Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators tout progress on Russia probe | Trump pressed to secure critical infrastructure | House beefs up cellphone security

Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators tout progress on Russia probe | Trump pressed to secure critical infrastructure | House beefs up cellphone security
© Greg Nash

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 ...


--SENATE PANEL MAKES PROGRESS ON RUSSIA PROBE: The Senate Intelligence Committee is "within weeks" of completing its initial review of classified documents in its investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrChamber of Commerce labels Biden removal of NLRB general counsel 'extreme' Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence MORE (R-N.C.) said Wednesday. Committee staff are being given access to an "unprecedented" number of documents, Burr told reporters, including those previously limited only to Gang of Eight members. In a genial joint press appearance with ranking member Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Democrats offer fresh support for embattled Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump teases on 2024 run Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (D-Va.), Burr offered only a handful of other details about the committee's ongoing investigation. That probe, unlike its House counterpart, has taken place largely behind closed doors. Seven staff members have been allocated to the investigation, compared to three given to the panel's probe into the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, Burr said. Lawmakers have made requests to 20 individuals to be interviewed by the committee, five of which have already been scheduled. Burr said "probably" that the remaining 15 will be scheduled within the next 10 days. Only Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, has been publicly identified, Burr said -- and the committee will interview him only when "we know exactly the scope of what needs to be asked." Both Burr and Warner sought to distance the committee's work from the partisan feud in the House Intelligence Committee's concurrent investigation into the same issue.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.


-- GOP REP CALLS FOR SELECT COMMITTEE ON RUSSIAN ELECTION HACKING: Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told The Hill on Wednesday that he supports empanelling a bipartisan independent select committee to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election as questions over House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes's (R-Calif.) handling of the issue continue to mount. Curbelo said a congressional select committee -- which would work independently of the House and Senate Intelligence committees -- would "give greater credibility and independence to the investigation." But Curbelo, who represents a South Florida swing-district targeted by Democrats in the midterms, is not calling for Nunes to recuse himself. He expressed confidence in Nunes's handling of the investigation, calling him a "man of great integrity" who has "a lot of respect on both sides of the aisle." And Curbelo does not support bringing in a special prosecutor, a proposal backed by many Democratic lawmakers.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

--EX-DNC CHAIR LATEST TO CHARGE 'WARFARE': Former interim Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Donna Brazile said Tuesday that Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election was an "act of war." Brazile repeatedly characterized Moscow's election hacking campaign as "cyber warfare" during a SiriusXM event in Washington, referencing comments made by former Vice President Dick Cheney earlier this week that Moscow's actions could be considered an act of war.  "I've never agreed with Dick Cheney in my entire life, but when he said this was an act of war, I have to agree with the former vice president. It was an act of war," Brazile said. Brazile was one of several high-level Democratic officials whose email communications were leaked by WikiLeaks ahead of the presidential election. Brazile followed a few Democratic lawmakers who last week described Moscow's election interference as warfare.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

A POLICY UPDATE: HOUSE ADOPTING CELLPHONE DEFENSE MEASURES: The House of Representatives will begin protecting the mobile devices of members of Congress and staff from cyber threats, the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer confirmed on Wednesday, through a new contract with Lookout Mobile.

"The new application, which identifies threats such as unsecured Wi Fi and malicious apps, is one of many ongoing initiatives that help the House protect its data, but it still requires vigilance," said John Ramsey, chief information security officer (CISO) for the House, via email.

The mobile security contract got high marks from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). The Democratic lawmaker -- who famously participated in a "60 Minutes" demonstration in which he allowed hackers in Germany to turn his cellphone into a listening device -- had pushed the House Administration Committee this year to increase mobile security training for members and staff.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

A LIGHTER CLICK: Domino's is going to use robots to deliver pizza in Germany. (Recode)

A REPORT IN FOCUS: SECURITY PROS VULNERABLE TO INSIDER THREATS: Seventy-four percent of security professionals say they feel vulnerable to insider threats, according to a new survey from security analytics firm Haystax Technology. The survey also found that 56 percent of security professionals reported insider threats becoming more frequent in the last year.

Nearly half of the professionals surveyed say they are unsure if their company has been the victim of an insider attack in the past year, while 30 percent of respondents said their organizations experienced an insider attack in the last 12 months.

"The survey makes clear that most security professionals see insider threats as a persistent challenge, but one that competes with other threats for their resources and attention. They believe better organizational policy and more resources are the key to effectively managing the problem, and that increased use of analytics is an effective deterrent against insider threats." Bryan Ware, CEO of Haystax Technology, said.

The study was conducted in partnership with the information security community on LinkedIn and Crowd Research Partners.

To read the full results of the survey, click here.

WHAT'S IN THE SPOTLIGHT: CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY: The Trump administration is coming under pressure to safeguard the nation's critical infrastructure as experts warn of vulnerabilities in the electrical grid and lawmakers fret about potential cyberattacks.

The issue has attracted the attention of policy experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who are out with a new report Tuesday exploring how to reduce cyber threats to the electrical grid, oil pipelines and other critical infrastructure.

The experts, led by a former senior National Security Agency (NSA) official, are seeking to nudge the new administration on implementing policy to secure critical sectors from cyber threats.

An estimated 85 percent of critical infrastructure is privately owned and operated.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) works with businesses and local governments to bring cyber protections to entities across more than a dozen critical infrastructure sectors, and legislation passed by Congress in 2015 encouraged the department to exchange what are called "critical threat indicators" with private organizations more quickly.

However, lawmakers like Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) say the department needs to do more to ensure cybersecurity of critical infrastructure in the face of increasing threats.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.


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

Top general says ISIS is 'extraordinarily savvy' in using cyber capabilities. (The Hill)

Senators move to bolster cyber resources for small businesses. (The Hill)

House passes bill undoing Obama internet privacy rule. (The Hill)

Carly Fiorina says there should be a special prosecutor to investigate Russian election interference. (The Hill)

Poll shows most Republicans believe Trump's wiretap claim. (The Hill)

A 13-year-old 'ethical hacker' is finding bugs at the top tech companies. (NBC News)

Cisco engineers scrambled after WikiLeaks published purported CIA hacking tools earlier this month. (Reuters)

A new paper from the conservative Heritage Foundation says Congress should use the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to boost the military's cyber cooperation with allies. (Heritage)

Trump adds Russia scholar Fiona Hill to his National Security Council. (Washington Post)

DHS announces contract to improve security of Border Patrol's drones. (DHS Science and Technology Directorate)

Samsung reveals Galaxy S8 smartphone. (CNBC)

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