyber cover has become one of the fastest-growing parts of the global insurance industry. Attacks such as NotPetya — which hit Merck — along with WannaCry and individual incidents such as the huge data loss at Equifax reported last September, have brought home to companies the potential costs of a cyber attack. They are responding by buying insurance in ever greater numbers,” writes Oliver Ralph in the Financial Times.

How Russia Meddled in Its Own Elections: “Even more important for Putin is that this election marked the culmination of his nearly two-decades-long project to control information in Russia and manipulate Russian society. Now, Putin has proven beyond any doubt that the Russia he has built is his and his alone,” writes Alina Polyakova in the Atlantic.


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