Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Florida county that backed Trump was one of two hacked by Russians | Sandberg pushes back on calls to break up Facebook | Conservative groups ask WH to end Amazon talks over Pentagon contract

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

ONE FLORIDA COUNTY IS OUT OF THE BAG: A small county in Florida's panhandle that voted overwhelmingly to support President Trump in the 2016 presidential election is one of two that were penetrated by Russian hackers in that election, according to reports.

Russia's spy agency, known as the GRU, got into Washington County's voter registration database, two officials told The Washington Post. Trump won the 25,000-person county in 2016, garnering 77.4 percent of the vote, according to Politico.

County Elections Supervisor Carol F. Rudd declined the Post's request for comment on the reported breach but told the newspaper that federal, state and local authorities need to be able to communicate with confidentiality.

"If each agency gets suspicious of the other's ability to follow the rules of confidentiality, then those tenuous lines of communication quickly break down," she said in an email. "That would set our security capabilities back years and severely compromise our ability to protect our elections. THAT would be a big win for the Russians going into 2020."

Ken Detzner, who was Florida's secretary of state during the election, told the Post that he was "prohibited by law from commenting."

"The citizens deserve and have a right to know important things with regard to their election security," he added. "Over time, it'll come out."

Read more here.

 

DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's No. 2 executive, pushed back Friday on the growing calls to break up the social media company, arguing that it would not address the issues that have prompted worldwide public scrutiny.

"You could break us up, you could break other tech companies up, but you actually don't address the underlying issues people are concerned about," Sandberg said in an interview with CNBC. "They're concerned about election security, they're concerned about content, they're concerned about privacy and data portability."

And after meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week, Facebook's chief operating officer suggested that the half-trillion-dollar company is a countervailing force to Chinese tech giants.

"Obviously any concerns we have are ones we need to answer but let me share with you something else I've heard in my meetings in D.C., and I've heard this in private meetings from both sides of the aisle, that while people are concerned with the size and power of tech companies, there's also a concern in the United States about the size and power of Chinese tech companies and the realization that those companies are not going to be broken up," Sandberg said.

Still, there's a growing constituency of lawmakers and 2020 presidential candidates who want to at least explore splitting up Facebook. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have both said it's an idea worth considering, while progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have explicitly backed breaking the company up.

Read more here.

 

LAST OF THE JEDI? A coalition of five conservative groups sent a letter to the White House on Friday asking the Trump administration to abandon negotiations with Amazon over a lucrative $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing contract.

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acting director Russell Vought, the conservatives argued that the criteria for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract had "severely restricted the number of potential providers."

The letter was signed by the presidents of the American Conservative Union, the Institute for Liberty, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, the organization Limited Government, and Citizens Against Government Waste.

The groups argued that the bidding process for the Pentagon contract was set up in a way that "predetermines" that the contract goes to a company with Level 6 cloud security requirements to host secret and top-secret data.

Critics of the procurement process maintain that such requirements are unnecessary and that Amazon is likely the only vendor that can fulfill them.

In the letter, the conservative groups said they're also concerned about "the security impact of consolidating the services requested in the proposal to one unified platform, rather than using multiple cloud services."

Read more here.

 

PRISON SENTENCE FOR MAN WHO THREATENED FCC CHIEF: A California man was sentenced to more than a year and a half in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to threatening to kill the family of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai over the repeal of net neutrality regulations.

Markara Man, 33, had sent emails to Pai's accounts in December 2017, listing locations in or around Arlington, Va., and threatening to kill his family members, the Justice Department said in a release. He also sent an image of Pai that, in the background, featured a photograph of his family.

In another email, Man claimed that Pai was responsible for the alleged suicide of a child over the net neutrality rollback.

The FBI was able to trace the emails to Man's home in California, and he admitted to agents that he sent the email threatening Pai's family.

Man faced up to 10 years in prison on the charges, but was ultimately sentenced to 20 months.

"Threatening to actually kill a federal official's family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal," G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

Read more here.

 

A BOT VICTORY: A 10-year-old girl's victory in a Russian TV talent show has been invalidated after the program discovered that the competition was overwhelmed with thousands of fraudulent votes.

The news comes after singer Mikella Abramova won "The Voice Kids" with just over 56 percent of the phone-in vote, according to BBC. The news network noted that her first-place finish sparked complaints, leading the cyber security firm, Group-IB, to be hired to examine the votes Abramova received.

Abramova is the daughter of pop singer Alsou and wealthy businessman Yan Abramov, according to BBC.

"Intermediate test results confirm that an external impact was made on the vote, which affected the outcome of the show," the Russian state-owned Channel One said in a statement, according to a Russian translation.

The station said it would cancel the results of the initial competition, which is in its sixth season, in light of the discovery.

"Children should not take the blame for actions carried out by somebody else. Each participant becomes a member of the big Voice family," Channel One added.

Read more here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Congress should grow the Digital Services budget, which more than pays for itself.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: True story: When you realize calling leaves less of a paper trail than text message.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

European Union agrees to new mechanism to go directly after computer hackers. (Reuters)

Spotify tests new smart voice assistant for use in cars. (The Verge)

A profile of Facebook's CTO and his task of fixing A.I. problems at the company. (The New York Times)

Amazon dabbles in booking flights in India. (Skift)

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