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Hillicon Valley: Deal reached on ZTE, but lawmakers look to block it | New encryption bill | Dems push Ryan for net neutrality vote | Google vows it won't use AI for weapons

Hillicon Valley: Deal reached on ZTE, but lawmakers look to block it | New encryption bill | Dems push Ryan for net neutrality vote | Google vows it won't use AI for weapons
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The Cyber and Tech Overnights are joining forces to give you Hillicon Valley, The Hill's new comprehensive newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news 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. Send us your scoops, tips and compliments.

 

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BIG DAY FOR ZTE: At first, things were looking up for the Chinese phone manufacturer.  

In the morning: The Commerce Department announced that it had reached a deal to lift penalties on Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE.

The deal to revive ZTE, which violated U.S sanctions and is considered a national security threat by U.S. officials, came after President Trump pledged to loosen restrictions that had effectively shut down the company.

"The purpose of this settlement is to modify ZTE's behavior while setting a new precedent for monitoring to assure compliance with U.S. law," the Commerce Department said in a statement.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called the new sanctions "the largest penalty [the department's Bureau of Industry and Security] has ever levied" and said they impose "unprecedented compliance measures" on ZTE.

--If you're ZTE that sounds pretty nice, right? Well, don't get cocky. Later in the day, things... got complicated

In the afternoon: A bipartisan group of senators said they would try to use the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to target Chinese technology companies, including ZTE.

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Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Warnock hit by Republicans over 'cannot serve God and the military' comment MORE (R-Ark.), Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNew York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn Biden congratulates Pelosi on Speaker nomination Senate Democrats introduce bill to shore up PPE supply MORE (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would restore the Commerce Department's penalties on ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

The amendment would also ban government agencies from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment and services from Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE and ban the government from providing loans to or subsidizing either company.

"Both parties in Congress must come together to bring the hammer down on these companies rather than offer them a second chance, and this new bipartisan amendment will do just that," Schumer said.

--It's rare that Cotton and Schumer team up on anything, so while the amendment is still just a proposal, it's a signal that ZTE should take their threat seriously. Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software MORE (D-Va.) has already said that he's confident that there will be a supermajority in Congress willing to reverse the Trump administration throwing a bone to ZTE.  

More American companies facing scrutiny over China ties: Yesterday, Facebook's relationship with Chinese companies was a chief concern for Congressional lawmakers. Today, they added Google and Twitter to the list.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Thursday sent letters to the CEOs of Twitter and Google's parent company, Alphabet, seeking information on the companies' partnerships with electronics makers including Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo.

Citing reports in the media, Warner addressed concerns from Americans and intelligence agencies about data-sharing between the tech companies and Chinese phone makers.

In his letters, Warner noted intelligence agencies' warnings that certain phone-makers' products have security vulnerabilities that could allow Chinese intelligence to access any data stored on or transmitted by them.

Congressional aides confirmed that other lawmakers, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayBottom line House Republican introduces amendment to include farm aid in stopgap funding bill Live coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerBottom Line North Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race North Carolina board calls for new election in contested House race MORE (R-N.C.), also intend to criticize Google over its partnership with Huawei.

The congressmen intend to contrast Google's partnership with Huawei with Google's decision earlier this week not to renew a contract with the Department of Defense, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the lawmakers' concerns.

Some ZTE lobbying context for good measure: Chinese telecom firm ZTE is spending big on K Street as it looks to save its business and remove restrictions on its ability to buy from U.S. suppliers.

The company is leaning heavily on three firms and representation that includes ex-lawmakers, former federal regulators and individuals with ties to President Trump.

And with Thursday's announcement of a deal, it appears to be paying off.

Read the full story here.

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NEW LEGISLATION ON ENCRYPTION: A bipartisan group of lawmakers is renewing a push for legislation to block states from mandating that technology companies build "backdoors" into devices they produce in order to allow law enforcement access to them.

The measure is designed to preempt state and local governments from moving forward with their own laws governing encryption before the federal government acts on the issue.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), one of the bill's sponsors, said that the measure "ensures we can have a national discussion about encryption without compromising consumers' security in the process."

 "Any discussion of encryption and law enforcement access to data needs to happen at the federal level," Lieu said. "As a computer science major, I can tell you that having 50 different mandatory state-level encryption standards is bad for security, consumers, innovation, and ultimately law enforcement."

Reps. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.), Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneHouse Democrats run late ads defending vulnerable DCCC chair House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Democrats sense momentum for expanding child tax credit MORE (D-Wash.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future Sunday shows preview: Biden team gears up for transition, Trump legal battles continue and pandemic rages on MORE (R-Ohio) are co-sponsoring the legislation, which they are introducing on Thursday.

What exactly would the bill do? Specifically, the legislation would prohibit state and local governments from mandating that any tech company "design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product, by any agency or instrumentality of a State, a political subdivision of a State or the United States," according to a copy of the bill viewed by The Hill.  

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It would also block states and localities from requiring that tech companies maintain the ability to decrypt information stored on encrypted devices that they produce. Finally, states would also not be able to prohibit manufacturers from selling products to the public because they use encryption or a similar security function.

This isn't the first attempt to pass this legislation. Lieu originally introduced the bill, called the Encrypt Act, along with a group of bipartisan co-sponsors in 2016, but it never reached the House floor for a vote.

We've got more on the bill and the broader encryption tug-of-war here.

 

SENATE DEMS WANT RYAN TO BRING NET NEUTRALITY BILL UP FOR A VOTE: All 49 Senate Democrats signed a letter to House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats McCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday urging him to schedule vote for a bill that would reverse the FCC's decision to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

The bill passed the Senate last month with the help of a few Republicans.

"Now that the Senate has taken this critical step, it is incumbent on the House of Representatives to listen to the voices of consumers, including the millions of Americans who supported the FCC's 2015 net neutrality order, and keep the internet free and open for all," the letter reads.

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Three Republicans -- Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Hogan 'embarrassed that more people' in the GOP 'aren't speaking up' against Trump MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski calls on Trump to begin transition process, decries 'pressure campaign on state legislators' Hogan 'embarrassed that more people' in the GOP 'aren't speaking up' against Trump GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (Alaska) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) -- joined Democrats to put the bill over the top in a 52-47 vote in May.

But the House effort has a steeper hill to climb. Democrats will need 25 Republicans to cross the aisle in order to force a vote and pass the bill. 

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK REPORTS BUG THAT MADE SHARING PUBLIC BY DEFAULT: A Facebook bug that was live for four days in May set millions of users' default sharing settings to public, the company revealed on Thursday.

Facebook said it would be notifying the 14 million users who had posted publicly between May 18 and 22.

"We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts," Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in a statement.

 

FIRST IS WORST: The United States is the most exposed nation in cyberspaceaccording to an annual report released by Rapid7 on Thursday.

The assessment, launched in 2016, aims to answer the "fundamental" question: "What is the nature of internet exposure--services that either do not offer modern cryptographic protection, or are otherwise unsuitable to offer on the increasingly hostile internet--and where, physically, are these exposed services located?"

"The United States leads all other countries in the 2018 exposure rankings, scoring the highest in nearly every exposure metric we measure," the report, called the National Exposure Index, says. "Following the U.S. is China, Canada, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, which together control over 61 million servers listening on at least one of the surveyed ports."

 

TEXTING President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MOREDemocratic senators are requesting that the intelligence community conduct a threat assessment on President Trump's cell phone usage, asking if he's compromised classified information.

Democratic Sens. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichHouse Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior Secretary | Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry | Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior secretary MORE (N.M.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans The FCC is trying to govern content moderation: It doesn't have the authority MORE (Ore.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Ending Trump's transactional arrogance on our public lands President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE (Ill.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinVoting machine company denies Trump claims about software issues Top Latino group calls for Padilla as Harris's Senate replacement Pressure grows on California governor to name Harris replacement MORE (Calif.) sent a letter Thursday to Bill Evanina, Trump's counterintelligence chief, asking if information has or could be stolen by foreign governments.

"We are especially concerned about recent reporting that President Trump has eschewed the advice of counterintelligence experts and opted to use unsecured commercial devices for telephone calls and internet use. We believe this conduct is reckless and could endanger sensitive U.S. national security interests," the Democratic senators wrote.  

What they're talking about: Politico reported last month that Trump was going "rogue" on his phone security by using a White House cell phone to tweet, a phone it said that does not have the same level of security as his predecessors.

More on the letter here.

 

GOP CHAIR PRESSING FOR OBAMA-RELATED DOCS ON RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE: The Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee is pressing officials to unearth Obama-era documents used to brief Congress in September 2016 on Russian attempts to interfere in the presidential election.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.) is asking the Department of Homeland Security for documents used to prepare officials for the 2016 briefing, during which he says that Obama administration officials assured lawmakers that they "had the matter under control."

The documents requested by Johnson include communications among then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThe new marshmallow media in the Biden era McCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' The Memo: Trump retains narrow path to victory MORE, President Obama's Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, and other U.S. officials, according to a letter sent to Nielsen Wednesday and obtained by The Hill. 

All three individuals participated in the September 2016 briefing referenced by Johnson.

"The briefers ... assured Members that the Administration had the matter under control and asked for Congress' help in reinforcing public confidence in the election," Johnson wrote, adding that he is requesting the documents in order "to understand the threat as it existed at the time of the briefing."

Read more.

 

A BILL THAT AIMS TO PREVENT ANYMORE TRUMP TOWER MEETINGS: A House Democrat introduced a bill on Thursday that would make it a crime if federal candidates and associates of their campaign fail to notify the FBI if a foreign power approaches them with information about another candidate.

A press release about the legislation notes how Trump campaign associates failed to report episodes when foreign entities were offering them dirt on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to name longtime aide Blinken as secretary of State: report Understanding mixed results in Pennsylvania key to future elections What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? MORE's campaign.

"Russia clearly tried to help a Republican campaign in 2016, but that nation or some other could just as easily try to swing a future election some other way, so this is not a partisan issue," said Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellJuan Williams: Defeated Trump is in legal peril Taylor Swift allows song to be used in campaign ad Graham says SC people of color can go anywhere in the state but 'need to be conservative, not liberal' MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who introduced "The Duty to Report Act."

"We must make it clear that no foreign attempts to influence our elections will be tolerated."

The press release notes two examples when Trump campaign associates should've reported offers for dirt from Russians: The controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting as well as the comments made by former Trump campaign aide George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosNot treason, not a crime — but definitely a gross abuse of power Tale of two FBI cases: Clinton got warned, Trump got investigated Trump says he would consider pardons for those implicated in Mueller investigation MORE, who told a diplomat that Russia had "dirt" on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."

Over a dozen other Democrats signed in support of the bill.

 

EU EXPECTED TO HIT GOOGLE WITH NEW FINES WITHIN WEEKS: The European Union is expected to hit Google with another antitrust fine in the coming weeks for using its Android mobile platform to suppress competitors.

The Times, citing people familiar with the process, reported that Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition chief, is preparing to make the announcement within weeks, capping off a two-year investigation into Google's mobile practices.

 

GOOGLE UNVEILS AI PRINCIPLES: Google said Thursday that it would not let its artificial intelligence (A.I.) tools be used for deadly weapons or surveillance.

The tech giant made the pronouncement while unveiling its new A.I. principles, while saying that it would continue to contract with the government and military.

"These are not theoretical concepts; they are concrete standards that will actively govern our research and product development and will impact our business decisions," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a post.

"We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use. As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right," he continued.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: If you would do it for your dog, why wouldn't you do it for your drone?

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

The new price tag of the Atlanta cyberattack? $9.5 million. (Engadget)

The FTC lost an appeals court fight with LabMD over data security. (Reuters)

Here is how to secure WhatsApp Message Backups. (Buzzfeed)

The rise of smartphone malware. (The Wall Street Journal)

FireEye released additional details on malware that caused an industrial plant in the Middle East to shut down last year.