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Hillicon Valley: UK allows Huawei to build 5G in blow to Trump | Lawmakers warn decision threatens intel sharing | Work on privacy bill inches forward | Facebook restricts travel to China amid virus

Hillicon Valley: UK allows Huawei to build 5G in blow to Trump | Lawmakers warn decision threatens intel sharing | Work on privacy bill inches forward | Facebook restricts travel to China amid virus
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).

 

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KEEP CALM AND HUAWEI: The United Kingdom's National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday said it would allow the Chinese telecommunications group Huawei to be a part of its 5G network, turning aside calls from the Trump administration that all equipment from the company be banned due to fears of spying by China's government. 

The U.K.'s NSC did vote to block all "high risk vendors" such as Huawei from involvement in secure "core" 5G networks, but it did not broaden the ban to cover its entire 5G network.

The exclusions on Huawei's equipment cover all critical infrastructure, nuclear sites and military bases, and other sensitive parts of networks.

The NSC said it would allow a presence of "no more than 35 percent" of equipment from high-risk vendors like Huawei, which is one of the largest telecom equipment providers in the world, in peripheral networks.

The U.K.'s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the National Cyber Security Centre noted in a joint statement that "the government is certain that these measures, taken together, will allow us to mitigate the potential risk posed by the supply chain and to combat the range of threats, whether cyber criminals, or state sponsored attacks."

Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said in a statement on Tuesday that he was "reassured" by the NSC's decision.

Read more here.

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THE DECISION LED TO BLOWBACK ON CAPITOL HILL: Lawmakers on Tuesday blasted the British government's decision to allow controversial Chinese telecom firm Huawei to help build its 5G networks, warning that the decision could threaten the long-standing intelligence sharing agreement between the United States and United Kingdom.

"Here's the sad truth: our special relationship is less special now that the U.K. has embraced the surveillance state commies at Huawei," Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseTrump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right Whoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' MORE (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

"The Chinese Communist Party has infected Five Eyes with Huawei," he added, referring to the intelligence sharing agreement which includes the U.S. and U.K., "right at a time when the U.S. and U.K. must be unified in order to meet the global security challenges of China's resurgence."

The U.K. decision was a sharp blow to the Trump administration, which had pressured the country to cut Huawei out entirely from 5G networks and raised red flags about continued intelligence sharing between the two countries.

American officials have cited concerns that Huawei, which is one of the largest telecom equipment providers in the world, could serve as a source of intelligence for the Chinese government, and they have urged countries around the world to keep the company out of 5G networks.

A senior administration official at the White House told The Hill that the U.S. was "disappointed" by the decision of the British government. 

"There is no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network," the official said. "We look forward to working with the UK on a way forward that results in the exclusion of untrusted vendor components from 5G networks. We continue to urge all countries to carefully assess the long-term national security and economic impacts of allowing untrusted vendors access to important 5G network infrastructure."

But on Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers were more vocal in their criticism of the U.K.'s decision, and its repercussions for intelligence sharing and the "special relationship."

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls The Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE (R-Ark.), who with Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioVoters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls The Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump MORE (R-Fla.) and John CornynJohn CornynCornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Cornyn on Biden aides' undisclosed ties: 'The Senate is not obligated to confirm anyone who hides this information' Cornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report MORE (R-Texas), sent a letter to UK NSC members on Monday begging them to vote to ban Huawei entirely--called for the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to conduct a review of U.S.-U.K. intelligence sharing.

Ahead of the U.K.’s decision, Republican Reps. Jim Banks (Ind.) and Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney's election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden's lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE (Wyo.) introduced legislation that would ban the U.S. from sharing intelligence with any countries that allow the use of Huawei equipment in networks. 

Both Banks and Cheney reacted strongly against Tuesday's decision, with Banks saying in a statement that the U.K. “has made a colossal mistake” and potentially “damaged our ‘special relationship.’”

“By allowing Huawei into their 5G network, @BorisJohnson has chosen the surveillance state over the special relationship,” Cheney tweeted.

Read more on the reaction here.

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PRIVACY BILL INCHES FORWARD: Key lawmakers maintained Tuesday that they are making progress in their efforts to put together the country's first comprehensive online privacy bill after hitting several bumps in Congress late last year.

At the tech-funded State of the Net conference in Washington, D.C., lawmakers on the relevant House and Senate committees signaled they are grappling with the same obstacles that resulted in Democrats and Republicans putting out separate versions of a privacy bill last year – but insisted they're still dedicated to bipartisan negotiations. 

"I'm continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get a bill that will get us across the finish line," Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Republicans start turning the page on Trump era The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE (R-Miss.) said during his keynote address.

Last year, Wicker and his Democratic counterpart on the committee, ranking member Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing MORE (D-Wash.), offered dueling versions of legislation to create more privacy for Americans online. Cantwell's legislation "was a pretty good bill," Wicker said, but "any privacy bill will need bipartisan support to become law." 

Cantwell, alongside a group of committee Democrats, released a proposal in December that included several provisions seen as non-starters for Republicans. Cantwell's bill would allow individuals to sue companies for violating their privacy rights, a provision called the "private right of action," while Wicker's bill would not allow individual people to sue.

Meanwhile, Wicker's bill would override any state privacy laws, including the tough California law that went into effect in January, a provision that has been the target of Democratic skepticism.

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"There's always room for conciliation and compromise," Wicker told reporters on Tuesday afternoon as he defended his bill. "Clearly, there's going to have to be some give-and-take. I think everyone wants a good, strong protection for consumers." 

Meanwhile, the top Republican working on a comprehensive privacy bill in the House, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (Wash.), acknowledged "other efforts" to work up a privacy bill "have fallen apart this Congress." 

"But it needs to happen," McMorris-Rodgers, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee focused on privacy, said during a discussion at the conference. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee in December unveiled a first draft of their bipartisan federal privacy bill, though they left several controversial issues off the table. They have solicited broad feedback on the staff-level draft over the past month. 

The chairwoman of the consumer protection subcommittee, Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Pelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (D-Ill.), said they have received over 90 comments so far "and they're still coming in."

"A lot of people on all sides are really not happy," Schakowsky said. "We're in the process right now of processing all of that." 

Read more on the conference here.

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IT'S A HARD KNOCK LIFE: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on Tuesday asked an audience of technology experts and lobbyists for some sympathy over a rule that prevents senators from bringing their cellphones into the chamber during President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE's impeachment trial. 

Wicker, speaking at the tech-funded State of the Net Conference in Washington, D.C., asked the audience to "appreciate" what it's been like for senators to stay away from any distracting electronic devices for hours every day since the trial began in the upper chamber last week.

"I hope you do appreciate that we're now six days into the impeachment trial and when we're in trial, we can't use these things on the Senate floor," Wicker said, waving around his cellphone during his keynote address. "Does everybody appreciate that?" 

Senators are banned from bringing their cellphones and iPads into the chamber during the trial, which has left the lawmakers fidgeting and falling asleep as arguments run late into the night. Multiple senators caused a stir when they were spotted sneaking Apple Watches into the chamber, with reporters raising questions about whether the electronic devices with some smartphone capabilities crossed the line.  

Read more here.

 

TECH TRAVEL BAN: Facebook has become the first significant U.S.-based company to suspend travel to China in response to a new, deadly coronavirus, with other companies following suit.

The social media giant told employees on Tuesday to halt nonessential travel to mainland China, and said any employees who had traveled there are to work from home, according to Reuters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Biosafety level for China to a three -- which encourages the avoidance of all nonessential travel to the country -- while raising the entire Hubei region to a four, stating there is "limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens," according to U.S. officials.

On Monday, the U.S. warned Americans to "reconsider" visiting China amid news of the coronavirus death toll ascending to 106. Airlines are also beginning to adjust schedules to avoid traveling to hot zones such as Hubei province and mainland China.

Other global companies restricting travel to China include LG Electronics and United Kingdom-based Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), with the latter banning all staff travel to Chinese-ruled Hong Kong for two weeks and to mainland China until further notice, according to a memo received by Reuters.

Read more here.

 

BUSTED: The chair of Harvard University's Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department was charged with making false statements to the Defense Department when he was asked about his work in China.

Charles Lieber, 60, was charged on one count of making false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and will come before the federal court in Boston Tuesday afternoon, according to the Justice Department.

Lieber has received more than $15 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DOD) since 2008, according to court documents. Those grants mandate him to inform the government of any "significant foreign financial conflicts of interest," like receiving money from a foreign government, according to the department's release. 

But officials allege that the professor served as a "Strategic Scientist" for the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in Central China since 2011, without Harvard University's knowledge. They also say that between 2012 and 2017, Lieber participated in China's "Thousand Talents Plan," in which the country recruits foreign experts to bring their talents to Chinese projects and rewards them for stealing "proprietary" information, according to the release. 

Read more here.

 

PATCHED: Software group Check Point announced Tuesday that it had discovered now-patched cyber vulnerabilities involved in video conferencing service Zoom that would have allowed hackers to eavesdrop into non-password protected conversations and access shared documents. 

Check Point found that the vulnerabilities, which have been patched by Zoom since their disclosure last year, would enable a hacker to eavesdrop into Zoom meetings by generating Zoom meeting IDs, also giving them access to any audio, video and documents involved in the meeting. 

Zoom is used for conference meetings by 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies, 96 percent of the top 200 U.S. universities, and has more than 74,000 customers in total. Specific groups that use Zoom include Uber, Nasdaq, Delta and Columbia Business School. 

Check Point disclosed the vulnerabilities to Zoom in July 2019 and Zoom subsequently patched the vulnerabilities and introduced new security features. Some of the new features include default passwords that are added for every meeting, meeting ID validation, and blocking of devices that try to scan for meeting IDs. 

A Zoom spokesperson told The Hill on Tuesday that "the privacy and security of Zoom's users is our top priority," and that the Check Point vulnerabilities were "addressed in August of 2019."

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: This is strangely soothing

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: The death of the Challenger and the birth of commercial space

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Coronavirus fears boost conspiracy theories (Motherboard / Anna Merlan) 

Report recommends Berlin's high court should rebuild its computer system after cyberattack (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Here's how Facebook plans to make final decisions about controversial content it's taken down (Recode / Shirin Ghaffary) 

Anti-vaxxers are back on Instagram thanks in part to #MAGA (Vice News / David Uberti)