Overnight Cybersecurity

Hillicon Valley: TikTok sues Trump administration over executive order | Zoom reports widespread outages impacting schools, hearings | Federal cyber agency releases strategy to secure 5G networks

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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

TIKTOK HITS BACK: TikTok announced Monday that it is suing the Trump administration over its executive order aimed at banning the short-form video app from the country.

“The administration ignored our extensive efforts to address its concerns, which we conducted fully and in good faith,” the company said in a press release announcing the suit. “We do not take suing the government lightly, however we feel we have no choice but to take action to protect our rights, and the rights of our community and employees.” 

Trump signed two executive orders earlier this month compelling ByteDance, the China-based company that owns TikTok, to sell off its American assets, arguing that its ties to China pose a security threat.

The first order, signed Aug. 6, would ban transactions with the app within 45 days. The second order, signed a week later, gave ByteDance 90 days to divest.

Monday’s lawsuit argues that the Trump administration failed to provide evidence for TikTok being a national security threat in the first of the two orders.

“As the U.S. government is well aware, Plaintiffs have taken extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s U.S. user data, including by having TikTok store such data outside of China (in the United States and Singapore) and by erecting software barriers that help ensure that TikTok stores its U.S. user data separately from the user data of other ByteDance products,” the complaint reads.

TikTok filed the lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California. The company announced its intention to sue this past weekend.

The lawsuit also challenges Trump’s deployment of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president broad authority to regulate international commerce.

The power is meant to be reserved for cases involving “an unusual and extraordinary threat,” a standard which TikTok claims has not been met.

Read more about the case here. 

WECHAT USERS ALSO CLAP BACK: A group of WeChat users is suing the Trump administration in an attempt to block enforcement of an executive order that would effectively ban the popular Chinese messaging app in the United States. 

In a lawsuit filed on Friday in federal court in San Francisco, the nonprofit group WeChat Users Alliance and some of the app’s users claimed that the executive action violates several of their constitutional rights while also destroying an “irreplaceable cultural bridge” for those who use the app to connect with family and friends in China. 

The complaint asked the court to declare the executive order unconstitutional and to block the administration from moving forward with its implementation. The plaintiffs said that WeChat and its Chinese parent company, Tencent Holdings, were not affiliated with the legal effort.

“In short, the threatened displacement of these WeChat users from their public space is an irreparable harm that requires judicial intervention,” the lawsuit said. 

Read more here. 

SCHOOL’S OUT ON THE FIRST DAY: A widespread Zoom outage on Monday affected schools, courtrooms and other places of business that had been relying on the video conference platform during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have received reports of users being unable to start and join Zoom Meetings and Webinars. We are currently investigating and will provide updates as we have them,” the company told ABC News in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”

The company’s live service updates portal still listed partial outages for both its webinar and meetings services as of early Monday afternoon.

The outage appeared to be affecting parts of Europe and most of the U.S. East Coast, according to ABC, with several school districts and other institutions confirming an outage. Atlanta Public Schools, Texas’s Carroll Independent School District and the Michigan Supreme Court all wrote that the outage had interrupted their operations.

The company announced later in the morning that it was “deploying a fix” to resolve the interruptions.

Read more about the outage here. 

SECURING 5G: The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a strategy Monday to defend U.S. 5G networks against threats.

The CISA 5G Strategy outlines five “strategic initiatives” to secure the buildout of 5G systems, which include supporting 5G policy and standards development that stops malicious actors from influencing the design of new systems, expanding awareness of supply chain threats to 5G systems to minimize vulnerabilities, and working to strengthen and secure existing infrastructure. 

CISA Director Christopher Krebs wrote in the report that he saw 5G development as the “single biggest critical infrastructure build the world has seen in 25 years,” highlighting the need to build security into a system that will support essential services. 

“Given 5G’s scope, the stakes for safeguarding our networks could not be higher,” Krebs wrote. “The vulnerabilities that will come with 5G deployment are broad and range from insider threats to cyber espionage and attacks from sophisticated nation-states.”

“Now more than ever, trust in our services and the underpinning equipment is paramount,” he added. 

The release of the strategy comes after President Trump released a “National Strategy to Secure 5G” in March. The new CISA 5G strategy is aligned with Trump’s plan, with both focusing on risk management, stakeholder engagement, and technical assistance to address threats to 5G systems. 

“My Administration is committed to protecting America’s national security, promoting our prosperity, and preserving our civil liberties and democratic ideals,” Trump wrote in the administration’s 5G strategy. “Ensuring the security, reliability, and trustworthiness of our 5G infrastructure is essential to these endeavors.”

Read more about the strategy here. 

ZUCKERBERG VS TIKTOK: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pushed concerns about TikTok’s ties to China during meetings with officials and lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The Journal reported that Zuckerberg discussed TikTok with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) before the government began its national security investigation into the app owned by the China-based ByteDance.

Zuckerberg also made the case to President Trump that the rise of Chinese internet companies poses a huge threat to American businesses during a private dinner in October, the Journal reported.

Zuckerberg has not kept his opposition to China’s model for the internet a secret, railing against it both in a speech at Georgetown University last year and in congressional testimony last month.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said in statement Sunday that “Mark has never advocated for a ban on TikTok.” He also said it was wrong to conclude that policy decisions were driven by Zuckerberg.

“He has repeatedly said publicly that the biggest competitors to US tech companies are Chinese companies, with values that don’t align with democratic ideals like free speech,” he said. “It’s ludicrous to suggest that long-standing national security concerns — raised by policymakers on both sides of the aisle — have been shaped by Mark’s statements alone.”

Read more here. 

TWITTER TAKES ACTION: Twitter said Sunday that it added a label to a tweet shared by President Trump because it promoted misleading claims that “could potentially dissuade people from participation in voting,” marking the second instance in which the social media company has taken action on election-related posts shared by the president. 

Trump earlier Sunday shared a tweet in which he claimed that mail drop boxes used for the upcoming election could lead to fraud. The president said drop boxes could allow people to vote multiple times and suggested they were not “Covid sanitized.” There’s no evidence that voter fraud is more likely when voting is done through the mail, or that it is harder for authorities to stop.

The tweet now includes a label saying the post “violated Twitter Rules about civic and election integrity.” The tweet will remain accessible because Twitter determined that it “may be in the public’s interest,” the company said. 

“Per our policies, this Tweet will remain on the service given its relevance to ongoing public conversation,” Twitter said in a statement shared on its @TwitterSafety account. “Engagements with the Tweet will be limited. People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but not Like, Reply, or Retweet it.”

Read more about the move here. 

WARNER HAS SOME CONCERNS: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday he is worried that Americans may “unwittingly” be promoting a Russian disinformation campaign designed to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.

The committee vice chairman told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he wants the U.S. intelligence community to release more information about how Russia is trying to intrude in the election so the American people can be more aware. 

Warner cited a U.S. counterintelligence report released last week that determined Russia was attempting to interfere with the election to promote President Trump and criticize Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“It’s incumbent on the intelligence community to lay out more of the facts of what we know about that disinformation campaign,” he said. “My fear is there may be Americans that are unwittingly promoting that Russian disinformation campaign, and I think they need to be briefed so they don’t become, frankly, agents in effect of this disinformation campaign.”

The intelligence report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence also indicated that China and Iran were also attempting to meddle in the election – but in favor of Biden to prevent Trump’s reelection. 

Read more here. 

Lighter click: Nice lil’ bilingual joke

An op-ed to chew on: Do we all need a cyber fallout shelter?


What If Technology Belonged to the People? (Motherboard / Edward Ongweso Jr.)

Larry Ellison, one of the world’s richest people, asks for a second chance at charity (Recode / Theodore Schleifer)

Scammers Are Using Facebook To Prey On People In Kenya (BuzzFeed News / Odanga Madung)

TikTok reveals specific U.S. and global user growth numbers for the first time (CNBC / Alex Sherman)

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Mark Warner Mark Zuckerberg Tom Cotton

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