Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — Risk of Russia cyber ops amps up before midterms

Experts warn Russia could escalate its cyber efforts in the November midterms as retaliation for the United States’ ongoing military and economic aid to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Chinese hackers are reportedly scanning Democratic and Republican state headquarters for vulnerabilities in their systems ahead of the midterm elections. 

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Ines KagubareSubscribe here.

US support to Ukraine could trigger cyber escalation

With Russia continuing to face setbacks in its war against Ukraine, experts warn that Russian President Vladimir Putin may escalate his cyber operations in the November midterms as retaliation for U.S. involvement in the conflict.

Recent cyberattacks against U.S. state government and airport websites that Moscow-backed hackers have claimed responsibility for may have been testing grounds for such Russian efforts to interfere in the upcoming election, posits James Turgal, vice president of cyber consultancy Optiv. 

  • “They started out hitting the websites of those particular states as a test bed to see how it works,” said Turgal, who previously served as the executive assistant director for the FBI’s information and technology branch.
  • “Clearly, they’re amping up [their cyber operations] … and pressure is starting to increase,” he added. 

Other experts similarly warn Russia may intensify its efforts to interfere in the American election, as a means of distracting the U.S. from assisting Ukraine or as retribution for that ongoing support.

Read more here

Chinese hackers probing GOP, Democratic entities

The FBI is warning Democratic and Republican state parties that Chinese hackers are scouring their headquarters for vulnerable systems they could potentially hack ahead of the midterms, The Washington Post reported.

According to U.S. officials the Post spoke to, FBI agents in field offices have notified several Democratic and Republican headquarters across the country that they might be targets of potential Chinese hacking as the election approaches. 

The officials, however, said that none of the political state parties have been hacked or breached. 

  • “[This is] part of a larger move that the FBI isn’t waiting for the attack to occur,” a U.S. official told the Post.   
  • Emma Vaughn, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee (RNC), told The Hill in an email that the RNC is secure and has not been compromised.
  • “Cybersecurity remains a top priority for the entire Republican ecosystem, which is why we place a premium on ensuring our stakeholders have the necessary tools, resources, and training on best practices so that our Party remains protected and vigilant,” Vaughn said. 

Read more here

📱 YE BUYING PARLER 

Kanye West plans to acquire Parler, a social media app popular among conservatives, the network’s parent company announced Monday. 

The move by the rapper, legally known as Ye, to grab up the app comes after he was banned from Twitter and Instagram for antisemitic posts on those platforms. 

“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Ye said in a statement announcing the agreement. 

Parler has pitched itself as an alternative to Twitter, describing itself as a “premier free speech app” with limited content moderation, geared toward conservatives.

The controversial app has been making its way back into major app stores after it was pulled last year in the wake of the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Read more here.

🎧  NEW POLITICAL AUDIO APP LAUNCHES

A new app featuring content from pundits across the political spectrum is launching, and its founders say it will fill a gap they see in the audio media world.  

CenterClip will allow users to hear 30-second to five-minute audio posts from creators on the right and left weighing in on the latest news and current events, according to an announcement exclusively shared with The Hill.  

CenterClip founders Quinn Cotter and Lauren Williams said the app is breaking ground in two areas — offering a new type of online platform for audio media and a new way for the public to interact with the pundits they see online and hear on TV. 

“We really are filling a gap both in the market from a tech perspective of what’s lacking in audio currently, and also in the political content perspective. And I think that that’s why there’s been just a lot of excitement on both sides, because we’re filling both of those openings in the market that we’re seeing,” founder Williams told The Hill. 

Read more here.  

MUSK ‘MESSAGE’ FROM PUTIN 

Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who served on the National Security Council under former President Trump, said billionaire Elon Musk was “transmitting a message” for Russian President Vladimir Putin when he tweeted out a proposal to end the war earlier this month.

Hill told Politico in an interview published Monday that before Musk tweeted out his so-called peace proposal earlier this month, he made a similar statement at a September event in Aspen, Colo., suggesting the Crimean Peninsula remain in Russian hands. 

Musk also said then that control over the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions should be negotiated because Crimea would need water supplies from those regions, Hill noted. 

“The reference to water is so specific that this clearly is a message from Putin,” she said. 

Read more here

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: As America approaches ‘internet for all,’ deep caution for ‘middle mile’ detour 

Notable links from around the web: 

How a 51-year-old celebrity hacker upended one of the world’s most influential social networks (CNN / Sean Lyngaas and Clara Duffy)  

Cybersecurity Tops the CIO Agenda as Threats Continue to Escalate (The Wall Street Journal / Steven Rosenbush) 

Western suppliers cut ties with Chinese chipmakers as U.S. curbs bite (The Washington Post / Jeanne Whalen) 

😴 Lighter click: Days off are rest days 

One more thing: SpaceX to continue funding Starlink

Billionaire Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company SpaceX would continue funding the Starlink internet service being used on the ground in Ukraine, despite previous warnings that the company would withdraw its services due to a lack of government funding.

“The hell with it,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.” 

When former PayPal founding chief operating officer and co-founder of angel investment firm Craft Ventures David Sacks replied with the comment, “No good deed goes unpunished,” Musk responded: “Even so, we should still do good deeds.” 

SpaceX’s director of government sales told the Pentagon last month that the company was unable to continue its funding of Starlink, sharing that the endeavor would cost $120 million over the next few months and nearly $400 million next year. 

Read more here

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Tags China cyber threats Chinese hackers Fiona Hill Fiona Hill midterms 2022 Russia-Ukraine war Russian cyber threats Russian cyberattacks Vladimir Putin
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