Hillicon Valley: Senate panel accuses Equifax of neglecting cybersecurity | Huawei sues US | Facebook takes on anti-vax content | IBM chief, biz leaders back LGBTQ 'Equality Act'

Hillicon Valley: Senate panel accuses Equifax of neglecting cybersecurity | Huawei sues US | Facebook takes on anti-vax content | IBM chief, biz leaders back LGBTQ 'Equality Act'
© iStock

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). 


PANEL FAULTS EQUIFAX SECURITY: An institutional neglect toward cybersecurity contributed to the massive 2017 data breach at Equifax that compromised sensitive information for more than 145 million Americans, a Senate panel alleged in a new report.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Wednesday night released its conclusions from a probe into the incident and said Equifax failed to take basic steps to protect its security system from vulnerabilities.


"Based on this investigation, the Subcommittee concludes that Equifax's response to the March 2017 cybersecurity vulnerability that facilitated the breach was inadequate and hampered by Equifax's neglect of cybersecurity," the panel wrote in its report. "Equifax's shortcomings are long-standing and reflect a broader culture of complacency toward cybersecurity preparedness."

The report was released the night before Equifax CEO Mark Begor, who joined the company after the data breach, testified before the subcommittee.

On Thursday, he apologized to the panel for the incident but took issue with the report's findings.

"The fact that Equifax suffered a data breach does not mean the company did not have a data security program or failed to take cybersecurity seriously," Begor said.

Read more here on the report and hearing.


HUAWEI FIGHTS BACK: Chinese tech company Huawei announced Wednesday night that it is suing the U.S. government in response to an effort to limit its access to Western markets.

The company filed the lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas, which is home to Huawei's U.S. headquarters in Plano, the Associated Press reported.

Huawei said it is asking the court to throw out a portion of the act appropriating defense funding that also blocks the U.S. government and contractors from using its equipment.

The lawsuit alleges that the act would further curb its access to the U.S. market.

A Huawei official claimed the ban is "based on numerous false, unproven and untested propositions."

"Huawei has an excellent security record and program. No contrary evidence has been offered," Song Liuping, the company's chief legal officer, said.

Read more on the lawsuit here.


FACEBOOK CRACKS DOWN ON ANTI-VAX CONTENT: Facebook announced Thursday that it is taking steps to limit the circulation of anti-vaccine content on its platform, a move that comes after weeks of pushback from critics who said the social media giant was not doing enough to stave off the spread of conspiracy theories promoting misinformation about vaccines.

Lawmakers and public health advocates have been pushing Facebook, as well as YouTube and Amazon, to take stronger action against anti-vaccine content, arguing that the proliferation of medical misinformation has bolstered the "anti-vax" movement of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children.

Health experts have attributed recent measles outbreaks in the U.S. to an increasing number of people not getting vaccinations, warning that the movement largely uses social media to promote their views.

Facebook's vice president of global policy management, Monika Bickert, announced that Facebook will no longer promote anti-vaccine groups and pages, and Instagram's search will no longer promote posts that spread anti-vaccine content.

"Leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes," Bickert wrote. "If these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them."

More on Facebook's crackdown here.


DEMS LOOK FOR FOUL PLAY IN AT&T-TIME WARNER REVIEW: House Democrats are demanding documents from the White House and Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the AT&T-Time Warner merger following a report that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE pushed for DOJ lawyers to sue to block the deal.

Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality House Democrats call on DOJ to investigate recent killings of unarmed black people  Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting House Democrat to introduce bill cracking down on ad targeting MORE (D-R.I.) sent letters to administration officials expressing concern about the report in The New Yorker earlier this week and requesting records detailing the government's handling of the $85 billion merger.

"Antitrust enforcement must be guided by the rule of law, not wielded as a political weapon to reward friends and punish enemies," the lawmakers wrote. "Moreover, any effort to use the antitrust laws to censor, undermine, or retaliate against the press is a threat to the First Amendment and a vibrant democracy."

The letters were sent to Makan Delrahim, the head of antitrust at the Justice Department, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Neither responded to requests for comment, but the administration has denied any political interference in the review of the merger.

According to The New Yorker report, Trump had ordered Gary CohnGary David CohnFormer national economic council director: I agree with 50 percent of House Democrats' HEROES Act Sunday shows preview: Congress spars over next round of coronavirus relief; GOP seeks offensive after news of Flynn 'unmasking' The Memo: Speculation grows about Fauci's future MORE, his former top economic adviser, to urge the DOJ to intervene in the deal.

"I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened!" Trump reportedly told his former chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE in an Oval Office meeting in the summer of 2017. "I've mentioned it fifty times. And nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked!"

More here.


BUSINESS EXECS BACK EQUALITY ACT: IBM chief Ginni Rometty on Thursday led a group of business leaders pressing Congress to pass the Equality Act, a piece of federal legislation that would guarantee protections for LGBTQ people.

In a letter addressed to Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Oregon GOP Senate nominee contradicts own campaign by saying she stands with QAnon MORE (D-Ore.), Rometty and a host of other powerful CEOs argue the government should enshrine civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people.

"Most American companies long ago included sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination polices," Rometty wrote. "It is time for the federal government to do the same."

Cicilline and Merkley introduced the Equality Act in the House and Senate during the 115th Congress.

Rometty wrote the letter as chairwoman of the Business Roundtable's "education and workforce" committee. The Business Roundtable is composed of CEOs of the country's leading corporations.

More on the letter here.


WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS: Security researchers say they have determined that Chinese social media influence campaigns have been more directed at convincing Americans about the benefits of China, contrasting it with Russian efforts to sow discord among the U.S. public.


The Russian influence operations, often cited as part of the nation's interference in the 2016 election, largely tried to create divisions among Americans. But researchers with the security firm Recorded Future said in a report released Wednesday that Chinese state-run accounts instead try to amplify a more positive portrayal of China than incite U.S. communities to turn on each other.

"China's message to the world is positive, and argues that China's rise will be beneficial, cooperative, and constructive for the global community," the report states. "In comparison, Russia's strategic goals are more combative, revolutionary, and disruptive -- all traits that are characteristic of Russian social media influence operations since 2015."

More on the Chinese influence campaigns here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: We cannot allow China to set the standards and control the technology for 5G.


A LIGHTER CLICK: We're happy to be a distant second.



Facebook Messenger had a vulnerability that could let hackers see who you contact. (The Verge)

9 questions for Facebook after Zuckerberg's privacy manifesto. (Wired)

Facebook says it will dramatically improve privacy. But it hasn't fully delivered on past promises. (The Washington Post)

Don't call it an 'arms race': US-China AI competition is not winner-takes all. (Defense One)