Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump vows strong response to 2018 election meddling | Cyber in spotlight as lawmakers probe 'worldwide threats' | Senate panel approves NSA nominee

Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump vows strong response to 2018 election meddling | Cyber in spotlight as lawmakers probe 'worldwide threats' | Senate panel approves NSA nominee
© 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 ...

 

THE BIG STORIES:

--CYBER FRONT AND CENTER AT 'WORLDWIDE THREATS' HEARING: Cybersecurity was a major focus as the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on "worldwide threats" Tuesday morning. Lawmakers and officials delved into the issue of Russian cyber threats to elections, the cyber capabilities of foreign countries like China and Iran, and U.S. policy in cyberspace. In opening written testimony, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he expects "global cyberthreats to emanate from a wide array of state and nonstate actors" in the coming year, highlighting threats from mobile devices and the expanding Internet of Things (IoT). "Adversarial cyberoperations range in scope from compromising critical infrastructure and U.S. military technological superiority in fields such as precision guidance and autonomous systems, to the targeting of U.S. military personnel on social media to gain insight into the disposition and movement of our forces," Ashley said.

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"Our top adversaries are developing and using cyberspace to increase their operational reach into our military and civilian systems, exploiting our vulnerabilities, and compromising our national defense," he added. He highlighted cyber threats from Russia and China as well as those from Iran and North Korea.

--DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DAN COATS insisted that the White House is aware of and engaged on the issue of Russian threats to this year's midterm elections, amid fierce questioning from Democrats about what the Trump administration is doing to respond to potential threats. "There is obviously concern about this ongoing effort by Russia to interfere in our elections," Coats said in response to Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (D-N.H.). "The White House is well aware of that, as we all are. Agencies have been tasked to address this."  At the same time, he acknowledged the administration has yet to put in place a "coherent strategy" to address Russian interference. Coats's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee came one week after Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings Trump officials defend use of facial recognition amid backlash Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings MORE, head of Cyber Command and the National Security Agency (NSA), told the panel that he had not heard specific orders from Trump to disrupt Russian cyberattacks targeting upcoming elections. Coats, like Rogers, pushed back during his testimony on Democrats' assertions that the administration is not taking action on the issue, referencing ongoing work by the Department of Homeland Security to secure election infrastructure. "The White House has been engaged on this," Coats said. He would not go into any detail about potential options being discussed to counter Russian interference threats, telling the lawmakers, "Much of what is being done or is being examined to be done would fall in a classified area." Coats referenced ongoing discussions between the NSA, Homeland Security and the State Department on the issue.

To read more from our piece, click here.

--MEANWHILE, 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 said Tuesday that his administration won't let Russia interfere in the 2018 midterms and will react strongly to attempted meddling. "You don't want your system of votes to be compromised in anyway," Trump said about possible Russian meddling in 2018. "We won't allow that to happen. We will counteract it very strongly." "We're doing a very, very deep study and coming out with very strong suggestions on the 2018 election," he added. Trump also said Russia did not impact the vote totals in the 2016 election while defending his administration's efforts to counter election meddling. "The Russians had no impacts on our votes whatsoever," Trump said during a news conference at the White House. U.S. officials have said Moscow targeted 21 states' election systems not involved in vote tallying ahead of the 2016 election. The Intelligence Community has not weighed in on the impact of Russian interference but the Department of Homeland Security says there is no evidence to suggest that votes or voter rolls were altered. The president acknowledged that "certainly there was some meddling," by Russia in the 2016 election, but he contended "there was meddling from other countries, maybe other individuals as well." The president said the administration is strongly looking at returning to paper ballots so that foreign adversaries would not be able to hack into the computerized systems.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

--TRUMP NSA PICK RECEIVES UNANIMOUS APPROVAL FROM SENATE PANEL: The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved President Trump's choice to lead the National Security Agency on Tuesday morning. The committee held a brief voice vote on the nomination of Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, before holding the hearing on worldwide threats to the United States on Tuesday. If confirmed, Nakasone will helm both the NSA and the Pentagon's growing cyber warfare unit, U.S. Cyber Command. Nakasone currently leads Army Cyber Command, a component of Cyber Command. Nakasone appeared before the committee for his confirmation hearing last week, during which he acknowledged that foreign nations such as Russia do not face sufficient penalties for targeting the U.S. with malicious activity in cyberspace. Nakasone would replace Adm. Michael Rogers, who is expected to retire from his position later this year.

To read more from our piece, click here.

 

A LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: 

HOUSE VOTES TO REAUTHORIZE FCC: The House on Tuesday voted to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), passing bipartisan legislation that includes provisions aimed at boosting the development of 5G networks and new funds for the agency's spectrum incentive auction.

If the bill passes, it will be the first time Congress has approved a reauthorization for the FCC in 28 years. The House approved it by voice vote Tuesday afternoon.

The legislation, called the Ray Baum Act, is named after the late staff director for the House Commerce Committee, who passed away from cancer last month.

It includes language from the Mobile Now Act, which has stalled since passing the Senate in August, that would identify more spectrum airwaves for commercial use towards 5G development.

The package also authorizes funds for radio and television broadcasters affected by the FCC incentive auction.

To read more, click here.

 

A REPORT IN FOCUS: 

Most Americans view North Korea's nuclear program and global cyber terrorism as the top threats to the United States's interests, a poll released Monday found.

A Gallup Poll showed 82 percent of Americans believe North Korea's development of nuclear weapons poses a critical threat over the next 10 years, and 81 percent believe cyber terrorism is a critical threat.

Three-quarters of Americans also see international terrorism as a critical threat, according to the poll.

The poll surveyed 1,044 people from Feb. 1-10, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

To read more from the poll, click here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: 

flowchart can now advise you who to accept or reject on LinkedIn. (NextGov)

 

WHAT'S IN THE SPOTLIGHT: 

REMOTE-ACCESS SOFTWARE: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrat: Treasury 'acknowledged the unprecedented process' in Trump tax return rejection Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities MORE (D-Ore.) on Tuesday questioned a leading voting machine manufacturer on whether it sells products with remote-access software, raising concerns about the machines' potential vulnerability to hacking.

Wyden, in a letter to Election Systems & Software (ES&S), cautioned that malicious hackers could seek to exploit such software if it is built into the machines or other election-management products.

"The American public has been repeatedly assured that voting machines are not connected to the internet, and thus, cannot be remotely compromised by hackers," Wyden wrote in the letter.

His letter comes amid concerns that Russia or other nation states may seek to interfere in future U.S. elections, including this year's midterms.

U.S. officials say that Russian hackers targeted election infrastructure in 21 states ahead of the 2016 presidential election and, in a small number of cases, were successful. While the systems targeted ahead of 2016 were not involved in vote tallying, the revelation has nevertheless spurred concerns about vulnerabilities in U.S. voting infrastructure, including voter databases and voting machines.  

"Given the real threat that our democracy now faces from hostile foreign governments it is of paramount ignorance that our election infrastructure be secure against cyberattacks," he wrote.

His letter referenced a report last month in The New York Times Magazine detailing how machines produced by ES&S had pre-installed remote-access software so technicians could access the election systems from afar. Voting machines are typically not connected to the internet, but Wyden raised concerns that the software could expose the machines to compromise.

"Election systems sold by your company frequently include pre-installed remote access software, which exposes election systems to remote attack and compromise," Wyden wrote, citing the New York Times Magazine piece.

"The default installation or subsequent use of remote-access software on sensitive election systems runs contrary to cybersecurity best practices and needlessly exposes our election infrastructure to cyberattacks," he continued.

To read more from our piece, click here.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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

Trump: Russia did not affect votes in 2016. (The Hill)

Feds warn Broadcom takeover of Qualcomm could threaten national security. (The Hill)

Former Trump aide Nunberg reverses on Russia investigation. (The Hill)

House Intel Republicans appear close to ending Russia probe. (The Hill)

OP-ED: License to hack: State-sponsored hackers are upping the ante. (The Hill)

How the man behind MalwareTech stopped WannaCry attack before facing FBI arrest. (New York Magazine)

FBI Director Christopher Wray will speak on cybersecurity at Boston College on Wednesday. (MassLive)

Arbor Networks confirms second recent record-breaking DDoS attack. (Blog Post)

Ethereum's blockchain-powered computer have many vulnerabilities. (Technology Review)

Lockheed unveils new cyber dashboard tool to Pentagon. (NextGov)

Google, Pentagon partner to develop AI for drones. (Gizmodo)

A new cybersecurity conference has been convened to feature more female speakers. (Reuters)