Hillicon Valley: AT&T paid Michael Cohen for 'insights' into administration | White House hosting AI summit | Georgia gov vetoes controversial cyber bill | Show of force for CIA pick | FCC chair meets Sprint, T-Mobile execs

Hillicon Valley: AT&T paid Michael Cohen for 'insights' into administration | White House hosting AI summit | Georgia gov vetoes controversial cyber bill | Show of force for CIA pick | FCC chair meets Sprint, T-Mobile execs
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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's comprehensive newsletter with all you need to know about tech and cybersecurity from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.


Follow the tech team, Ali Breland (@alibreland) and Harper Neidig (@hneidig), and the cyber team, Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) and Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers), on Twitter. Scoops/tips/comments/compliments? Please reach out to us.



AT&T confirmed Tuesday that it paid President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE's lawyer Michael Cohen for "insights" on the Trump administration.

AT&T said in a statement reported by CNBC that Cohen's company "was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration."

"They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017," AT&T added.

The payments were revealed on Tuesday in a document published by Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who is suing the president and Cohen.

Avenatti had claimed that AT&T, drug company Novartis and a Russian oligarch had all made payments to Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants. 

Click here for the latest.


WHITE HOUSE TO HOST ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SUMMIT: Executives from major companies like Intel, Oracle, Microsoft and Google will convene at the White House on Thursday to discuss advances in artificial intelligence.

In total, over 100 senior government officials, academics, research and business leaders will participate, according to the White House. Their talks will focus on AI research and development and regulations.

The event will be hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Reaction: Dean Garfield, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, called the meeting "an important step to building collaboration between government and industry."

"In order to maintain America's leadership on A.I., the administration should continue to invest in research and development, and advance programs that equip the workforce with skills of the future. We look forward to sharing how we can help advance these priorities and others at the event," he said in a statement.

The details: According to the White House, the event will focus its discussion on five areas...

  • Food and agriculture
  • Energy and manufacturing
  • Financial services
  • Health care
  • Transportation and logistics

Topics addressed will include...

  • Supporting the national AI research and development (R&D) ecosystem
  • Developing the American workforce to take advantage of the benefits of AI
  • Removing barriers to AI innovation in the United States
  • Enabling high-impact, sector-specific applications of AI



--The event could be a win for industry which has been pressing the administration to take a greater role in the development of artificial intelligence technologies. Tech leaders have expressed frustration with what they saw as the administration's lack of interest in an important field. Case in point: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said last year that AI technology is 50 to 100 years away from being truly impactful.

--The summit also comes as the administration ramps up its trade fight with China. The U.S. tech industry has long been fearful of China's gains in artificial technology and worried that without the government's help it could cede its dominant position in AI to Chinese companies.


A LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: House lawmakers on Tuesday approved legislation meant to help small businesses better protect themselves against digital threats.

The bill, introduced by the chairman of the House Small Business Committee, would clear the way for employees of small business development centers across the country to receive training in cybersecurity.

Specifically, the legislation would require the Small Business Administration to establish a "cyber counseling certification program" to provide cybersecurity training to employees at small business centers that receive federal grants.

The idea is to ensure that these small business development centers can provide cybersecurity assistance to small businesses that ask for it.

To read more about the legislation, click here.


THE EQUIFAX SAGA: Credit reporting agency Equifax recently sent more details to Congress about its massive data breach last year, which impacted over 145 million Americans. 

The statement, which breaks down the numbers of U.S. consumers who had specific types of personal information stolen, comes eight months after Equifax first disclosed that hackers had breached its system -- a revelation that spurred intense scrutiny in and outside Washington.

In particular, Equifax confirmed to congressional lawmakers that approximately 145.5 million U.S. consumers had their Social Security numbers stolen by hackers, while over 200,000 had their credit card data stolen.

Equifax revealed that the company had provided additional information to multiple congressional committees in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) submitted on Monday. Lawmakers received the company's statement on Friday, according to the filing.

Among the new details: According to filing, hackers accessed names and birthdates of roughly 146.6 million U.S. consumers; Social Security numbers of 145.5 million; addresses of 99 million; the gender of 27.3 million; phone numbers of 20.3 million; driver's license numbers of 17.6 million; email addresses of 1.8 million; payment card numbers and expiration dates of 209,000; tax IDs of 97,500; and driver's license states of 27,000.

Check out all the new details here.


SENATE NET NEUTRALITY VOTE NEARS: Through court battles and FCC action in both directions, the fight over net neutrality is still going and will pick up steam tomorrow when Democrats in Congress formally push to bring it to the Senate floor.

Sen. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDems damp down hopes for climate change agenda Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked ‘absolutely offensive’ MORE (D-Mass.) and many of his Democratic allies in the net neutrality fight will hold a press conference on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. to begin the process of holding a vote in the Senate on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to restore the net neutrality rules. The CRA is a type of resolution that allows Congress to reverse the action of federal agencies within 60 days of their being published in Federal Register.

Democrats are one vote away from winning their case in the Senate, but it's unlikely they will be successful in the House.

The event will be livestreamed tomorrow on Markey's Facebook page.


THE FTC WANTS YOU TO CHANGE YOUR TWITTER PASSWORD: The Federal Trade Commission is echoing Twitter's warning last week to users, advising them to change their passwords after the company revealed that it had stored them "unmasked" in an internal system.

In a blog post, the FTC also advised users to take extra precautions when creating passwords, like not using the same one for different accounts and making them complex, ideally consisting of "at least twelve characters, with upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols."

To read more, click here.


IN THE STATES: GEORGIA GOV VETOES CONTROVERSIAL CYBERSECURITY BILL: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Tuesday vetoed controversial cybersecurity legislation that critics argued would clear the way for private businesses in the state to hack into other networks in the name of protecting their own.

Deal, who faced mounting pressure from technology firms and cybersecurity researchers to veto the bill, said in a statement that the legislation raised "concerns regarding national security implications and other potential ramifications" that needed more discussion before enacting it.

Senate Bill 315, which was approved by Georgia's General Assembly last month, would have amended current state law governing computer crimes to define the crime of "unauthorized computer access." It would have carved out an exemption for individuals who engage in "active defense measures that are designed to prevent or detect unauthorized computer access."

Why the tech community objected: Executives from Google and Microsoft wrote the governor last month warning that the provision "broadly authorizes the hacking of other networks and systems under the undefined guise of cybersecurity."

"Network operators should indeed have the right and permission to defend themselves from attack, but, before Georgia endorses 'hack back' authority in 'defense' or even anticipation of a potential attack with no statutory criteria, it should have a much more thorough understanding of the ramifications of such a policy," they wrote.

Deal faced a Tuesday deadline to act on the legislation.

For more on the legislation and the broader debate around 'active cyber defense,' click here.


FORMER INTEL LEADERS' MAKE SHOW OF FORCE FOR HASPEL: Dozens of former U.S. national security officials and lawmakers have signed onto a letter endorsing President Trump's controversial pick to lead the CIA, a show of support that comes on the eve of Gina Haspel's confirmation hearing. Thirty-six former CIA chiefs, intelligence community leaders and lawmakers signed onto the letter that is addressed to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Hill.

The top signatories include former CIA director Michael Hayden, former National Security Agency (NSA) director Gen. Keith Alexander and former House Intelligence Committee chairman Michael Rogers (R-Mich.), former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mike McConnell. In the letter, the intelligence officials emphasize Haspel's skills and expertise and say she knows how to combat threats from all corners of the globe. Her hearing is tomorrow morning, so read up on more of our coverage here.


FCC CHAIR MEETS WITH SPRINT, T-MOBILE CEOS: An FCC spokesman confirmed to The Hill that Chairman Ajit Pai met today with T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure as the two are hoping for the FCC's approval of their $26 billion merger.

The meeting comes as Democratic lawmakers are calling for more scrutiny of the deal from regulators at the FCC and Justice Department.

To read more, click here.


A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: A glimpse into the mind of a 7 year old. (Tweet)



Those interested in Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia investigation, take note: a federal judge in Washington, D.C., has scheduled an arraignment hearing for Concord Management and Consulting, one of the entities charged in the Russian troll farm case, for tomorrow afternoon. Keep an eye out for our coverage.

Meanwhile, Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee for CIA director, will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee for her public confirmation hearing tomorrow beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked ‘absolutely offensive’ Senate sends bill regulating airline seat sizes to Trump MORE (D-Mass.) will hold a press conference to introduce his resolution to preserve the net neutrality regulations at 11:30 a.m., which will be livestreamed on his Facebook page.

On the House side, lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs Committee will mark up legislation that would create a bug bounty program at the State Department.

The think tank New America will host a discussion on the public comment filing process at agencies like the FCC at 2:00 p.m.

The United Church of Christ's media justice ministry will host a reception for departing FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at 5:00 p.m.


And later in the week: The Trump administration is expected to release its report on botnets, which was mandated by the president's executive order signed last May, according to Inside Cybersecurity. The White House released its draft report in January, asking for public comment.


NIGERIA ON THE RISE IN CYBERSPACE: Security researchers have detected a rise in attacks from Nigerian cyber criminals who they say pose a "formidable" threat to businesses across the globe.

According to a report released Tuesday by Palo Alto Networks, hackers working out of Nigeria initiated an average of 17,600 attacks per month over the past year -- an increase over the 12,200 per month average detected in 2016.

"As a group, these actors continue to exhibit noteworthy year-over-year technical growth as they adopt new tools and techniques," the report from Palo Alto Networks says.

Nigerian internet scams have attracted attention for a number of years, though threat actors have only more recently begun to employ malware in order to hack corporate networks for financial gain.

The cybersecurity firm has tracked Nigerian cyber activity since 2014 and has witnessed a consistent growth in hackers' technical capabilities, as well as an increase in the number of threat actors linked to the West African nation.

Click for more on Nigeria's hacking prowess.


POINT: New York Times Opinion's Bari Weiss profiles the "Intellectual Dark Web," a set of thinkers, such as Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, who have been ostracized by mainstream circles but found ways to thrive on the internet. 


COUNTERPOINT: BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel Twitter-critiques the story as a missed opportunity in examining how the internet gives such figures a voice.



Russian hackers posed as ISIS to threaten US soldiers' families: report. (The Hill)

Some states are still waiting for election security tests as primaries take hold. (Associated Press)

Gmail is going to start writing your emails for you. (The Verge)

Australia's Parliament House is upping its cybersecurity. (BuzzFeed)

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center has released its 2017 crime report.

Cambridge Analytica won't be revived despite concerns it could make a comeback (Bloomberg)