Overnight Cybersecurity

Overnight Cybersecurity: Tech execs testify on countering extremist content | House approves cyber diplomacy bill | Pentagon reportedly mulling nuclear response to cyberattacks

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 ...

 

THE BIG STORIES:

--TECH EXECS TESTIFY ON EXTREMIST CONTENT: Representatives from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter faced lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify about extremist content on their platforms. At a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, the tech giants gave a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Silicon Valley companies as lawmakers probed their anti-terrorism efforts. The hearing was less contentious than the congressional hearings regarding Russian intervention last November. Instead of grilling the companies, lawmakers primarily used the hearing to educate themselves on what the firms are doing to keep extremist content off their platforms. Despite the relaxed climate, lawmakers still underscored the need for Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to keep their platforms free of extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al Qaeda. "This is a really important issue. Our democracy is at risk," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Facebook, Twitter and YouTube took advantage of their testimony to tout efforts they've taken over the past several years to curb the presence of extremist content on their platforms.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

 

--TWITTER TO INFORM USERS EXPOSED TO CONTENT FROM RUSSIA: Twitter said on Wednesday that it would let users know if they had been exposed to Russian accounts attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twitter's director of public policy, Carlos Monje, told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that Twitter is in the process of working to identify and "individually inform" users who had come in contact with Kremlin-linked accounts. "We will be rolling out our response shortly," Monje told Blumenthal. Monje said the notifications would be limited to accounts created by the Internet Research Agency, one of the Russian "troll farms" responsible for creating and disseminating content aimed at influencing the election and sparking social divisions in the U.S. Facebook has already released a tool to let users know if they have liked or followed pages created by the Internet Research Agency after Blumenthal asked Facebook, Twitter and Google to do so.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

 

--HOUSE PASSES 'CYBER DIPLOMACY' BILL, BUCKING TILLERSON: House lawmakers have passed legislation that would restore a State Department office to engage with the international community on cybersecurity policy, in a sign of disapproval over Secretary Rex Tillerson's reorganization efforts. The Cyber Diplomacy Act passed the House in a voice vote Wednesday afternoon, nearly five months after Tillerson notified Congress of his plans to shutter the Office of Cybersecurity Coordinator. Democrats and Republicans have both expressed concerns and, in some cases, criticism of Tillerson's decision to eliminate the office and shuffle its responsibilities under a bureau responsible for economic and business affairs. State Department officials have insisted cyber remains a top priority at the department and that the move reflects an integration of the department's cyber and digital economy policymaking efforts. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced the legislation in September. The bill would, by law, establish an Office of Cyber Issues to engage with other countries on cyber threats and promote U.S. interests in cyberspace abroad. The office's leader would have the rank of ambassador and would be Senate confirmed.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

 

A LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: 

SPY PROGRAM CLEARS MAJOR HURDLE: The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday night to begin winding down debate over legislation renewing government surveillance powers, defeating a filibuster by privacy hawks.

Senators voted 60-38 to wrap up debate on the legislation, which cleared the House last week and extends the surveillance program with only a few small changes.

The program, absent congressional action, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 19.

The vote initially appeared in jeopardy as leadership hovered below the 60-vote threshold needed for more than an hour.

A group of privacy hawks, led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), was spotted talking with Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who had yet to vote. He then went to speak with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who both support the legislation, and ultimately voted to end debate.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also showed up after 7 p.m. and voted "yes," giving leadership their 60th vote.

Overcoming the procedural hurdle cleared the way for a final vote. The Senate is expected to resume consideration on Thursday.

The privacy hawks, aided by Democratic leadership, mounted an effort to filibuster the legislation in an effort to give lawmakers more time to try to change the legislation.

"I rise in opposition to the government listening to your phone calls, reading your emails, or reading your text messages without a warrant," Paul said ahead of the vote.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect texts and emails of foreigners abroad without a warrant, even when they communicate with Americans in the U.S.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK:

Bees ... and electronic music? (Motherboard)

 

A REPORT IN FOCUS: 

PENTAGON REPORTEDLY MULLING NUCLEAR RESPONSE TO CYBERATTACKS: A Pentagon report outlining an updated U.S. nuclear strategy suggests using nuclear weapons to respond to non-nuclear attacks on the U.S., according to The New York Times

The newspaper reported Wednesday that the draft document, the Nuclear Posture Review, provides for possible nuclear responses to devastating cyberattacks on U.S critical infrastructure.

The suggestion marks a dramatic expansion of what the U.S. believes warrants a first use of nuclear weapons, the Times noted. Only in narrow cases, such as in the event of a biological attack on the U.S., has Washington suggested that it could respond with nuclear force.

The U.S. typically views the use of nuclear weapons as appropriate in extreme circumstances. But the review expands the definition of what constitutes an extreme circumstance to "include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks," according to the Times.

That could include massive cyberattacks, it said.

Current and former U.S. officials told the newspaper that while the report includes a massive cyberattack among the actions that could warrant a nuclear response, there remain other, more-conventional plans for responding to such attacks.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

 

WHAT'S STILL IN THE SPOTLIGHT: 

ELECTION SECURITY: Democrats on the House Science Committee are calling on its Republican leaders to address election cybersecurity concerns and foreign influence operations.

Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the committee's ranking member, and Don Beyer (D-Va.) want the committee to hold a hearing on election security issues as a follow-up to a hearing held in September 2016.

"The Science Committee can serve a critical role in examining potential cybersecurity enhancements and best practices for our election infrastructure and in exploring the development of tools and technologies that may help to identify foreign attempts to undermine our democratic institutions through the use of covert influence operations in the United States," they wrote in a letter to Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), who chairs the subcommittee on oversight, on Wednesday.

They cited the "groundswell of information that has been publicly released about the Russian attacks against our election infrastructure" since the 2016 hearing, accusing the committee of doing "nothing to conduct a post-mortem on those attacks and efforts to enhance election security."

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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

Facebook to investigate Russian interference in Brexit campaign. (The Hill)

Shutdown wouldn't stall Mueller probe. (The Hill)

House panel to hold hearing on false Hawaii missile alert. (The Hill)

OP-ED: We need online civility as nation recovers from Russian influence. (The Hill)

A House Homeland Security subcommittee explored the current state of DHS's Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program. (Homeland Security Committee)

A German hacker offers a window into WikiLeaks. (Washington Post)

Businesses are purchasing cyber insurance in a 'mad panic.' (BBC)

 

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