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Hillicon Valley: AT&T calls hiring Cohen a 'big mistake' | Wyden wants to block DHS nominee over Stingray surveillance | Amazon pressed on child privacy | One year anniversary of Trump cyber order

Hillicon Valley: AT&T calls hiring Cohen a 'big mistake' | Wyden wants to block DHS nominee over Stingray surveillance | Amazon pressed on child privacy | One year anniversary of Trump cyber order
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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's comprehensive newsletter with all you need to know about tech and cybersecurity from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) and Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers), and the tech team, Ali Breland (@alibreland) and Harper Neidig (@hneidig), on Twitter. Contact us about scoop, tips, comments...and especially compliments.

 

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THE LATEST ON AT&T, COHEN: AT&T's CEO said Friday that hiring President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE's personal attorney Michael Cohen was "a big mistake."

In a memo to employees, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that while everything the company did in hiring Cohen was in accordance with the law, they should not have hired him.

"There is no other way to say it -- AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake," Stephenson wrote. "To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate. But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment."

This is big: In the letter, Stephenson also announced that Bob Quinn, AT&T's senior executive vice president of external & legislative affairs, will step down. AT&T's legislative affairs group will now report to the company's general counsel, David McAtee. Stephenson explained Quinn's departure as a retirement without specifying further.

The AT&T CEO also included a fact sheet with his letter to employees detailing the company's version of events on the Cohen hiring.

According to the fact sheet, Cohen approached the company around the time of the Trump presidential transition, saying that he would be leaving the Trump Organization to consult for corporate clients on the new administration.

AT&T confirmed that it paid Cohen $600,000, in monthly $50,000 installments from January 2017 to December 2017.

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AT&T paid a Cohen company, Essential Consultants LLC. That is the same company the Trump lawyer used to pay adult-film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to not talk about an affair she alleges she had with Trump. Read more here.

 

WYDEN VS. TRUMP CYBER PICK: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Ore.) says he will "object" to President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) cybersecurity efforts over unreleased information lawmakers are seeking from the agency. Wyden said Thursday he would oppose the Senate proceeding with its consideration of Christopher Krebs until the agency publicly presents additional information about the DHS's discovery of unauthorized mobile surveillance devices being used in the U.S. DHS previously presented the information about these devices, known as "Stingrays," with other federal agencies earlier this year.

"That presentation included important information that I believe the American people have a right to know. My colleagues and I asked Mr. Krebs to remove the 'For Official Use Only,' FOUO designation from the slides used at this presentation and make them available for public release," Wyden said in a congressional notice. "I remain hopeful that this is an issue we can work through and resolve soon. However, until the FOUO designation is removed from those slides and they are made available for public release, I will object to the Senate proceeding with the Krebs nomination," he continued. To read more of our coverage, click here.

And to catch up on Krebs' nomination, click here and here.

 

LAWMAKERS PRESS AMAZON ON KIDS' PRIVACY: A pair of lawmakers on Friday called on Amazon to provide answers about privacy protections for a new product meant for children.

Sen. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey rips GOP for support of Amy Coney Barrett: Originalism 'just a fancy word for discrimination' Ocasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonLobbying world Bottom line Ex-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street MORE (R-Texas), who co-chair the Congressional Privacy Caucus, are asking Amazon to detail how it handles privacy concerns on its Echo Dot Kids Edition, a digital voice-operated assistant similar to the company's Echo.

"We write to seek information about how Amazon plans to protect the privacy of children who use Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition and what steps the company is taking to ensure that using this product will not negatively affect children's development," they wrote in a letter to the company.

In their letter, the lawmakers asked Amazon whether audio from children's interactions with the Echo Dot would be saved and if so whether parents or third parties would have access to such data, among other issues.

A little context: Their letter follows an uptick in attention earlier this year to how technology can impact children. Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: The perils of online dating.

 

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TAKING ON BOTNETS: A joint cybersecurity venture launched by two lobbying groups representing technology and telecommunications firms released its 2018 priorities on Friday.

The venture, called the Council to Secure the Digital Economy, unveiled its agenda ahead of the expected release of the Trump administration's report on countering botnets. The Information Technology Industrial Council (ITI) and USTelecom announced the venture back in February.

The initiative said it plans to "develop and promote an international guide to anti-botnet baseline security practices for key segments within" the information, communications and technology sector.

The group also plans to develop a "global operational framework" to mobilize key stakeholders in the sector in a "major international cyber emergency." More on the initiative's priorities here.

To read more about the effort, check out our piece on the venture's launch.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CYBER ORDER! Today, May 11, marks one year since President Trump signed the executive order on cybersecurity, which triggered a flurry of reports by various agencies across the government. But since then, two major players in crafting the EO--Tom Bossert and Rob Joyce--have already left the White House.

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A CASE IN FOCUS: A former CIA contractor on Friday pleaded guilty to improperly removing and retaining classified materials, and then later lying to federal law enforcement officers about these unauthorized actions, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia say Reynaldo Regis searched classified databases without authorization during the time he worked as a contractor for the spy agency, between August 2006 and November 2016. He then copied the information into his personal notebooks and brought it to his house.

"During a search of his home, FBI agents recovered approximately 60 notebooks containing classified information. The classified information contained in the notebooks included information relating to highly sensitive intelligence reports, disclosure of which could cause serious damage to the national security," the Justice Department said.

Regis then lied to federal investigators about improperly handling classified materials during an interview.

What we still don't know: It is unclear what his motivations were for taking the information. 

More here.

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A(NOTHER) MUELLER UPDATE: President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani says in a new interview with the Associated Press that any decision on a possible interview between the president and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE would likely take place after Trump's planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. More here.

 

COMING UP NEXT WEEK:

Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenWatchdog finds top DOJ officials were 'driving force' behind Trump's child separation policy: NYT More than million in DHS contracts awarded to firm of acting secretary's wife: report DHS IG won't investigate after watchdog said Wolf, Cuccinelli appointments violated law MORE, President Trump's Homeland Security Secretary, will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Tuesday on the department's fiscal 2019 budget request and legislative priorities. We expect to hear about cybersecurity, given that it is one of Nielsen's main points of focus.

FBI Director Christopher Wray will also be on the Hill this week, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on Wednesday afternoon about the FBI's budget.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Cambridge Analytica and the future of data privacy.

On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons will testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government to discuss their fiscal 2019 funding request and budget justifications.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Florida voting officials and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are in a spat over election cyber threats. (Tampa Bay Times)

It's been one year since 'Wanna Cry.' Are we prepared for the next attack? (ZDNet)

"It's up to Trump to prepare for Kremlin cyberattacks. He's falling short." (Washington Post opinion)

Boston Dynamics is going to start selling its dog-like robot next year. (TechCrunch)

National security adviser John Bolton receives more criticism after a report he is considering eliminating a top White House cyber role. (Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichBottom line Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Senate Democrats seek removal of controversial public lands head after nomination withdrawal MORE (D-N.M.))

Building a think tank on the internet (Logic)

BSA, the Software Alliance weighs in on the IDEA Act

OP-ED from Code for America: Trump's SNAP fix fails to put people first (Technica.ly)