Hillicon Valley: Senators urge Trump to bar Huawei products from electric grid | Ex-security officials condemn Trump emergency declaration | New malicious cyber tool found | Facebook faces questions on treatment of moderators

Hillicon Valley: Senators urge Trump to bar Huawei products from electric grid | Ex-security officials condemn Trump emergency declaration | New malicious cyber tool found | Facebook faces questions on treatment of moderators
© Getty

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. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

NOT IN MY GRID: A group of powerful senators that includes the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOcasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah Trump Jr's 'Triggered' debuts at No. 1 on NY Times bestseller list MORE (Utah), the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, are pressing the Trump administration to ban the use of Huawei technologies in order to protect U.S. infrastructure.

In the letter sent Monday to Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryOvernight Energy: Perry replacement faces Ukraine questions at hearing | Dem chair demands answers over land agency's relocation | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in impeachment hearing: Five things to watch Perry replacement moves closer to confirmation despite questions on Ukraine MORE and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenChad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senate paves way for Trump's next DHS chief Divided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA MORE, the 11 senators said a ban should be considered to protect U.S. utilities and the power grid.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We understand that Huawei, the world's largest manufacturer of solar inverters, is attempting to access our domestic residential and commercial markets," the letter states. "Congress recently acted to block Huawei from our telecommunications equipment market due to concerns with the company's links to China's intelligence services. We urge similar action to protect critical U.S. electrical systems and infrastructure."

The letter was signed by Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSaagar Enjeti claims Pelosi's impeachment strategy could hurt 2020 Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of 'bribery' in Ukraine dealings GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial MORE (R-N.C.) and the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Microsoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate Google sparks new privacy fears over health care data MORE (Va.).

It was also signed by Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Overnight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges MORE (Texas), the former No. 2 GOP senator, and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats introduce Violence Against Women Act after bipartisan talks break down Harris shares video addressing staffers the night Trump was elected: 'This is some s---' Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (D-Calif.), a former Intelligence chairwoman.

Others who signed on to the letter were Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Ark.), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseTrump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Trump has officially appointed one in four circuit court judges Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program MORE (R-Neb.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate Foreign Relations chair: 'Best' not to pass Turkey sanctions bill 'at this moment' Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House MORE (R-Idaho), Angus KingAngus KingOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing MORE (I-Maine) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-Maine).

The senators said the federal government should consider a ban on Huawei technology from being used within U.S. electric utilities, "and work with state and local regulators to raise awareness and mitigate potential threats." Read more here.

 

EX-NATSEC OFFICIALS SAY NO: A group of former national security officials issued a joint letter Monday condemning President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE's declaration of a national emergency to divert funds to build his wall on the southern border.

In the 13 page-long document, the former officials -- including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, ex-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano -- argue that the president's declaration undermines the purpose of the national declaration, and will ultimately damage the country's security.

"We are aware of no emergency that remotely justifies such a step. The President's actions are at odds with the overwhelming evidence in the public record, including the administration's own data and estimates," the letter reads.

And the former officials argue that Trump's declaration has "further eroded his credibility with foreign leaders, both friend and foe."

"Should a genuine foreign crisis erupt, this lack of credibility will materially weaken this administration's ability to marshal allies to support the United States, and will embolden adversaries to oppose us," they wrote. Read more here.

 

BAD ADS: A company focused on cybersecurity for the media industry says it has discovered that hackers are now using a technique designed to hide malicious code to commit digital ad fraud.

Officials at Devcon told The Hill on Sunday they uncovered the use of the technique -- known as a polyglot -- on Friday. They said that the use of polyglots, which are considered to be among the more technically advanced techniques available for cyber criminals, points to more hackers committing digital ad fraud.

In a polyglot, users can hide malware within the code for an existing file, like an image. In a successful attack using the tool, a web browser will only load the code for what appears to be its intended purpose, allowing the malicious code to remain hidden while it carries out the attack.

For example, the hackers can manipulate the code to make it appear as if it is only an image.

But when a web browser uploads the image, it is also including the malware -- a JavaScript code in this case uncovered by Devcon -- which can then carry out an attack.

The use of the polyglot "suggests that a lot of mainstream hackers are now getting into the ad fraud space," Maggie Louie, the founder and CEO of Devcon, told The Hill. Read more here.

 

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER FACEBOOK SCANDAL: Facebook in a blog post on Monday affirmed its "commitment" to the workers who moderate the platform's content after a report found many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug abuse and anxiety.

The post began by acknowledging "questions, misunderstandings and accusations around Facebook's content review processes," a likely reference to an investigation by The Verge published earlier Monday.

"We want to continue to hear from our content reviewers, our partners and even the media -- who hold us accountable and give us the opportunity to improve," the company wrote.

The Verge interviewed a dozen current and former Facebook content reviewers in Phoenix, all of whom are third-party contractors with a vendor called Cognizant. Cognizant runs a content moderation site for Facebook that employs around 1,000 people in Arizona.

The contractors described oppressive working conditions, with limited breaks and heavy scrutiny, and a job with an intense emotional toll. Content reviewers are asked to look through hundreds of posts per day, including images and videos of graphic violence, sexual exploitation, hate speech and harassment, in order to flag and take down posts that violate Facebook's complex guidelines.

Facebook has brought on thousands of reviewers in the past several years amid criticism that it has not done enough to remove exploitative and harmful content.

"Given the size at which we operate and how quickly we've grown over the past couple of years, we will inevitably encounter issues we need to address on an ongoing basis," Facebook wrote in the post. Read more here.

 

AT LEAST THEY AGREE ON SOMETHING?: The chairman of Chinese telecom giant Huawei reportedly said on Sunday that President Trump is right to say that the U.S. is "lagging behind" in the race to roll out next-generation wireless technology known as 5G.

Guo Ping said during a roundtable in Barcelona that he noticed a tweet from Trump last week in which the president wrote that there is "no reason that we should be lagging behind," according to The Telegraph.

"The U.S. is lagging behind," Guo said. "His message is clear and correct."

Huawei on Sunday also unveiled its new phone, the Mate X, which is 5G capable, according to CNN.

Trump wrote last week on Twitter that he wants the U.S. to roll out 5G faster than other nations.

"I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind," Trump said.

"There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on something that is so obviously the future," he added. "I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology."

Read more here.

 

TAX BREAKS FOR ALL: Google is seeking up to $15 million in tax breaks to build a $600 million data center in Becker, Minn., according to a report from Minnesota Public Radio.

The tech giant has reportedly asked the city and county to waive two decades' worth of future taxes, allowing Google to save up to $8 million in county property taxes and $7 million in city property taxes.

The data center would bring an estimated 50 full-time jobs and 2,300 construction jobs to the area, a promise that has excited local officials, according to the local radio station.

"This will generate a lot of local economic activity that will benefit not only the city and the county but also the state and the region," Sherburne County Administrator Steve Taylor said.

Taylor told the outlet that he expects local leaders will be open to the tax breaks proposal from Google.

Google's request for significant tax breaks comes weeks after Amazon canceled its plans to build offices in New York City, a stunning move that came after local politicians and activists raised sharp criticism over the $3 billion in tax breaks the city had promised Amazon.

The Washington Post shortly after reported that Google has received millions in tax breaks over the years -- often quietly, without permission or input from local residents. Last May, a Texas town approved more than $10 million in tax breaks for a Google data center.

Cities often offer tax incentives to companies that otherwise would not come to their area.

Local officials have said the Google data center in Becker could help the town transition away from a coal-based economy as a local coal plant is shutting down.

Read more on the new data center proposal here.

 

MEANWHILE, Heating up in the House: A lawyer for the Trump Organization has asked the House Judiciary Committee to stop any and all investigations into the company, arguing that there is an alleged conflict of interest with one of the lawyers consulting with the Democratic-led panel, The Washington Post reported.

Lawyer Alan Futerfas reportedly asserted in a letter on Monday that the panel must "cease and desist from any and all activities that are adverse to the Company" because it hired Berry Berke, a lawyer who works for a law firm that has previously represented the Trump Organization on a range of matters. This crossover, Futerfas argues, disqualifies the investigation from including the company.

ADVERTISEMENT

"This state of affairs violates recognized ethical obligations and irreparably taints the Committee's work," Futerfas wrote Monday in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the Post reported.

Earlier this month, Nadler announced the addition of Berke and Norman Eisen -- two vocal critics of President Trump -- to the committee legal staff. Both are viewed as top attorneys who will help Democrats act as a check on the administration.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: What does cyberwar look like? We're about to find out, but from an unlikely source.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: 2019 summed up in one word.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America. (The Verge)

Do not disturb: How I ditched my phone and unbroke my brain. (The New York Times)

A pediatrician exposes suicide tips for children hidden in videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids. (The Washington Post)

Drone maker Airobotics moving production from Israel to Arizona. (Reuters)

The people who eat shit for a living. (The End of the Peninsula)