Hillicon Valley: Experts see failure to confront election interference | Twitter suspends more Infowars accounts | Yahoo to pay $50M in damages over breach | Amazon pitched facial recognition tech to ICE

Hillicon Valley: Experts see failure to confront election interference | Twitter suspends more Infowars accounts | Yahoo to pay $50M in damages over breach | Amazon pitched facial recognition tech to ICE
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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.

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YEAH, THAT WASN'T A GOOD SIGN: The indictment of a Russian national accused of trying to interfere in U.S. elections shows that not enough has been done to stop the country from launching a multimillion-dollar effort to influence American voters, experts say.

Both officials and experts have been warning for months that Russia is trying to influence voters after the country launched a cyber and disinformation campaign in the 2016 election. They say Friday's indictment of a Russian national, revealing details of the alleged attempts to sway the public, combined with a U.S. intelligence warning of ongoing influence campaigns, is arguably the strongest message to date that the U.S.'s penalties against the country haven't been enough to shut down the campaigns.

"This indictment makes it clear once again that the Russians spent millions of dollars in an organized effort to interfere in our election, and exacerbate divisions in our country, yet the president has done nothing," David Kris, the former assistant attorney general for national security during the Obama administration and founder of Culper Partners consulting firm, said in an email to The Hill.

"It is helpful that the American people are more aware of this influence campaign but that is not enough," he continued. "This administration needs to hold Russia accountable and work to prevent them from doing this again."

The 39-page complaint details how a Russian troll farm -- included in an indictment by 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 earlier this year -- has moved forward with its work ahead of November's midterm elections, despite the public charges and revelations on how it conducts its campaigns.

The complaint charged Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova with allegedly overseeing finances for "Project Lakhta," a Russian umbrella group focused on political influence campaigns, including the Kremlin-linked troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities linked to the Internet Research Agency earlier this year, charging them with fraud and conspiracy in their efforts to influence the 2016 election. But this latest indictment suggests the influence campaigns have continued, even after the group was publicly named and charged. The complaint alleges that the Russian accounts even used news of the indictments to try to spark political divisiveness.


While experts noted that the Justice Department has previously brought charges against Russians for election interference, they still maintained that the U.S. has not done enough to counter election interference.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE has been criticized in the past for taking too soft a stance against Russia, including when he appeared to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials of election interference at a press conference in Helsinki earlier this year. Trump later backtracked that comment.

National security adviser John Bolton said Monday that he told officials at the Kremlin that he didn't believe Russia had any impact on the 2016 election, but warned them against future attempts.

Read more here.


SPOTTED? The U.S. has reportedly begun cyber missions against Russia to try and prevent the country's influence campaigns.

The New York Times on Tuesday reported that U.S. officials have informed the Russian operatives behind the campaigns that they are aware of their actions, which the newspaper characterized as being the first cyber operations designed at safeguarding American elections.

The messages targeted hacking groups funded by Russian oligarchs, as well as Russian intelligence agents working on the Kremlin's disinformation efforts, according to the newspaper.

The messages reportedly came from U.S. Cyber Command. The Times reported that it's unclear how the American officials contacted the Russian operatives, and defense officials told the newspaper that the messages were not threats.

Still, experts told The Times that letting the Russians know that they could be targeted with sanctions or that they could be indicted could help prevent a future cyberattack.

The report comes just days after the Justice Department unsealed its first charge against a Russian national for interfering in next months' midterm elections, alleging that she was part of an ongoing conspiracy to interfere in U.S. political systems.

Read more here.


THIS ISN'T INFOWARS IT'S….INWOFARS?: Twitter has suspended 18 accounts linked to Infowars, a spokesman for the social media company confirmed Monday to The Hill.

CNN's Oliver Darcy first reported the suspensions Monday, writing in a tweet that Twitter had "suspended 18 accounts which were 'under the Infowars umbrella.' "

The suspended accounts include @InfowarsPapers, @InforwarsShop, @InfowarsReports and @Inforwars_EU, Darcy added.

A number of Infowars-related accounts referenced in a Daily Beast story last week have also since been suspended. Those include an account for Infowars's "Real News" show and the website's "News Wars" account.

Last month, Twitter permanently banned Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and the main Infowars account from the platform. Other accounts related to Infowars, however, had remained active.

A Twitter spokesman referred The Hill to a Twitter statement from last month, when Twitter said it would "continue to evaluate reports we receive regarding other accounts potentially associated" with Jones or Infowars. 

Read more here.



BREAKING THE BANK FOR BREACHIN' AND NOT PREACHIN: Yahoo will pay $50 million in damages and provide free credit-monitoring services to millions of Americans and Israelis following a data breach beginning in 2013 that led to as many as 3 billion accounts being compromised by hackers.

The Associated Press reports that Yahoo agreed to restitution as part of a court settlement filed Monday that still awaits the approval of a federal judge. The case stems from the largest data breach in the history of computing, in which 3 billion Yahoo accounts representing about 200 million people were compromised by hackers, some of whom were linked by U.S. intelligence to Russia.

The breach, which occurred in 2013 and 2014, was not disclosed until December of 2016 and involved the names, emails, addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers of affected customers.

Yahoo, now rebranded as Oath under its new owner Verizon, has maintained that passwords, credit card numbers and bank account information was not among the stolen information.

In April the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fined the company $35 million for failing to properly notify customers and investors in a timely fashion about the data breach.

"Although information relating to the breach was reported to members of Yahoo's senior management and legal department, Yahoo failed to properly investigate the circumstances of the breach and to adequately consider whether the breach needed to be disclosed to investors," the SEC said at the time.

The SEC also found at the time that Yahoo lacked security measures in place to adequately prevent future data breaches despite nearly half a decade passing since the first breach occurred.


Read more here.


CALLING IN BACK-UP: The FBI has opened up an investigation into cyberattacks that targeted a California Democrat who eventually lost a tight House primary race earlier this year, according to Rolling Stone, citing a source close to the campaign.

The inquiry centers on distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against the campaign website for Bryan Caforio, who finished third in the June primary. He was running in California's 25th Congressional District, which is represented by Republican Rep. Steve KnightStephen (Steve) Thomas KnightThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Pelosi touts T bill as Fauci stresses go-slow openings The Hill's Campaign Report: A Los Angeles House seat is in play for Republicans Democrats on edge over California special election nail-biter MORE and is considered a seat that Democrats could flip in November.

The attacks involved creating artificially heavy traffic on his website that forced the hosting company to block access to bryancaforio.com four times before the primary, including during a crucial debate and in the week before the primary. No website data was accessed from the site during the attacks.

"I'm glad the FBI has now launched an investigation into the hack," Caforio told Rolling Stone in a statement. "These attacks put our democracy at risk, and they'll keep happening until we take them seriously and start to punish those responsible."

An FBI spokesperson told The Hill that the agency "does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations."

Read more here.


AMAZON PITCHES TO ICE: Amazon over the summer met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to pitch them on buying the tech giant's controversial facial recognition technology, according to a new report.

An Amazon representative sent an email to ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in June reviewing a meeting that had taken place between the two bodies in California, according to documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

During the meeting, Amazon pressed ICE to buy their "Rekognition" facial recognition software, which has come under scrutiny for disproportionately identifying people of color as targets, according to the emails.

An ICE spokesperson told POGO that the meeting was "fairly standard," the Daily Beast reported.

"We can't provide data on how often we've met with a particular vendor to discuss emerging technology they're developing, but industry outreach and building relationships with potential contractors is fairly standard within government acquisition," the ICE spokesperson wrote in an email to POGO, according to the news website. 

Read more here.


TECH PROFITS ON ANTI-IMMIGRATION POLICY: Major technology companies including Palantir, Microsoft and Amazon make millions of dollars annually from their contracts with U.S. immigration enforcement agencies, according to a new report.

Tech companies provide the digital backbone to tough immigration policies pushed by President Trump and carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and have helped expand their capabilities, says the paper by Mijente, an advocacy group for Latinx and Chicanx organizing.

"Immigration enforcement is going to people's homes now. More and more people have been asking us 'how they did they know this was my address? It's not on the record.' Now companies like Palantir are building systems than scrape data and find information that wasn't in the formal record before and enable anti-immigration policies in new ways," said Jacinta Gonzalez, an organizer with Mijente.

Read more here.


FACEBOOK'S NEW POLITICAL AD SPENDING REPORT: Facebook on Tuesday introduced a new "ad archive report" for political advertisements, and revealed that is the top spender for such ads on its own platform.

The report will help users more easily search and categorize the Facebook ad archive that was released in May.

The company has spent $12 million touting its election security reforms and urging users to vote, Facebook revealed Tuesday.

But that disclosure was essentially a footnote in its release of top political spenders across Facebook and Instagram. Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeBeto O'Rourke calls Texas GOP 'a death cult' over coronavirus response Hegar, West to face off in bitter Texas Senate runoff Bellwether counties show trouble for Trump MORE's (D-Texas) Senate campaign is currently the top campaign spender on the platform with close to $5.4 million spent since May in his effort to unseat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE (R).

O'Rourke is followed by President Trump's Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraiser between the Republican National Committee and the president's reelection campaign. The group has spent more than $3.1 million on Facebook ads since May. 

Read more here.


DIGITAL DECIDERS: New America released a report on Tuesday that describes a group of countries that are "becoming increasingly important" amid talk of establishing international cyber norms.

While they may not be presenting strong opinions about the trajectory of internet governance right now, countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, Singapore, and Indonesia will become important voices as the current global model begins to face more pressure.

According to the new New America report, these countries should potentially be targeted as cooperating states in an effort to build a safer, more open model of internet governance.

The think tank has also produced an interactive data tool that allows users to offer their own assessment or opinions of who they view as the future of Digital Deciders


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Russian cyberattacks are the real threat to the US, not a migrant caravan.


A LIGHTER CLICK: A twist ending.



The paradox of covering hateful memes. (The Verge)

New cybersecurity business model: Pay-per-phish (Axios)

Google is teaching children how to act online. Is it the best role model? (The New York Times)

Charlotte and Austin outrank San Francisco in study of best places to work in tech. (The Washington Post)