Hillicon Valley: EU pushes back against US on Huawei | Interior Department grounds drones over cybersecurity concerns | Warren releases plan to fight election disinformation | House ethics panel warns against posting deepfakes

Hillicon Valley: EU pushes back against US on Huawei | Interior Department grounds drones over cybersecurity concerns | Warren releases plan to fight election disinformation | House ethics panel warns against posting deepfakes
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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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ANOTHER WIN FOR HUAWEI: The European Commission on Wednesday endorsed guidelines for 5G networks that would allow European Union (EU) member states to decide whether to allow "high risk" telecommunications groups, such as Chinese company Huawei, in their networks, despite strong pressure from the U.S. to ban the company.

Under the new "toolbox" that lays out measures for how EU states mitigate cyber risks posed by the rollout of 5G networks, the European Commission required member states to "assess the risk profile" of suppliers of 5G equipment, and to apply any relevant protections for groups considered "high risk," such as Huawei, though no company was mentioned by name. 

The guidelines fall short of a ban on Huawei amid U.S. fears the Chinese telecommunications company could share intelligence with Beijing.

EU member states have until April 30 to implement key measures of the new 5G security guidelines. 

The EU's decision comes the day after the United Kingdom's National Security Council voted to allow Huawei limited involvement in the rollout of its 5G network, also going against pressure from the Trump administration to fully ban the company.

The U.K. action led lawmakers to express serious concern around continued intelligence sharing between the U.S. and the U.K.

Read more here.

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MORE BEZOS HACK FALLOUT: Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyMissouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (D-Conn.) on Wednesday asked the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to probe recent reports that Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosHillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns Largest tech company CEOs made billions amid pandemic How the latest X-37B mission may change the world MORE's phone was hacked by Saudi Arabian officials. 

Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Acting DNI Joseph Maguire strongly urging them to open an investigation into the alleged hacking incident, which involved a malicious file being sent to Bezos's phone from the WhatsApp account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Murphy also asked that the intelligence agencies brief Congress on "all preliminary and final conclusions" involved in a potential investigation into the hack of Bezos's phone.

Top United Nations experts last week labeled the hacking as retaliation for criticism by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, over the killing of U.S.-based Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018. 

"The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia," Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a joint statement. 

Read more here.

 

WARREN HAS A PLAN FOR THAT: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Trump ratchets up Twitter turmoil Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in MORE (Mass.) on Wednesday released a plan to fight online disinformation ahead of the 2020 election, warning that the country is ill-prepared to combat the scourge of false information and "fake news" certain to spread across Facebook, Google, Twitter and other platforms.

The Democratic White House hopeful is calling on the tech industry, U.S. government and individual political campaigns to actively combat online efforts to spread lies and falsehoods, warning the country could face a repeat of 2016, when Russian trolls sought to sow discord with divisive social media posts aimed at ginning up support for President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE

"The stakes of this election are too high -- we need to fight the spread of false information that disempowers voters and undermines democracy," Warren wrote in the lengthy plan released on her campaign website. "I'll do my part -- and I'm calling on my fellow candidates and big tech companies to do their part too." 

The Massachusetts senator pledged that her campaign will not "knowingly" spread any disinformation -- including misleadingly edited videos or manipulated news reports -- about herself or any of her opponents.  

Nearly all of the top Democratic candidates this election season, including Warren, have been the target of viral misinformation efforts that spread lies or misleading footage across an increasingly polarized online ecosystem.

Read more here.

 

THAT'S NOT ETHICAL: The House Ethics Committee is advising lawmakers against posting manipulated videos and photos on their social media accounts, warning they could face repercussions for tweets and Facebook posts that "mislead the public."

The warning shot from the Ethics Committee, which is tasked with monitoring members' conduct in the House, comes amid rising panic over the rise of so-called "deepfakes," or footage that has been manipulated by artificial intelligence. "Deepfake" videos can depict people appearing to say and do things that they never did, a high-stakes prospect as the U.S. enters a contentious election year. 

"Members, officers, and employees posting deep fakes or other audio-visual distortions intended to mislead the public may be in violation of the Code of Official Conduct," the Tuesday memo from the Ethics Committee reads. 

The committee did not immediately respond to The Hill's inquiries about whether the letter is a response to any particular incident. 

The memo's warnings do not only apply to "deepfakes," a nascent technology that necessitates a significant amount of expertise to produce. It also warns lawmakers against intentionally posting "audio-visual distortions," which could sweep up misleadingly Photoshopped images or video footage that has been altered in any way. 

Read more here.

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UN GETS HACKED: The United Nations offices in Geneva and Vienna were infiltrated by hackers last year, according to classified documents obtained by The New Humanitarian.

The breach reportedly began in July 2019, though United Nations employees were not made aware of the strike until the end of August.

The New Humanitarian says 20 machines had to be completely rebuilt and UN staff had to work a number of overtime hours to isolate the data. One employee described the breach to TNH as a "major meltdown."

One alert received by employees said, "We are working under the assumption that the entire domain is compromised. The attacker doesn't show signs of activity so far, we assume they established their position and are dormant."

Dozens of servers, including the human rights wing and human resources department, which contains confidential staff information were reportedly compromised in the breach. The report says that the UN did not publicly disclose the breach, or inform the staff of the hack. Staff were asked to change their passwords.

Read more here.

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PINTEREST TAKES A STAND: Pinterest, the feel-good social media site known for wedding planning and scrapbooking, announced on Wednesday that it is partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau to remove any misinformation about the 2020 census from its platform. 

Pinterest is the latest social media network to announce it is banning all posts that could keep people in the U.S. from participating in the 2020 census, a vital demographic survey that determines everything from congressional representation to government funding. 

"The 2020 Census will determine federal funding for schools, transportation, housing and other essential community assets people need to thrive--the building blocks for an inspired life," Aerica Banks, Pinterest's public policy manager, wrote. "We want to do our part to make sure people on Pinterest are fully counted." 

Pinterest already had strict rules against misinformation, but the new effort unveiled Wednesday will focus on census-related disinformation specifically, targeting any content that promotes false information about the census. For example, under Pinterest's new policy, the company will take down disinformation about who can participate in the census, how their personal information will be used and when the census will take place. 

Read more here.

 

YOU'RE GROUNDED: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed an order Wednesday temporarily grounding his agency's nonemergency drones over cybersecurity concerns.

The order applies to all the agency's drones and other unmanned aerial systems, with the exception of those used in emergencies such as fighting wildfires or search-and-rescue situations. The order does not include a definite date for when the grounding will end. 

A spokesperson for the agency said in a statement that "drones are important to critical Department of the Interior missions, such as combating wildfires and conducting life-saving search and rescue operations; however, we must ensure that the technology used for these operations is such that it will not compromise our national security interests."

The spokesperson noted that Bernhardt signed the order after a review of the agency's drone program and that the drones would remain grounded until the department "reviews the possibility of threats and ensures a secure, reliable and consistent drone policy that advances our mission while keeping America safe."

Interior wrote in the order that "protecting America's national treasures and critical resources requires a sustained effort to securely access, collect, and maintain information, much of which is sensitive."

Read more here.

 

CYBER BILLS MOVE FORWARD: The House Homeland Security Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would give the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) cyber agency subpoena power and increase cyber protections for the nation. 

The committee unanimously approved the bipartisan Cybersecurity and Vulnerability Identification and Notification Act, sending it to the full House for a vote. The bill would give DHS' Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) the ability to issue subpoenas to internet service providers that would compel them to release information on any cyber vulnerabilities detected on the networks of critical infrastructure groups.

Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinOvernight Defense: State Dept. watchdog was investigating emergency Saudi arms sales before ouster | Pompeo says he requested watchdog be fired for 'undermining' department | Pensacola naval base shooter had 'significant ties' to al Qaeda, Barr says Lawmakers move to boost federal cybersecurity in annual defense bill Experts sound alarms about security as states eye online voting MORE (D-R.I.), one of the bill's sponsors and a key cybersecurity advocate in the House, said in a statement following the vote that the legislation would give CISA "the ability to say something when they see something."

He added that "while CISA analysts work diligently to monitor and uncover risks, current policy impedes them in their efforts to warn at-risk critical infrastructure operators. There have been numerous instances where CISA has not been able to identify the owner of a vulnerable system and warn them of their exposure."

Other sponsors of the bill are committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonStates plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Federal watchdog finds chemical facilities vulnerable to cyberattacks MORE (D-Miss.), Reps. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondStates plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges Democrats lobby Biden on VP choice Bottom line MORE (D-La.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoStates plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill Lawmakers offer bill to expand employee retention tax credit MORE (R-N.Y.), the leaders of the panel's cybersecurity subcommittee, and Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeePelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' Impeachment figure among those chosen for Facebook's new oversight board Texas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order MORE (D-Texas) and John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show READ: Newly declassified transcripts of Flynn calls with Russia ambassador Intel chief Ratcliffe declassifies transcripts of Flynn calls MORE (R-Texas). 

Read more here.

 

FAKE NEWS: Facebook has taken down an ad from the conservative organization PragerU that contained misinformation about deadly wildfires in Australia -- but only took the action days after a formal fact-checking review was completed.

BuzzFeed News reported that a Facebook ad linking to videos from PragerU's YouTube channel pertaining to wildfires devastating communities in southeastern Australia was taken down after numerous inquiries from the news service, four days after its own internal review service found the ads to contain misinformation.

Facebook officials did not respond to requests for comment from The Hill or BuzzFeed as to why the ads remained up after the review.

The videos, hosted on PragerU's YouTube page, erroneously suggested that record-setting wildfires in the country were caused entirely by arson, and not exacerbated by climate change as experts have said.

Screenshots obtained by BuzzFeed indicated that PragerU spent thousands of dollars to promote the ads on Facebook; PragerU is a top advertiser on the platform.

Experts agree that climate change has been a factor in the Australia fires. New South Wales Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins wrote in November that the fires were "burning in places and at intensities never before experienced." He went on in an op-ed to blame "an established long-term trend driven by a warming, drying climate."

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: A very good and lazy dog

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Britain underestimates the Huawei threat

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Apple's security protocols may have helped hackers get into Jeff Bezos's phone (The Washington Post / Reed Albergotti, Craig Timberg, and Jay Greene)

Facebook's messaging apps are more important than ever as revenue growth stalls (The Verge / Nick Statt) 

Study of YouTube comments finds evidence of radicalization effect (TechCrunch / Natasha Lomas) 

Baltimore City Council considering rebate program for private security cameras like Ring, Nest (The Baltimore Sun / Talia Richman)