Overnight Cybersecurity

Hillicon Valley: Biden warns Putin on Russian ransomware attacks | Biden signs sweeping order to boost competition| TikTok updates automated takedown system


Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. 

Welcome and Happy Friday! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. 

President Biden rounded out a very active week in cybersecurity by calling Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss concerns including recent Russian-linked ransomware attacks, urging him to take action to disrupt cyber criminal groups operating in his country. The call came a week after the ransomware attack on software group Kaseya that hit up to 1,500 companies. 

It was a busy Friday for the Biden administration, with the president also signing an executive order to help improve competition in the U.S., which included language on antitrust and net neutrality, among other tech-related issues. 


BIDEN AND PUTIN HAVE A CHAT: President Biden spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and urged him to take action to disrupt criminal groups operating in Russia that are behind recent ransomware attacks in the United States.

Biden also warned that the U.S. would “take any necessary action to defend its people and its critical infrastructure in the face of this continuing challenge,” according to a White House readout.

The conversation came after a ransomware attack last week on software company Kaseya impacted up to 1,500 companies, many of which were vulnerable small businesses in the U.S. Cybersecurity experts have attributed the attack to the Russian-based “REvil” cyber criminal group. However the Biden administration has not yet formally attributed the attack.

“I made it very clear to him that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is,” Biden later told reporters when asked about the phone call.

Asked if there would be consequences for the ransomware attacks, Biden answered in the affirmative without elaborating.

A senior administration official told reporters Friday that while the administration will not “telegraph” what actions, if any, are taken, there would likely be some form of response.

Read more about tensions with Russia here.


BIG EXECUTIVE MOVES: President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order Friday aimed at improving competition across the American economy. Here’s a quick look at how the order – which specifically mentions tech as an area that enforcement should focus on – could affect the industry:

–ANTITRUST: The order calls on the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to vigorously enforce existing laws and stresses that both regulators can go back and challenge consummated mergers (think Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram).

FTC chair Lina Khan, who joined Biden for the signing, and the DOJ’s acting antitrust chief Richard Powers released a statement Friday saying that current merger guidelines “deserve a hard look.”

–RIGHT TO REPAIR: The FTC is also being asked to promulgate rules giving customers more right to repair devices either themselves or at third party shops.

Tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google have opposed right-to-repair legislation that would force them to share internal repair guides for years and keep consumers reliant on them for fixes.

“Tech and other companies impose restrictions on self and third-party repairs, making repairs more costly and time-consuming, such as by restricting the distribution of parts, diagnostics, and repair tools,” the White House said in a fact sheet on the order.

–NET NEUTRALITY: Biden’s order encourages the Federal Communications Commission to bring back the Obama-era rules that required internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.

Restoring net neutrality has been a priority for progressive digital rights activists. However, until Biden successfully places a fifth commissioner on the body those efforts are likely to remain stalled.

The order also calls for the FCC to provide more information to consumers about how much they’re actually paying for internet.

Read more about the order.


TIKTOK UPDATE: TikTok is bringing a new system to the U.S. and Canada for automatically removing videos that violate platform policies. 

The automatic system will be used primarily for violations of TikTok’s policies on minor safety, sexual activities, violence, illegal activity and regulated goods, the company said in a blog post. 

“While no technology can be completely accurate in moderating content, where decisions often require a high degree of context or nuance, we’ll keep improving the precision of our technology to minimize incorrect removals,” TikTok noted in a blog post

Read more about the updates here.


NEW INTEL LEADERSHIP: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tapping a new head for its intelligence operations, a shift in leadership for a wing of DHS that has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

In a letter to staff, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced John Cohen will lead the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) in addition to his role as the coordinator for counterterrorism.

Cohen’s title is officially listed as senior official performing the duties of the under secretary, a designation that sidesteps the formal nomination process and leaves the top intelligence office for the department without a Senate-confirmed leader six months into the new administration.

Read more here. 

What we’re watching next week:

-A House Judiciary Committee subcommittee will examine law enforcement use of facial recognition technology during a July 13 hearing. 

-The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will consider multiple pieces of cyber-related legislation on July 14, including a bill to protect K-12 institutions against hackers. 

-The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing July 15 on supply chain resiliency featuring testimony from technology experts. 

-The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing July 15 on reforming the Department of Homeland Security to meet evolving threats, which will likely include discussions of recent cybersecurity incidents. 

An op-ed to chew on: A new view of digital rights: Make them part of digital infrastructure 

Lighter click: Really no way to caption this


Pinterest wants in on the creator economy. Can it do it the Pinterest way? (Protocol / David Pierce)

How copyright reform could enable police misconduct (National Journal / Brendan Bordelon) 

Facebook Got Rid of Racial Ad Categories . Or Did It? (The Markup / Jon Keegan)

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Hillicon Valley Joe Biden Lina Khan Vladimir Putin

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