Hillicon Valley: Russian charged with midterm interference | US warns of 'ongoing' foreign influence efforts | States try to assure voters on election security | Apple calls on Bloomberg to retract hacking story

Hillicon Valley: Russian charged with midterm interference | US warns of 'ongoing' foreign influence efforts | States try to assure voters on election security | Apple calls on Bloomberg to retract hacking story
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DOJ CHARGES RUSSIAN WITH INTERFERING IN ELECTIONS: The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday charged a Russian woman with participating in a conspiracy to influence U.S. elections, including next month's midterms.

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova of St. Petersburg allegedly conspired with other actors as part of an influence campaign "to interfere with U.S. democracy," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.

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She is alleged to have overseen financing for "Project Lakhta," an umbrella Russian effort engaged in political interference operations that included the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin troll farm.

Khusyaynova, 44, is the first individual to be charged in relation to the midterm elections, which are now less than weeks away. The races serve as a critical test for U.S. officials after Russia was found to have interfered in the 2016 elections.

In February, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, who is investigating Moscow's 2016 meddling, unveiled fraud and conspiracy charges against 13 Russians and three Russian organizations linked to the Internet Research Agency, accusing them of undertaking an elaborate plot to use social media to interfere in the 2016 vote.

According to Friday's criminal complaint, Project Lakhta is funded by Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering. Both entities are said to be controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman nicknamed "Putin's chef" because of his close ties to the Russian president, and were charged in Mueller's case.

Read more here.

 

MORE ELECTION INTERFERENCE?: The criminal complaint was unsealed as U.S. national security agencies said Friday they are concerned about "ongoing campaigns" by Russia, China and Iran to interfere in American politics, an alarming statement that comes as voters have begun to cast ballots in this year's midterm elections.

In a joint statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Justice Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security said they "do not have any evidence" that foreign countries have disrupted the voting process or changed any tallies, but that the campaigns have spread "disinformation" and "foreign propaganda."

"We are concerned about ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies," the statement said. "These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision making in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections."

The statement comes weeks before Election Day on Nov. 6 when voters around the country will have a final chance to vote in Senate, House and gubernatorial races. 

Read more here.

 

And there's more what that came from – DHS's top cyber official, Christopher Krebs, told reporters earlier Friday that "you could start building a case" that Chinese influence campaigns are beginning to amount to election interference.

He also acknowledged that a foreign adversary could claim to have interfered in the upcoming midterms without having actually done so, in an attempt to undermine confidence in U.S. elections.

"I could absolutely envision a scenario where someone claims to have had access or claims to have hacked" an election, said Krebs, the undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD).

 

STATES ADDRESS ELECTION SECURITY: Officials are speaking out about the security of election systems amid fears cyberattacks could deter Americans from voting.

Claims of voter suppression traditionally center around practices like voter roll purges and ID laws.

There is no evidence that votes were altered in the Russian attack on the 2016 elections but experts say the concept of a cyberattack alone has left some Americans worried about whether their ballots count.

Making sure voters feel secure going to the polls has "been priority No. 1 for us," said Matt Dietrich, the public information officer for the Illinois state board of elections, which was breached by Russian hackers ahead of the 2016 election.

A survey of registered voters released this week by security provider OpenVPN showed 60 percent of respondents didn't believe that the U.S. election system is secure, and 63 percent think the country hasn't done enough to protect the system for future elections. Read more here.

 

TIM COOK COMES AT BLOOMBERG: Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling for Bloomberg Businessweek to retract a story that claimed its systems had been hacked by the Chinese government. 

Cook issued the call just over two weeks after Bloomberg Businessweek published the story.  

"There is no truth in their story about Apple," Cook told BuzzFeed News on Friday.

Bloomberg had reported that the supply chain for information technology company Super Micro had been compromised by the Chinese government.

Super Micro motherboards had been modified with chips allowing hackers to access systems they were installed in, the report said.

The motherboards were later shipped to companies including Apple, Amazon and government contractors, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Super Micro, Apple and Amazon have all denied the veracity of Bloomberg's report, while Bloomberg has stood by its story.

 

Bloomberg's response: "Bloomberg Businessweek's investigation is the result of more than a year of reporting, during which we conducted more than 100 interviews," a spokesperson told The Hill in an emailed statement on Friday.

 

FROM 10 DOWNING TO SILICON VALLEY: Facebook confirmed on Friday that it is hiring Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom, to be its head of global policy and communications.

Clegg, a member of the Liberal Democrats in Britain, will head to Silicon Valley in January to replace Elliot Schrage, who announced in June that he would leave Facebook after 10 years.

"I believe that Facebook must continue to play a role in finding answers to those questions -- not by acting alone in Silicon Valley, but by working with people, organizations, governments and regulators around the world to ensure that technology is a force for good," Clegg said in a Facebook post announcing the move. "I am looking forward to being part of this endeavour."

Read more here.

 

ON TAP: Palo Alto Networks is hosting its Federal Ignite '18 conference next week, featuring top officials from across the federal government and prominent cyber experts.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: How humans could explore the hellscape on Venus

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: I think I've heard their stuff.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Nellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels (The Hill)

Alex Jones and InfoWars are still on Twitter, despite 'ban' (Daily Beast)

Amazon HQ2 watch: Northern Virginia checks the most boxes. (The New York Times)

Tech startups stoke market for IPOs. (The Wall Street Journal)

Bill Gates honors Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. (The Washington Post)

Facebook has a fake news 'war room' – but is it really working? (The Guardian)

Twitter pulls down bot network that pushed pro-Saudi talking points about disappeared journalist (NBC News)