Hillicon Valley: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65 | Pentagon gets cyber wake-up call | Google pulls out of Saudi conference | Facebook takes steps against voter misinformation

Hillicon Valley: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65 | Pentagon gets cyber wake-up call | Google pulls out of Saudi conference | Facebook takes steps against voter misinformation

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). And CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

RIP PAUL ALLEN: Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, died on Monday at age 65.

Allen died of complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to a statement from his family.

"My brother was a remarkable individual on every level. While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend," Jody Allen said in a statement on behalf of Allen's family.

"Paul's family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us -- and so many others -- we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day," the statement continued.

Read more here.

 

PENTAGON'S CYBER STRUGGLES: Defense experts are seizing on a stunning federal report highlighting cyber vulnerabilities in U.S. weapons systems, calling it an embarrassing wake-up call for the Pentagon.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week found that nearly all of the weapons systems it tested had extensive cyber flaws. The report warned that the Department of Defense (DOD) "likely has an entire generation of systems that were designed and built without adequately considering cybersecurity."

ADVERTISEMENT

Experts said the alarming report was shining a light on the Pentagon's systematic failure to consider cyber threats in building the country's most powerful weapons.

"Military members' lives could depend on the weapon system working as it's supposed to," said Bob Taylor, former Pentagon acting general counsel during the Obama administration. "But if it contains a vulnerability that could be triggered by an adversary, it may not carry out a function that you're counting on it having."

"And that could be a matter of life and death," he added.

Testers were able to disrupt systems, change and download data. They also found that they could shut down parts of a system by simply scanning for cyber flaws. In one case, they were able to entirely take over a weapons system in just one day. One team of hackers was even able to send a message asking that users insert at least two quarters in order to continue using a system.

But the report was most damning over the Pentagon's consideration of cybersecurity in the systems themselves, finding that the department was still "in the early stage of trying to understand how to apply cybersecurity to weapon systems." 

Read more here.

 

ELECTION MISINFO: Facebook announced on Wednesday that it is taking new steps to prevent voter suppression by banning fake voting requirement information and hoax reports of violence at polling stations ahead of next month's midterm elections.

The move comes as a part of a broader plan from Facebook to remove voter misinformation. Last month, the company said that it would begin banning "misrepresentations about how to vote, such as claims that you can vote by text message, and statements about whether a vote will be counted."

The social media giant also previously introduced a new tool, labeled "Incorrect voting information," to let users flag election false reports in its content.

The new policies are aimed at curbing misinformation that spread during the 2016 election. Posts that went viral on Twitter and Reddit as well as Facebook falsely claimed that voters could text their votes instead of going to the polls and gave incorrect dates for voting.

Read more here. 

 

THEY SEE ME HACKING, THEY HATING: IBM is moving to provide on-the-ground cybersecurity support with a mobile operations center.

The center, known as the IBM X-Force Command Cyber Tactical Operations Center, is housed in a tractor-trailer and will travel across the world, the company announced Monday.

"Experiencing a major cyberattack is one of the worst crisis a company can face, and the leadership, skills and coordination required is not something you want to test out for the first time when you're facing a real attack," Caleb Barlow, the vice president of threat intelligence for IBM Security, said in a statement.

"Having a mobile facility that allows us to bring realistic cyberattack preparation and rehearsal to a larger, global audience will be a game changer in our mission to improve incident response efforts for organizations around the world."

 

GOOGLE PULLS OUT OF SAUDI CONFERENCE: Google became the latest company to pull out of a Saudi business conference being held in Riyadh later this month.

A Google spokesperson confirmed Monday that Diane Greene, the CEO of the company's cloud computing division, would no longer be attending but refused to comment on the reason for the decision.

Many media and business leaders have been pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Summit in the wake of the disappearance and suspected murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

"We can confirm Diane Greene will not be attending the FII Summit," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The World Bank, The New York Times, Bloomberg, CNBC and Uber are among the other companies that have pulled out of the event in recent days.

Read more here.

 

NYT UNCOVERS MYANMAR MILITARY FACEBOOK OPERATION: Myanmar's military was behind a disinformation effort on Facebook that helped foment ethnic cleansing against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority, according to a New York Times investigation.

The operation spread anti-Rohingya propaganda by taking over the Facebook pages of popular celebrities and, after attracting large followings, posting inflammatory content, like fabricated pictures purporting to show massacres carried out by the ethnic group.

According to the Times, the military employed as many as 700 people in the social media operation.

In a blog post on Monday, Facebook responded to the report by saying it had identified and removed 13 pages and 10 accounts involved in the campaign. The company said that the pages had a total following of at least 1.35 million people.

"We are grateful to The New York Times for sharing what they learned about the use of celebrity and entertainment accounts to push military propaganda, which aided our investigation and this take-down," Facebook said in the blog post.

Read more here.

 

MONEY MONEY MONEYYYY: The Department of Energy (DOE) on Monday announced that it will award $46 million in research funding "to advance holistic solutions that provide grid operators the situational awareness and mitigation strategies against cyber and physical threats," according to a DOE press release.

DOE said these projects will help improve energy technologies both in affordability as well as resilience against cyberattacks.

"These projects will develop and validate control strategies, real-time system monitoring, robust communications and other technologies to make solar power at the bulk power and distribution levels more resilient," the press release reads.

"Improving situational awareness in strategic locations associated with critical infrastructure can significantly improve the reliability and continuity of service of solar-generated electricity."

The funds will bankroll 10 projects, which vary in size, over the course of three years.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Read the signs, duh.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Cybersecurity for national defense: How many 'wake-up calls' does it take?

 

ON TAP THIS WEEK:

TheBridge is hosting an election security discussion on Tuesday from 8:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. at Microsoft's Innovation & Policy Center featuring executives from Microsoft, Cloudflare, Synack and The Aspen Institute. DHS's Christopher Krebs will give the opening remarks.

Also on Tuesday a group of panelists will talk about the state of election security from  4:30 p.m.– 5:30 p.m. at MXDC, including the head of systems security at Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the head of election security at Common Cause, and an executive at ForeScout Technologies

CrowdStrike is hosting its Threat Hunting Workshop event on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Tyson's Corner where "latest advanced adversary techniques and tradecraft will be discussed."

And Cyberscoop is hosting its annual CyberTalks on Thursday starting from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., where several big names in cyber will be taking the stage.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

How Sinclair grew into a conservative media empire. (The New Yorker)

How hackers interfere in Texas' elections. (Texas Monthly)

Instagram's harassment problem. (The Atlantic)

A small privacy change for Google leads to big disruptions for startups. (The Washington Post)