Overnight Cybersecurity: Last-ditch effort to stop expanded hacking powers fails

Overnight Cybersecurity: Last-ditch effort to stop expanded hacking powers fails
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Welcome to OVERNIGHT CYBERSECURITY, your daily rundown of the biggest news in the world of hacking and data privacy. We're here to connect the dots as leaders in government, policy and industry try to counter the rise in cyber threats. What lies ahead for Congress, the administration and the latest company under siege? Whether you're a consumer, a techie or a D.C. lifer, we're here to give you …


--LAST-DITCH RULE 41 PLAN 86-ED: A last-ditch effort in the Senate to prevent changes to a rule that will make it easier for law enforcement to use hacking in investigations failed Wednesday morning. The controversial updates to Rule 41 will take effect at midnight. Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families Dems say new emails show Cohen ‘selling access’ to White House Paul faces tough privacy decision on Kavanaugh MORE (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin Sunday shows preview: Washington braces for Trump's Supreme Court pick America stands to lose as China places bets on developing world MORE (D-Del.) took to the floor and unsuccessfully asked for unanimous consent to either pass or formally vote on three bills to delay or prevent updates to the process used by law enforcement to get a warrant to hack suspects' computers. Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-Texas) objected to all offerings, halting the effort. "The body of government closest to our people has utterly failed to weigh in on an issue that can immediately impact our constituents," said Coons. To read our full piece, click here. 


--...SO, WHAT NOW? When the senators' plan failed, so did the last hope for digital rights advocates that the controversial rules will be stayed. "Everyone was hopeful at the very least they would delay implementation a few months, to allow for minimal hearings," said Gabe Rottman, deputy director of the Freedom, Security and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. But that does not end the fight for opponents of the rules. Congress can still rescind them at any time, even after they have taken effect. "Obviously, congressional inaction is disappointing," said Robyn Greene, policy counsel and government affairs lead at the Open Technology Institute. "This is the type of thing Congress should express oversight over — something they still can express oversight over." To read our full piece, click here. 

--LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS: Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday pressed the Obama administration to release more information about reported Russian meddling in the U.S. election. "We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public. We are conveying specifics through classified channels," the senators wrote in a brief letter to President Obama. Signees included Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), an ex-officio member. The Intelligence Community in October publicly blamed Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other political organizations this year, calling the thefts an intentional effort to interfere with the U.S. election process. Democrats have characterized the theft and release of the DNC emails as an attempt to bolster Trump's bid for the White House, citing the real estate mogul's warm treatment of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump fiercely disputed claims that the Russian government was helping his campaign and has declined to blame Russia for the attacks. To read our full piece, click here.



--CYBER COMMAND, THE LATEST. We reported yesterday that House and Senate Armed Services leaders had agreed in the annual defense policy bill to elevate Cyber Command to a full-fledged combatant command — and to place some conditions on separating the dual-hat role occupied by the head of the cyber warfighting unit and the NSA. 

The bill is out today. Here's a few of the conditions lawmakers want to place on unwinding Adm. Mike Rogers' two roles:

"The Secretary of Defense may not terminate the dual-hat arrangement until the date on which the Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff jointly certify to the appropriate committees of Congress that", among other things: They have carried out an assessment of the arrangement; the mission force is at full operational capacity; and that "termination of the dual-hat arrangement will not pose risks to the military effectiveness of the United States Cyber Command that are unacceptable to the national security interests of the United States."

--LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS, TOO. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) on Wednesday urged the House Oversight Committee to hold a hearing on the threat of so-called ransomware, a kind of computer virus that holds computers hostage until the user pays a ransom.

Lieu wrote that a "hearing is needed to shed light on the growing threat of ransomware, outline best practices to mitigate it, and identify the most critical areas for improvement in both the public and private sectors."

His letter to Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.) comes in the wake of reports that hackers locked down the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, known as Muni.

To read our full piece, click here.



--THERE IS STILL JOY IN THE WORLD. A man in Queensland handed in a jellyfish to the police, believing it to be a prosthetic implant from "someone who may have been murdered or drowned."



--THE HACK THAT WASN'T? The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on Wednesday offered high praise to President-elect Donald Trump for his announcement that he will leave his business and avoid conflicts of interest. 

Trump tweeted early Wednesday that he would be leaving his "great business in total," in order to avoid conflicts of interest once sworn into office.

In a series of tweets, OGE gushed over Trump's move, writing: "We told your counsel we'd sing your praises if you divested, we meant it."

In other tweets, the agency wrote "Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, very good for America!" and "OGE applauds the 'total' divestiture decision. Bravo!" 

The agency's praise for Trump was so strong that many on Twitter speculated that OGE's account was hacked or that it was using biting sarcasm.

In a statement about the tweets, OGE spokesman Seth Jaffe said, "Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect's twitter feed indicating that he wants to be free of conflicts of interest. OGE applauds that goal, which is consistent with an opinion OGE issued in 1983. Divestiture resolves conflicts of interest in a way that transferring control does not. We don't know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it."

To read our full piece, click here.



--REP. GREG WALDEN. The Oregon Republican is the clear favorite to be the next chairman of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, a handful of GOP insiders who are closely tracking the race tell The Hill's Scott Wong and Devin Henry.

Walden and Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) — all senior members of the Energy panel — are vying to succeed current Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who is stepping down because of term limits. 

But Walden, who has had two successful cycles as the House GOP's campaign chief, appears poised for victory. As the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) chairman, Walden has campaigned and raised cash for many of the lawmakers who will ultimately decide Thursday who gets the prized Energy gavel.

The committee has jurisdiction over a number of influential cybersecurity issues, including encryption and data breach legislation.

The nine-term Oregon lawmaker also serves in leadership and is close to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Both leaders have tremendous influence over the powerful 31-member Steering Committee, which doles out committee chairmanships and assignments; Ryan alone controls four votes.

"Walden is going to walk away with it," said one House Republican who sits on the Steering Committee and has spoken with all three contenders about the race. 

To read our full piece, click here.




--The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the future of counter-terrorism strategy, at 10:30 a.m.



Links from our blog, The Hill, and around the Web.

More than a dozen tech groups extended an olive branch to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE on Wednesday, penning a joint letter to the president-elect congratulating him on his win and offering recommendations for working with the tech sector. (The Hill)

A coalition of major tech companies — including Google, Amazon and Apple — is calling on President-elect Donald Trump to appoint a Treasury undersecretary for technology. (The Hill)

CREDO Mobile representatives confirmed today that their company was at the center of the long-running legal battle over the constitutionality of national security letters (NSLs), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said today. 

Tor patched a vulnerability in the anonymous browser that made it no longer anonymous. (Ars Technica) 

Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) are trying to codify the Presidential Innovations Fellows program, with the support of some tech industry heavy hitters. (Scribd)


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