Hillicon Valley: Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 | Defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal, includes White House cyber czar position | Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain
Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump
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DOJ TAKES AIM: The Justice Department on Monday announced indictments against six Russian hackers in connection to attacks on international events including the 2017 French elections and the 2018 Winter Olympics, as well as U.S. businesses and hospitals.
The six individuals indicted are members of the GRU, the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, which was responsible for targeting U.S. election infrastructure in all 50 states in the months ahead of the 2016 presidential election. A dozen GRU members had previously been indicted by the Justice Department in 2018 for these hacking efforts.
The indictment, handed down by a grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleges that the six individuals "knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other and with persons known and unknown to the grand jury to deploy destructive malware and take other disruptive actions, for the strategic benefit of Russia, through unauthorized access to victim computers."
Among the alleged attacks were hack-and-leak operations against the political party of now-French President Emanuel Macron in 2017, along with other French politicians. They are also alleged to have targeted the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as retaliation for Russians being banned from participating in the games due to doping allegations.
Further, the six Russian nationals were indicted in connection to attacks on the Ukrainian power grid and government agencies, which caused widespread power outages; for targeting two organizations involved in investigating the United Kingdom-based nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter; and for most recently targeting Georgian government agencies and companies.
The hackers are also accused of carrying out the 2017 NotPetya malware attack, one of the most widespread and debilitating international cyberattacks in history. Three of the groups targeted by the NotPetya virus were hospitals and facilities within the Heritage Valley Health Systems, a FedEx Corporation subsidiary and a large U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturer, with the three companies suffering a combined $1 billion in losses from the attacks.
CHINA CONCERNS: U.S. citizens could be put at "serious risk" if the federal government is not able to come together and create a unified strategy to combat Chinese threats to critical technologies, a congressionally created bipartisan commission concluded Monday.
The Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) - established by Congress in 2018 and composed of lawmakers, federal officials and industry leaders - in a white paper published Monday highlighted the "China problem" faced by the security of the information and communications technologies (ICT) supply chain.
The CSC detailed concerns around U.S. reliance on critical technologies manufactured by a potential adversary, along with concerns that the U.S. is falling behind on the international stage due to the lack of a cohesive strategy to challenge Chinese dominance in fields such as telecommunications and the development of fifth generation (5G) wireless technologies.
"The imperative is clear. Chinese government interventions in its own domestic industry, in global trade, and in standard-setting bodies has created an uneven playing field on which companies in the United States and partner countries struggle to compete," the CSC wrote in the white paper. "Now is the time for strategic cohesion. Without an ICT industrial base strategy, America risks falling behind competitively and leaving its citizens at serious risk."
Federal oversight around the use of Chinese technologies in the U.S. has grown over the past two years due to concerns over data security and privacy, with companies including telecom giant Huawei and social media platform TikTok, which owned by Chinese group ByteDance, coming under close scrutiny by the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill.
DEMS SLAM FCC: House Democrats slammed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman on Monday over his announcement that the panel would move forward with the Trump administration's petition to clarify the meaning of a law that grants tech companies a legal liability shield over content posted on their websites by third parties.
Democratic leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee accused FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of attempting to help a "flailing President Trump" through his decision to move forward with the administration's push to clarify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
"Chairman Pai's decision to start a Section 230 rulemaking is a blatant attempt to help a flailing President Trump," Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said in a statement.
"The timing and hurried nature of this decision makes clear it's being done to influence social media companies' behavior leading up to an election, and it is shocking to watch this supposedly independent regulatory agency jump at the opportunity to become a political appendage of President Trump's campaign," the Democrats added.
They said the FCC's "rush to push President Trump's agenda weeks before Election Day should be seen for the reckless and politically-motivated stunt that it is."
INTEL BATTLES: Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) are publicly battling over the emails allegedly recovered from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, accusing one another of politicizing intelligence.
The two are battling over a controversial report published by The New York Post last week concerning a laptop and emails allegedly sent by Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The story alleged that then-Vice President Biden participated in a meeting with a top adviser to Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, where his son sat on the board at the time, prompting immediate attacks from President Trump and his allies that Biden is corrupt.
Schiff in a Friday interview with CNN said the "smear" campaign against Biden and his ties to Ukraine originated as part of a Russian disinformation plot more than a year ago, but he did not explicitly link the Kremlin efforts to the Post story.
Ratcliffe, however, sought to claim that Schiff was remarking that the Post story was a result of Russian disinformation, which he says is not supported by intelligence.
"It's funny that some of the people that complained the most about intelligence being politicized are the ones politicizing intelligence and unfortunately in this case, it is Adam Schiff," Ratcliffe told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, adding that Schiff claimed "Hunter Biden's laptop and e-mails on it are part of some Russian disinformation campaign."
"Let me be clear: The intelligence community doesn't believe that because there is no intelligence that supports that. And we shared no intelligence with Chairman Schiff or any other member of Congress that Hunter Biden's laptop is part of some Russian disinformation campaign," Ratcliffe added.
ICYMI: CONSERVATIVES HAVE CONCERNS: Conservatives have seized on Facebook and Twitter's handling of this week's controversial New York Post story on Hunter Biden to attack tech's legal liability shield.
The decisions by both companies to limit the spread of the dubious article - by Twitter for breaking a policy on hacked materials, by Facebook as precaution - was used as evidence for Republican's allegations of anti-conservative bias in social media.
President Trump in particular has used the episode to reenergize the crusade he's led against Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act since signing an executive order targeting it in May.
"Now, Big Tech - you see what's going on with Big Tech? - is censoring these stories to try and get Biden out of this impossible jam. He's in a big jam," Trump said at a rally Thursday.
The New York Post article alleged that Hunter Biden, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son, had organized a meeting between a Ukrainian businessman and his father, who was vice president at the time. That claim was based on emails obtained from a hard drive with no substantive links to anyone involved.
The Biden campaign has denied any such meeting and pointed to numerous investigations that have all concluded there was "no wrongdoing" by the former vice president regarding Ukraine. Facebook and Twitter both moved to clamp down on the story - the former based on its hacked materials policy and because of sensitive information not redacted from the emails in the story, the latter because of unknown "signals."
Lighter click: Ew, David
An op-ed to chew on: How to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably
NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of the end-to-end encrypted messaging service Signal, is "trying to bring normality to the Internet" (New Yorker / Anna Wiener)
As local news dies, a pay-for-play network rises in its place (New York Times / Davey Alba and Jack Nicas)
Oracle founder donated $250,000 to Graham PAC in final days of TikTok deal (The Verge / Makena Kelly)
How does Google's monopoly hurt you? Try these searches. (Washington Post / Geoffrey A. Fowler)