Overnight Cybersecurity

Overnight Cybersecurity: Judge tells NSA to kill phone records program

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 …


–IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: A federal judge on Monday called for the Obama administration to immediately halt its controversial collection of Americans’ phone records, mere days before the contested program is set to end. In his ruling, Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia doubled down on his assertion that the National Security Agency (NSA) program “likely violates the Construction” and warned that “the loss of constitutional freedoms for even one day is a significant harm.” Monday’s ruling comes nearly two years after he initially called the NSA program “almost Orwellian,” and slightly less than three weeks before it is scheduled to end. As such, the decision “is perhaps the last chapter in the judiciary’s evaluation of this particular program’s compatibility with the Constitution,” he wrote. “It will not, however, be the last chapter in the ongoing struggle to balance privacy rights and national security interests under our Constitution in an age of evolving technological wizardry.” To read our full piece, click here.

{mosads}–TÊTE-À-TÊTE: President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday. The visit was the two leaders’ first in-person meeting in over a year and comes amid long-simmering tensions that recently boiled over during the debate over the Iran nuclear deal. While cybersecurity did not come up, the topic has been at the fringe of the nuclear deal discussions for months. Some specialists fear that rolling back economic sanctions on Tehran will simply give Iranian officials more money to funnel into these rapidly expanding cyber programs. It was even revealed on Monday that European officials were trying to shut down an Iranian cyber espionage group that targeted foreign defense officials and embassies, human rights activists and journalists within Iran. To counter these hacking groups, Israel has long been building up its own world-class cyber army.

–BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: Digital rights advocates are mobilizing against a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal. The White House says the pact will be a valuable tool to combat cyber theft, but critics say it could actually hamper cybersecurity and erode critical privacy protections worldwide. After weeks of anticipation, the Obama administration on Thursday finally released the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim nations. The deal, which would encompass 40 percent of the global economy, is widely viewed as a foundation for future international rules to protect corporate secrets and secure customers’ personal data. Notably, it could also put economic pressure on China to rein in its alleged massive commercial digital espionage campaign, as Beijing shows interest in someday joining the TPP. Numerous security researchers and digital privacy groups warn, though, that the trade pact’s rules, if adopted globally, could actually make consumer data more vulnerable to hackers and government spies. To read our full piece, click here.



–REMEMBER MOONRAKER. Capitol Hill is increasingly concerned about the lack of international laws governing cyber war.

In the last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent the State Department a letter urging greater attention to the issue and one House leader introduced a bill that would require the department to produce a comprehensive cyberspace strategy.

The letter and bill could actually lead to action. The Senate’s recently-passed cybersecurity bill included a companion amendment to the House bill that would mandate a cyberspace strategy from the State Department.

The much-discussed hacks last year on Sony Pictures Entertainment, blamed on North Korea, forced Congress and the government to confront a number of tough questions: How do you classify different types of cyberattacks? How and when should the government respond?

The lack of a playbook in these scenarios quickly became a common topic on Capitol Hill.

Read on, here.



–N/A. The president joined Facebook, IT’S A SERIOUS DAY.



–I NEED YOU. Encryption is the backbone of the Internet economy, according to a new paper released Monday by the libertarian think tank Niskan­en Cen­ter.

While privacy advocates and law enforcement have sparred over cryptography’s impact on public safety and individual rights, the tech industry has argued that a weaker encryption standard would be a huge hit to domestic companies.

Monday’s paper did not assign a concrete monetary value to encryption, but noted that over $3.3 trillion worth of online transactions relied on cryptography for security.

Read the full report, here.



–COMCAST. The telecom provider is forcing around 200,000 customers to reset their passwords after a cache of user information showed up for sale on the Dark Web over the weekend.

The post of stolen information included 590,000 user names and addresses, only some of which were currently valid. The entire package went up for sale for $1,000, or $300 for 100,000 accounts.

The company was alerted to the marketplace offering on Saturday and immediately began comparing the data on the list against a current customer list. Accounts with information that matched the Dark Web database will be reset on a case-by-case basis.

To read our full piece, click here.




–The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will hold an all-day conference on the changing landscape of cyber threats, with a keynote from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

–The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on cybersecurity with John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, at 12:30 PM.



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

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas this week will meet with senior Chinese officials to discuss the implementation of a series of cybersecurity agreements reached during President Xi Jinping’s state visit in September. (The Hill)

The Department of Homeland Security plans to fast track the hiring of up to 1,000 new cybersecurity personnel by June, according to a notice to be published tomorrow in the Federal Register. (Next Gov)

Hackers may have obtained login details for a key government website used by millions of Britons, it emerged last night. (Daily Mail)

The National Security Agency says it tells U.S. technology firms about the most serious flaws it finds more than 91 percent of the time — but critics are skeptical of the timing of those disclosures. (Reuters)

Microsoft has bought its third Israeli cybersecurity firm this year. (Tech Crunch)

A new stolen credit card marketplace boasts a particularly sleek user interface. (Motherboard)

Telecom carriers and manufacturers are holding back critical software updates to the Pentagon’s supposedly secure phones, putting classified information at risk. (The Daily Beast)

Major technology firms are concerned that the British government is attempting to ban strong encryption with a new surveillance bill, despite assurances to the contrary. (The Guardian)

The hackers who broke into CIA Director John Brennan’s account appear to have infiltrated a private law enforcement portal that includes arrest data. (Wired)  

Inside the party for America’s finest spies. (The Daily Beast)

Japan may be its own worst enemy in its push to improve cybersecurity. (The Associated Press)


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