Hillicon Valley: DOJ cracks down on Chinese tech theft | Google employees stage walkout over sexual harassment | Company's CEO vows to do 'better' | Feds struggle to help campaigns against cyberattacks

Hillicon Valley: DOJ cracks down on Chinese tech theft | Google employees stage walkout over sexual harassment | Company's CEO vows to do 'better' | Feds struggle to help campaigns against cyberattacks

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HEY, THAT ISN'T YOURS: The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday announced new charges against a Chinese state-owned company, a Taiwanese company and three Taiwanese nationals for engaging in economic espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.  The entities and individuals charged are accused of stealing trade secrets from Micron Technology, an U.S.-based semiconductor company.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Mueller closes in on Trump Mueller's findings don't matter The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE announced the charges at a press conference, describing Chinese economic espionage as a grave threat to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.

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"The problem has been growing rapidly, and along with China's other unfair trade practices, it poses a real and illegal threat to our nation's economic prosperity and competitiveness," Sessions said in remarks at the Justice Department. He suggested that the activity had been "overshadowed in the press by threats from Russia or radical Islamic terrorism."

The charges are the second tranche related to Chinese economic espionage that U.S. officials have unveiled just this week. The announcement came days after the Justice Department charged two Chinese intelligence officers in a conspiracy to hack into U.S. firms and steal sensitive information on jet engines used in American and European commercial airliners.

On Thursday, Sessions also unveiled a new initiative to investigate trade theft cases by China. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers will lead the initiative, with assistance from senior Justice Department and FBI officials as well as five U.S. attorneys.

The new initiative is the latest flashpoint in the Trump administration's efforts to curb what it views as malign activity by Beijing. Administration officials have ratcheted their rhetoric on China in recent months, accusing it of engaging in unacceptable behavior in the military, economic and cyber realms.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Ayers decision casts harsh light on Trump NASA offers to show Stephen Curry evidence from moon landings Freedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill MORE, Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceOn The Money: New director takes helm at troubled consumer agency | Trump’s economy teetering on trade tensions, volatile markets | Brexit crisis deepens | House report scolds Equifax over breach Washington Post columnist predicts Trump will resign 10 minutes before Pence so Pence can pardon him President Trump’s fight for a better trade deal with China MORE and others have accused Beijing of meddling in the November midterm elections – a claim that spurred scrutiny from some critics that see it as an effort to distract from Russian interference and Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The indictment unveiled Thursday alleges that the defendants conspired to pilfer trade secrets from Micron, particularly information about dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), a technology used to store data in electronic devices that is manufactured by Micron, and pass it to the Chinese government.

The new charges come days after U.S. officials charged two Chinese intelligence officers, Zha Rong and Chai Meng, who allegedly worked with a team of Chinese hackers to steal information on a turbofan engine being developed by a U.S. company and a French firm with offices in China.

Read more here.

 

GOOGLE EMPLOYEES STAGE WORLDWIDE PROTESTS AGAINST HARRASSMENT: Google employees are staging walkouts at offices around the world to protest the company's handling of misconduct allegations against high-level executives.

The allegations and the company's subsequent work with the executives was detailed in a bombshell New York Times report last week.

The walkouts started at the company's offices in Asia and Europe, with demonstrators planning to leave the offices at 11:10 a.m. in whatever time zone they were located.

"All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe," the organizers of the demonstration wrote in a blog post on the online news site The Cut.

"Sadly, the executive team has demonstrated through their lack of meaningful action that our safety is not a priority. We've waited for leadership to fix these problems, but have come to this conclusion: no one is going to do it for us."

According to Reuters, hundreds of workers walked out of Google's Dublin headquarters Thursday morning, and social media posts showed large demonstrations at other offices including in Switzerland. Walkouts were also reported in London.

Read more here.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement that he supports the demonstrations.

"Earlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate," Pichai said. "Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action." 

Read more here.

 

CAMPAIGNS WATCH... FOR CYBER ATTACKS: Federal officials say they want to help political campaigns guard against against cyberattacks, but are struggling to figure out how.

Election officials said this week that while much of the attention since 2016 has focused on protecting voting systems, campaigns remain highly susceptible to cyber intrusions. However, those same officials have no means of directly communicating with the hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates about how best to address cyber threats.

Robert Kolasky, director of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) National Risk Management Center, said DHS has resorted to contacting the Republican and Democratic national committees to try to reach campaigns. And even then federal officials aren't able to reach everyone.

Few campaigns reach out to DHS about cybersecurity issues, Kolasky told reporters on Tuesday, adding that candidates are more likely to contact the FBI or their national committees when they notice something has gone wrong. He said that after the midterms he hopes lawmakers, officials and the political parties can figure out a better way to communicate when it comes to making sure campaigns have stronger protections against cyberattacks.

"Competitors work together on security, they don't compete on security," Kolasky said after an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). "I'd like the department and campaigns to work together on security, work with the government, and not compete on security."

Groups like the Belfer Center at Harvard University have offered guidance to campaigns on how to beef up their cybersecurity, while private firms have offered free resources to campaigns in recent months. Microsoft provides free cybersecurity software to campaigns, as well as nonpartisan groups like think tanks, and other companies have offered similar resources at no cost.

John Gilligan, the CEO of the Center for Internet Security, said his group is starting to talk with campaigns about how they can offer support ahead of the 2020 elections. Read more here.

 

AH, TO BE A CYBER-FOCUSED FLY ON THE WALL FOR THIS: "Just concluded briefing @POTUS with @FBI and @ODNIgov on steps @DHSgov and our partners are taking to protect #Election infrastructure. We are working with state and local election officials to ensure that every vote counts and will be counted correctly," DHS Sec. Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenInternet gambling addiction is a looming crisis John Kelly to leave White House at year's end López Obrador sworn in as Mexico's president MORE tweeted today.

Administration officials also held a background briefing call for reporters on election security on Thursday, but were tight-lipped about their efforts to keep the election secure.

 

FRAUD ALERT: According to Agari's quarterly report on email and identity fraud, Microsoft and Amazon are the most commonly displayed brands in name impersonation attacks.

"Microsoft was impersonated in 36 percent of all (brand) display name impersonation attacks in the third quarter. Amazon was the second most commonly impersonated company, used in 27 percent of these attacks," according to the report.

The two companies are likely the most common impersonated brand because they both run the largest public cloud computing platforms, which are widely used by companies that are "undergoing digital transformation projects," researchers at Agari found.

"The pattern was different for high-value targets, such as C-suite executives--Microsoft was impersonated in 71 percent of these attacks. Dropbox is a distant second at seven percent, followed by United Parcel Service at six percent."

 

THROWING THE BOOK AT FACEBOOK: A Democratic senator has unveiled a new proposal for a national privacy law, one that would subject technology CEOs to lengthy prison sentences for repeated violations.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBrady releases revised version of year-end tax package This week: Trump, Dems set to meet amid funding fight Overnight Health Care: House set to vote on bill targeting drug companies for overcharging Medicaid | Dems press Trump officials on pre-existing conditions | Tobacco giant invests .8B in Canadian marijuana grower MORE (D-Ore.) on Thursday released a draft of his legislation, which would give internet users the ability to opt out of being tracked online and having their data collected for advertising.

"Today's economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information," Wyden said in a statement. "Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation's database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it's used and how it's shared."

Under the proposed law, companies would be fined up to 4 percent of their annual revenue on their first privacy or cybersecurity offense, and on the second one senior executives could be sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. 

Read more here.

 

NOT A DETERRENT AFTER ALL? Grant Schneider, the federal chief information security officer, said Thursday that he doesn't think the U.S.'s new offensive cyber strategy and activities work "really as a deterrent."

Schneider, speaking at Fifth Domain's CyberCon, said that aggressive actors in cyberspace aren't likely to stop their activities because of the more proactive cyber actions taken by the U.S.

"I don't think Putin's going to go, 'oh no, the U.S. has another offensive cyber thing, I should stop doing my offensive cyber capabilities,'" he said.

Schneider added that he thinks the U.S. should take care over who and how it targets adversaries in cyberspace, over fears it could cause retaliation against American agencies or companies.

He made the comments just a week after The New York Times first reported that U.S. Cyber Command had begun its first offensive cyber operations to try to protect American elections, by contacting Russian operatives behind influence campaigns and letting them know the U.S. was aware of their actions.

 

AMAZON'S PAY RAISE GOES INTO EFFECT: Amazon's increased minimum wage went into effect on Thursday, providing a $15 per hour salary for all employees of the retail and technology giant.

The company announced in early October that it would raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour for all full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees across the United States.

The policy was set to go into effect on Nov. 1, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said at the time.

"We're excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us," Bezos said in an Oct. 2 statement.

Read more here.

 

KEEP AN EYE ON: Israel remaining quiet amid reports Iran was hit by a more sophisticated, violent Stuxnet-like computer virus. (Times of Israel)

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: Not his brightest moment.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Forget Halloween: One in five Americans says elections are more scary.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Roughly 30 percent of anti-Semitic attacks online are stemming from bots. (NPR)

How Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergMerkel named Harvard commencement speaker The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg denies selling 'anyone's data' | UK Parliament releases more Facebook docs | Canada reportedly arrests Huawei CFO | Fallout from Marriott hack | Cuba rolls out internet service for mobile users MORE became too big to fail. (New York Times)

HBO channels, now controlled by AT&T, are yanked off Dish and Sling TV. (LA Times)

Bolton says U.S. is conducting 'offensive cyber' action to thwart would-be election disrupters (Washington Post)

How Big Oil Dodges Facebook's New Ad Transparency Rules (ProPublica)

Bannon, ex-Trump officials talked Roger Stone, WikiLeaks with Mueller: report (The Hill)