Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators unveil election security bill | Social media companies decline to back ad disclosure legislation | USDA pick reportedly Trump adviser who encouraged Russia meeting

Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators unveil election security bill | Social media companies decline to back ad disclosure legislation | USDA pick reportedly Trump adviser who encouraged Russia meeting
© 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 ...



White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday accused the media of being "completely obsessed" with the Russia investigation, trying to turn the tables after being asked if the probe was distracting President Trump from other duties. "You guys seem completely obsessed with this, while there are a lot of other things happening around the country and frankly a lot of other things that people care a lot more about," she told ABC News's Jonathan Karl. "The media refuses to cover it."

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--...AND NOW MORE WITH OUR RUSSIA OBSESSION:  The White House said on Tuesday there are no plans to withdraw the nomination of Sam Clovis for a Department of Agriculture position. That comes despite claims Clovis was the Trump campaign official who advised a foreign policy adviser to travel to Russia after that adviser was told Russia was collecting "dirt" on the Clinton campaign. Clovis, who was tapped for science adviser to the Agriculture Department, faces a confirmation hearing in the Senate later this month. But questions are swirling around him after special counsel Robert Mueller revealed Monday that George Papadopoulos, a low-level foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, pled guilty on charges he lied to federal investigators about his contacts with Russians during the campaign. Clovis was not identified by name in the court document, but there are several reports he was the campaign official who interacted with Papadopoulus. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at Tuesday's briefing that Clovis would remain the Agriculture nominee for now. "I'm not aware that any change would be necessary at this point," she said.

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--...TRUMP SAYS THE BIGGEST STORY MONDAY WAS PODESTA: President Trump on Tuesday claimed the exit of Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta from his firm -- and not the indictment of his former campaign chairman -- was Monday's big news. "The biggest story yesterday, the one that has the Dems in a dither, is Podesta running from his firm," the president tweeted Tuesday morning.

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--TWITTER, FACEBOOK, GOOGLE DECLINE TO BACK AD DISCLOSURE BILL AT HEARING: Facebook, Twitter and Google on Tuesday all declined to endorse a bill intended to bring more transparency to online political ads on their platforms. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant Biden should seek some ideological diversity House passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy MORE (D-Minn.), who introduced the Honest Ads Act earlier this month, pressed representatives from the three companies during a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing. "My first question is simply will you support our bill?" Klobuchar asked. None of the representatives were willing to endorse the current bill.  "We certainly support the goals of the legislation and would like to work through the nuances to make it work for all of us," said Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security. Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said that the company has "drawn on much of what's in the bill" in crafting its own reforms to its disclosure rules.

The top lawyers from the three companies were testifying on Russian efforts to use their platforms to interfere in the 2016 election. The hearing was the first of three, with the companies testifying on Wednesday before the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

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--...COMPANIES SET OUT AD DISCLOSURE FRAMEWORK: The Internet Association, a trade group representing internet platforms like Facebook and Google, outlined principles for what the industry would like to see in online ad disclosure legislation. The wish list includes oversight from the Federal Election Commission and a set of uniform rules applied to all websites equally. The group wants any new law to put the burden on advertisers to disclose information about political ads to the platforms on which they're published.

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--...RUSSIAN SOCK PUPPET SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS ENCOURAGED VIOLENCE:  Three Facebook accounts made by the Russian Internet Research Agency pushed for violence between groups of different ideologies, CNN reported Tuesday. An account called "Being Patriotic" said Black Lives Matter activists who don't respect the flag should "be immediately shot," according to CNN. Blacktivist, another Russia-linked group, posted in November 2016: "Black people have to do something. An eye for an eye. The law enforcement officers keep harassing and killing us without consequences." A third group, Secured Borders, said the only way to deal with "dangerous illegal aliens" is to "kill them all." "If you get deported that's your only warning. You come back you get shot and rolled into a ditch... BANG, problem solved," a post by the group said. "The state department needs to be burned to the ground and the rubble reduced to ashes," read another post. The goal appears to have been to stoke political divisions into violence.

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--THOUSANDS ATTENDED PROTEST ORGANIZED BY RUSSIANS ON FACEBOOK: Thousands of Americans attended a march last November organized by a Russian group that used social media to interfere in the 2016 election.

The demonstration in New York City, which took place a few days after the election, appears to be the largest and most successful known effort to date pulled off by Russian-linked groups intent on using social media platforms to influence American politics. 

Sixteen thousand Facebook users said that they planned to attend a Trump protest on Nov. 12, 2016, organized by the Facebook page for BlackMattersUS, a Russian-linked group that sought to capitalize on racial tensions between black and white Americans. The event was shared with 61,000 users.

As many as 5,000 to 10,000 protesters actually convened at Manhattan's Union Square. They then marched to Trump Tower, according to media reports at the time. 

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IT'S SCIENCE. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are the best.



A new ransomware attack may really be intended to cover other, targeted attacks against Japanese companies, the cybersecurity firm Cybereason says in a new report.

In a Tuesday write up about the ONI ransomware and a new variant of ONI known as MBR-ONI, Cybereason notes that the attackers spent between three and nine months within systems before triggering the ransomware -- a process that should not take that long.

Most ransomware encrypts files or critical systems data and charges for the decryption key. Cybereason notes that the new MBR variant does not provide an individual identifier for each machine, making it impossible for attackers to know which victims have paid. This makes it appear as though there is no intent to actually unlock the system.

While the generic ONI ransomware only encrypted files, MBR encrypts data needed to launch systems. MBR appears to have only been installed on systems that could be used to follow whatever else hackers might be doing. MBR may be intended, therefore, to help cover a hacker's tracks.

Both generic ONI and MBR-ONI are installed on the same network's systems through the course of an attack.

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Sens. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThis Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Degrees not debt will grow the economy Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (D-N.M.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Real relief from high gas prices The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron MORE (R-Maine) on Tuesday introduced a multifaceted election cybersecurity bill, which includes a bug bounty program for manufacturers and a grant program for states to upgrade technology.

"The fact that the Russians probed the election-related systems of 21 states is truly disturbing, and it must serve as a call to action to assist states in hardening their defenses against foreign adversaries that seek to compromise the integrity of our election process," said Collins.

On a federal level, the Securing America's Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act would codify former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's declaration that elections are critical infrastructure. That would create a wealth of new, optional resources for states to use to better secure election systems.

It would ensure states had officials with a security clearance to obtain classified threat intelligence from the director of national intelligence and authorize the director to share that intelligence.

The bill would also provide direct assistance to the states through a grant program to upgrade unsecure election infrastructure.

The bill would further establish a reward program, known as a bug bounty, in partnership with election system vendors to incentivize private researchers to root out security flaws in those systems. This could be useful, as hackers found mechanisms to breach every voting machine brought for testing at the DEF CON security conference this year. The conference lasted under a week.

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

Trump voters overwhelmingly believe he should remain president even if Mueller definitively proved collusion. (The Hill)

House Science sends a second letter to social media firms about Russian manipulation of energy markets. (The Hill)

There are now more than 70 class action suits against Equifax. (Sophos)

Experts worry China might be testing the boundaries of its hacking truce with America. (Wired)

North Korea denies a role in the WannaCry attack, despite a recent U.K. claim to the contrary. (AFP)

Your in-laws aren't that bad. (Sophos)

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