Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — Google CEO gets grilling before Congress | Pressure builds for election security bill | Trump to target China over IP theft | Experts warn cyber criminals growing more brazen

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

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GOOGLE'S BIG DAY ON THE HILL: Google CEO Sundar Pichai defended the internet giant's business practices during a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

The executive was calm and soft-spoken even as he fielded a storm of questions from lawmakers angry over a host of issues from allegations of anti-conservative bias, Google's privacy practices, its market power and a controversial project to build a censored search engine for China.

"I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way," Pichai said in his opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee.

"To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests."

It was Pichai's first time testifying before Congress after Google declined to send a representative to a previous Senate hearing in September. His much-anticipated appearance brought out protesters as well as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Read more here.

 

Highlights from the hearing:

An activist who attends congressional hearings dressed as the mustachioed Monopoly mascot returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for the hearing.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones heckled Pichai as the tech executive arrived to deliver his testimony.

Pichai downplayed the controversy over Google's work on a censored search engine for China, telling lawmakers repeatedly that there were no plans to launch the project.

Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House Democrat says he still gets told to 'go back' to China Ted Lieu: Trump a 'racist ass' MORE (D-Calif.) Googled two Republican congressmen during the hearing to knock claims of conservative bias, telling lawmakers to blame "yourself" for unfavorable search results.

Fellow California Democrat Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenAl Green says impeachment is 'only solution' to Trump's rhetoric Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Ann Coulter offers rare praise for Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib MORE forced Pichai to explain why images of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE appear when you Google image search the word "idiot."

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingYoung Turks reporter tricks Steve King into tweeting about 'A Few Good Men' villain Holocaust survivor who offered to tour Auschwitz with Ocasio-Cortez calls for her to 'be removed from Congress' Liz Cheney hits back at Ocasio-Cortez over concentration camp comments: 'This isn't model Congress' MORE (R-Iowa) made headlines a couple of times during the hearing. He asked Pichai to disclose the names of more than 1,000 employees who work on the search engine's algorithm to examine for "a built-in bias."

And after King asked the CEO why he sees unwelcome news on his iPhone, Pichai replied, "Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company."

 

 

GOOGLE MADE OTHER NEWS TOO: Russia fined tech giant Google 500,000 rubles, or approximately $7,500, on Tuesday for violating a legal requirement to remove certain entries from its search results, according to Reuters.

The fine comes after Moscow declared in November it was opening a civil case against Google after the company failed to join a state registry showing it lists websites banned by the Kremlin for containing illegal information.

Alexander Zharov, head of watchdog Roscomnadzor, said Russia could file a new case against Google if it did not join the registry.

Read more here.

 

IS IT 2020 YET?: Pressure is already mounting on Congress to secure the 2020 presidential race from foreign cyberattacks or interference just weeks after the midterm elections.

Lawmakers expressed frustration at failing to pass a bill during the current session, but are vowing to resume their work in January.

"Yeah, it's next Congress," Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE (R-Okla.) told The Hill last week. Lankford and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Biden, Harris set for second Democratic debate showdown Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator MORE (D-Minn.) in 2017 introduced the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, seen as the best shot of passing legislation before the midterms.

"[Klobuchar] and I are not going to drop it, we're going to keep working it through, but it's not going to be the next two weeks," Lankford vowed.

Lawmakers, though, will take up their work with less time to bridge differences and before the 2020 cycle moves to full swing. And there may be new questions for lawmakers to address.

We break it down here.

 

TRUMP RATCHETS UP CHINA FIGHT: The Trump administration is reportedly set to condemn China this week over economic espionage and hacking campaigns, a move that would likely increase tensions between the two countries amid a trade war truce.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that multiple government agencies are expected to call out China over what the U.S. says is a pattern of behavior that includes attempts to steal trade secrets and technology, as well as government information. The administration is reportedly planning to declassify some intelligence documenting those efforts.

The news outlet reported that the Justice Department will announce the indictments of hackers tied to Chinese intelligence agencies who are allegedly involved in campaigns that target U.S. networks. Some of those responsible for the hacks are expected to face sanctions, the Post reported.

Read more on what's next here.

 

AND IN OTHER CHINA NEWS: A former Canadian diplomat was reportedly detained in China on Tuesday around the same time a Chinese telecom executive appeared in a Vancouver courtroom, but officials said there was no immediate connection between the two cases.

The Associated Press reported that Michael Kovrig was detained in Beijing on Monday night during a visit to the city. He was working in Hong Kong as a regional adviser for a Brussels-based nongovernmental organization.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the AP that Canada is "deeply concerned" about Kovrig's case, but added that there is no explicit connection between his detainment and that of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou.

Read more here.

 

LET'S GET THIS BREAD: A report released by a cybersecurity firm on Tuesday found that cyber criminals are getting more creative and brazen in their attempts to enter businesses' networks and make money off their attacks.

Researchers at CrowdStrike found that the most common kinds of cyberattacks on firms that work with the vendor were monetary attacks, at 47 percent.

"CrowdStrike encountered attackers gaining more power and insight into the systems of their victims through the use of remote access tools that deliver real-time monitoring capabilities," the report reads. "This has enabled attackers to move beyond reading emails ... to being able to watch the email being written and sent."

We explain here.

 

VROOM VROOM: Hertz announced Tuesday that it will begin allowing some rental car drivers to use biometric scans to pick up their vehicles.

The rental car company is teaming up with Clear, which makes biometric screening kiosks found at many airports, the company announced, in an effort to cut down the time needed to pick up a rental car.

Hertz will become the first car rental company to use biometric technology, The Associated Press reported.

More here.

 

GET YOUR HEAD IN THE CLOUD: Hackers are increasingly able to access and take advantage of vulnerabilities in cloud services, according to a new report published Tuesday.

Palo Alto Networks's threat research team Unit 42 found that 29 percent of vendors it worked with had potential account compromises in their cloud services. And 32 percent of the groups had set up their networks in a way that publicly exposed at least one cloud storage system, according to the research team.

"Malicious actors can use this data to perform traditional identity theft and fraud, and it can also serve as ammunition for social engineering scams, such as phishing," the researchers wrote of their findings.

Their findings here.

 

HAVEN'T WE ALL: Nearly one in four Americans say they or a family member have been the target of a cyberattack, according to a new Gallup poll.

A survey released by Gallup Wednesday showed that 23 percent of Americans said they or a close family member has had their personal or financial information targeted by hackers, far higher than the percentage of Americans who said the same about other types of crime.

The percentage is a slight drop from the 25 percent of Americans who said the same last year, but remains 7 points higher than the percentage of Americans who say they or a family member have been the victim of identity theft, the next most-commonly cited crime.

Read more here.

 

AI POSITIVE: A majority of artificial intelligence (AI) experts believe that, by 2030, AI will have had a positive impact on humans, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

When asked whether AI will positively impact humans by 2030, the study found that 63 percent of experts said humans would be better off and 37 percent said they wouldn't be.

Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, said in the study that AI and related technologies have "already achieved superhuman performance in many areas, and there is little doubt that their capabilities will improve, probably very significantly, by 2030."

Read more here.

 

HOW DO THEY NAME THESE GROUPS AGAIN: A cyber espionage group called Seedworm is escalating its malicious web activities, hitting a variety of targets including government organizations and telecommunications companies over the past couple months, a security firm said Monday.

Symantec researchers said Seedworm has infiltrated more than 30 organizations since late September, with the targets predominately based in Pakistan and Turkey, but also in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Afghanistan and Jordan. Companies based in Europe and the U.S. with ties to the Middle East were also hit.

"The telecommunications and IT services sectors were the main targets. Entities in these sectors are often 'enabling victims' as telecommunications providers or IT services agencies and vendors could provide Seedworm actors with further victims to compromise," the report says, noting the second most hit group were companies in the oil and gas sector.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: How much is your data worth?

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Good summary of today's hearing?

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

U.S. intelligence sounds the alarm on the quantum gap with China (Yahoo News)

The Huawei executive's arrest is igniting fear. The U.S. should take notice. (The New York Times)

Comcast rejected by small town -- residents vote for municipal fiber instead. (Ars Technica)

Fact-checking claims of Google bias at House hearing. (Axios)

Verizon takes $4.5 billion charge related to digital media business. (The Wall Street Journal)