Hillicon Valley: Biden steps up pressure on Russia to go after cyber criminals | All JBS facilities up and running after ransomware attack | Justice Dept. gives ransomware same priority as terrorism

Hillicon Valley: Biden steps up pressure on Russia to go after cyber criminals | All JBS facilities up and running after ransomware attack | Justice Dept. gives ransomware same priority as terrorism
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The Biden administration is taking more steps to confront Russia and other nations harboring malicious hackers following increasing ransomware attacks. These include the attack on JBS USA, and the company announced Thursday that all U.S. facilities are back up and running, while the White House outlined how the private sector can protect itself against future attacks, and the Justice Department elevated the priority level of ransomware investigations.

PUTIN UNDER PRESSURE: The ransomware attacks on meatpacker JBS and Colonial Pipeline are prompting the Biden administration to confront nations such as Russia and China on harboring hackers who cause major disruptions overseas.

The back-to-back attacks from groups based in Russia are raising the stakes for this month’s summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit Biden must up the ante to get what he wants from Putin MORE, the first face-to-face meeting for the two leaders since Biden took office.

Raising expectations: “This will certainly be a topic of discussion, that harboring criminal entities that are intending to do harm, that are doing harm to the critical infrastructure in the United States, is not acceptable,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit Biden to host Germany's Merkel at the White House in July Psaki 'likely will stay longer' than year as White House press secretary MORE told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “We are not going to stand by that, we will raise that, and we are not going to take options off the table.”

She stressed that the administration had raised concerns over the multiple Russian-linked attacks on U.S. critical organizations with Moscow and that protecting critical infrastructure was “of the utmost national security importance.”

“We believe that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,” Psaki said.

Read more about the efforts here.


CRISIS AVERTED: JBS USA and Pilgrim’s on Thursday afternoon announced that all global facilities were functioning normally, days after JBS was hit by a ransomware attack believed to have been carried out by Russian-based hackers. 

JBS, the largest beef provider in the U.S., saw facilities in both North America and Australia impacted by the ransomware attack that hit the company over the weekend and forced the shutdown of all U.S. facilities on Tuesday. 

The two companies noted Thursday that all lost production from the shutdown would be made up by the end of this week, and that the amount lost was less than one day’s typical production. 


JUSTICE FOR ALL: The Justice Department announced this week that it will begin elevating ransomware investigations to a similar level of priority as terrorist attacks.

John Carlin, the acting deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, told Reuters on Thursday that the federal government will prioritize ransomware cases through a new process.

"It's a specialized process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country, so you can make the connections between actors and work your way up to disrupt the whole chain," he said.

Read more here.


PRIVATE SECTOR UNDER PRESSURE: The White House has sent out recommendations to the private sector over how to protect themselves from cyber intrusions after a series of attacks left companies and government agencies vulnerable. 

Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger in a memo obtained by The Hill sounded the alarm over recent high-profile attacks against places like Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds and said the private sector must recognize the dire threat that hacks pose to its companies.

“All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location,” she wrote. “Much as our homes have locks and alarm systems and our office buildings have guards and security to meet the threat of theft, we urge you to take ransomware crime seriously and ensure your corporate cyber defenses match the threat.”

Read more about the memo here.


PAY UP: Twitter is rolling out a subscription service that will allow access to features limited to the paying users, the company said Thursday. 

The Twitter Blue feature is rolling out first in Canada and Australia with monthly fees of $3.49 CAD and $4.49 AUD.

One feature Twitter Blue subscribers will have access to will let users preview and either revise or “undo” a tweet within 30 seconds. 

Other features include letting users add bookmark folders to organize saved tweets, and a “reader mode” that provides a “more beautiful reading experience” of long threads, according to the blog post

Read more here


QUESTIONS, CONCERNS: House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator Teamsters refused to pay a ransomware attack in 2019 Oversight chair presses JBS on why it paid ransom over cyberattack MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday grilled Colonial Pipeline and insurance group CNA Financial Corporation for their recent decisions to pay hackers in order to regain access to their networks following ransomware attacks. 

Maloney requested documents from both companies on the payments, with Colonial choosing to pay likely Russian hackers the equivalent of $4.4 million in Bitcoin last month to restart their pipeline, which provides around 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel.

Bloomberg also reported last month that CNA, one of the largest insurance providers in the nation, paid hackers $40 million in late March after being hit by a ransomware attack.

Maloney wrote to the leaders of both companies Thursday that she was “troubled” by the choice to pay the hackers, and that more information on the decisions was needed. 

Read more about the letters here.


GOOGLE’S TAKE: Google will launch an update to let Android users opt out of tracking features to limit targeted ads later this year, according to the company’s support website

The planned update comes after Apple launched a similar anti-tracking feature in March that was cheered by privacy advocates but faced fierce pushback from social media giant Facebook. 

For Android users, the update will come as part of a Google Play services update in “late 2021,” according to Google. 

If a user opts out of personalized ads, the user’s unique advertising identifier will not be available. Instead, it will appear as a string of zeros in place of the identifier.

Read more about the update


A FACEBOOK FIRST: Facebook has named Marne Levine to serve as its first ever chief business officer. 

Levine, who currently serves as the platform’s vice president of global partnerships, business and corporate development, has been at Facebook for more than a decade. She is replacing outgoing Chief Revenue Officer David Fischer.

"It is a privilege to be leading a business that enables economic and social change for our global partners, helping them to create their brand, build their community, and grow their business," Levine wrote in an Instagram post announcing her promotion.

Read more here

LABEL WOES: A new study published this week by liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America found that Facebook’s misinformation labels may have actually helped to amplify former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s content.

According to Media Matters, the posts from Trump between January 2020 to 2021 that were labeled as containing misinformation by Facebook received more than twice the amount of interactions compared to his overall posts. The labeled posts received around 407,000 interactions on average, while his posts overall received an average of 152,000 interactions in comparison.

A representative for Facebook shot back at MMFA's characterization, pointing out that the media watchdog had not provided evidence to show that the labels directly caused the posts to become more popular. 

Read more about the study


EU’S NEW ID: The European Union on Thursday unveiled plans for a digital ID wallet that would be available to residents of the 27-member bloc.

The European Commission said the wallet would allow citizens to prove identity and share documents “with the click of a button on their phone.”

Users would be allowed to link their identifications with other personal information, such as diplomas and bank accounts.

Large platforms will be required to accept the digital identity at the request of users. However, citizens will be able to decide whether they use it.

Read more about the plan

Lighter click: Where’s Waldo?

An op-ed to chew on: Who will set standards for 21st century technologies — the US or China?



Google says it’s committed to ethical AI research. Its ethical AI team isn’t so sure. (Recode / Shirin Ghaffary) 

Virtual Reality Therapy Plunges Patients Back Into Trauma. Here Is Why Some Swear by It. (The New York Times / Dani Blum)

Facebook to end special treatment for politicians after Trump ban (The Verge / Alex Heath)

First major voting vendor, Hart InterCivic, partners with Microsoft on ambitious software security tool ElectionGuard (CyberScoop / Tim Starks)