Hillicon Valley: Elon Musk sued by diver from Thai cave rescue | Researchers find new malware family | FEMA delays new presidential alert test

Hillicon Valley: Elon Musk sued by diver from Thai cave rescue | Researchers find new malware family | FEMA delays new presidential alert test
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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.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Ali Breland (@alibreland).

ELON MUSK BEING SUED OVER HIS TWEETS: A British diver involved in a rescue mission in Thailand has filed a lawsuit claiming libel against Elon Musk after the Tesla and SpaceX CEO called him a "pedo guy."


Diver Vernon Unsworth, who played a pivotal role in the rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach who were trapped in a cave earlier this year, sued Musk on Monday in a U.S. district court in California.

The lawsuit stemmed from attacks Musk directed at Unsworth after the diver blasted Musk’s attempt to assist the July rescue mission at Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand.

Unsworth dismissed the child-sized submarine Musk had envisioned to help in the rescue efforts as a "PR stunt.”

Musk responded to the charge in a spree of since-deleted tweets and referred to Unsworth as a “pedo guy," referring to pedophilia.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit brought against him.

In July, Unsworth told Agence France-Presse that he was considering legal action because of the accusations Musk made. Read more here.

WATCH OUT:  Security researchers said Monday that they have uncovered a new kind of malware family targeting Linux and Microsoft Windows servers.


Researchers from Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42, the network’s threat intelligence team, wrote in a blog post that they had identified the new malicious program, named Xbash. The malware is thought to be linked to the Iron cybercrime group, which has previously released ransomware.

The new malware is believed to enter networks by taking advantage of weak passwords or unaddressed vulnerabilities. The software is able to self-produce and then fully infect a network, according to the researchers.

Xbash, which poses as ransomware, targets and deletes Linux databases and can also mine cryptocurrencies. The team has identified 48 victims of the cyberattacks, saying that they have paid the equivalent of $6,000 but have not seen results from those payments.

The researchers also found similarities between Xbash and malware like WannaCry and NotPetya, which were both behind major cyberattacks. Read the researchers’ findings here.

FEMA PUSHES BACK PRESIDENTIAL ALERT TEST: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is delaying a test of a new national alert that was scheduled for this week due to the impact of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast.

The test will now take place on Oct. 3 at 2:18 p.m. It will try out a new nationwide presidential alert that’s intended for national emergencies.

The test was originally planned for Thursday at 2:18 p.m.

During the test, most cellphone users will receive an alert with the same vibration and tone as any other wireless emergency alert. Read more here.

EU TO DECIDE ON MICROSOFT’S ACQUISITION OF GITHUB IN OCTOBER: European Union antitrust regulators said they will make a decision on Microsoft’s pending merger with the coding platform Github on Oct. 19.

Microsoft submitted the proposed $7.5 billion acquisition to the European Union for approval on Friday, according to a filing.

The EU will either OK the merger or launch an investigation if it deems the deal raises anticompetitive concerns.

Github would be Microsoft’s largest deal since it acquired LinkedIn for $26 billion in 2016.

The European Union approved that deal with conditions to preserve competition among social media platforms in Europe.

Microsoft’s bid to acquire Github comes as the EU has taken steps to crack down on some large American technology companies for what it calls abusing their dominant positions in the market. Read more here.


LABOR GROUP WANTS STATES TO OPPOSE T-MOBILE-SPRINT MERGER: A communications labor group is urging state attorneys generals across the country to fight the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger, arguing it will kill jobs and raise prices for consumers.

Last week, Chris Shelton, the president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), sent letters to all 50 state attorneys generals detailing an analysis that found the deal would lead to 28,000 jobs being cut nationwide.

“The proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger proves to be a much greater threat than benefit to consumers and workers,” Shelton said in a statement Monday. “We hope that State Attorneys General will heed our calls for a thorough investigation in order to protect both jobs and the competitive wireless market.”

The letters were sent on September 10 and first reported by Reuters on Friday. Read more more here.

SOME APPLE PRODUCTS WILL BE LEFT OFF TARIFFS LIST: Some Apple products are set to be left off the latest round of tariffs that the Trump administration will place on Chinese products.

The administration is set to put out a final list of items that will be affected by the new tariffs but Apple AirPods and Apple Watches will likely be left off that list, Bloomberg reports.

Similar smartwatches and fitness trackers made by Apple’s competitors are not on the list either.


The news follows Apple saying in a letter earlier this month that many of its products would be affected by the proposed tariff. Read more more here.

TWITTER CEO JACK DORSEY: CONSERVATIVE EMPLOYEES 'DON’T FEEL SAFE TO EXPRESS THEIR OPINIONS': Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says in a new interview that his company's conservative employees are afraid to express their opinions.

"We have a lot of conservative-leaning folks in the company as well, and to be honest, they don't feel safe to express their opinions at the company," Dorsey told Recode in an interview published Friday.

"They do feel silenced by just the general swirl of what they perceive to be the broader percentage of leanings within the company, and I don’t think that’s fair or right," he added, though he did not specify to what extent or how many of Twitter's conservative employees felt unable to voice their opinions. Read more more here.

STATE OF THE BREACH: A small number of State Department employees had their personal information exposed in a recent hack, Politico reported Monday.

The news outlet reported that the department alerted employees that a hack of its unclassified email system affected "less than 1 percent of inboxes." As a result, some employees had their personal information revealed.

The classified email system within the department was reportedly not hacked. In response, the State Department commissioned a task force to look into the breach.


It's unclear who was behind the hacking effort, Politico reported.

The report comes one week after a group of bipartisan senators wrote to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe problem with Trump's Middle East peace plan India rolls out the red carpet for Trump Limbaugh: Democrats who set up George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq now organizing 'silent coup' against Trump MORE, raising concerns that the department did not meet federal standards for cybersecurity, and questioning whether that left State susceptible to cyber attacks. Read more here.


A lighter Twitter click: Brings a new meaning to sleeper mode.


An Op-Ed to chew on: Attacks on tech companies are antithetical to American ideals.




New leak shows Julian Assange sought Russian visa in 2010. (Associated Press)

Mueller threat to Trump grows with Manafort deal. (The Hill)

Marc Benioff explains why he is buying Time Magazine. (New York Times)

Inside a Reddit sockpuppet operation. (Motherboard)