Hillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach

Hillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach
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TRUMP HOSTS TELECOM CALL: President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE on Tuesday spoke with the CEOs of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other network service providers about their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The President thanked these leaders for not only rising to the increased demand, but extending services to all Americans at no additional cost and for waiving bills and late fees for those experiencing financial hardship," White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

"President Trump thanked network service providers for joining other industries like manufacturing, banking, technology, and healthcare to answer his call for an all-of-America response to this pandemic," Deere added.

The call also involved leaders of LionTree, Sprint, Altice USA, Liberty Media, Charter Communications and T-Mobile.

The coronavirus has forced Americans across the country to work from home and avoid public gatherings, resulting in a surge in internet traffic and wireless use. Various service providers have taken steps to prepare for the surge or offer breaks for Americans who are impacted financially by the virus as it spreads across the country.

Trump administration officials have sought to engage businesses from various sectors over the course of the last month in order to address the outbreak. Officials have held virtual or in-person meetings with executives from private laboratories, banks, airlines, grocery stores and major retailers. 

Read more here.

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PELOSI PUSHES FOR ELECTION FUNDS: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death 5 things to know about US-China tensions over Hong Kong Pelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' MORE (D-Calif.) and more than 50 state Democratic officials advocated strongly on Tuesday for Congress to give states more funding to support mail-in and absentee voting efforts as part of the next coronavirus stimulus bill. 

"In terms of the elections, I think that we'll probably be moving to vote by mail," Pelosi said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday. "That's why we wanted to have more resources in this third bill that just was signed by the president to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life that we are going to have to have more vote by mail."

The coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President Trump last week included $400 million to allow states to adapt the upcoming primary and general elections during the coronavirus crisis. 

That amount was far lower than the $4 billion proposed by Pelosi as part of the House version of the stimulus bill, which also would have required states to send absentee ballots to every registered voter and expand early voting. The final coronavirus stimulus package did not include any requirements for how states must use the $400 million.

Pelosi said on Monday that she was disappointed the stimulus did not include funding for the U.S. Postal Service to send ballots to Americans, and said she hoped public opinion would help to push Republicans to support more funding for elections in the next coronavirus stimulus bill. 

"The integrity of the election system is central to our democracy, [and] how anyone could oppose our enabling the states to have vote by mail raises so many other questions," Pelosi said. "But let's just be hopeful and have public opinion weigh in on that."

Read more here

 

NEW AMAZON INVESTIGATION: New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is calling for an investigation into the firing of an Amazon worker who led a protest at a company warehouse in New York City amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Smalls was fired Monday after he led employees protesting Amazon's decision to keep their Staten Island facility open after a worker tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

A spokesperson for Amazon told The Hill that Smalls was fired for coming onsite after being told to remain home because he had come into contact with another employee who tested positive.

"It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues. At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from COVID-19," James said in a statement.

"In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited."

Read more here.

 

ZOOM IN HOT WATER: New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) also wants to know what measures Zoom is taking to ensure users' privacy as demand for the video conferencing app skyrockets amid stay-at-home orders spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Monday letter obtained by The New York Times, James calls Zoom "an essential and valuable communications platform" but noted that the company has been slow to address security flaws "that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams."

Schools and workplaces are now using Zoom as a substitute for in-person meetings amid the pandemic. According to the FBI, the platform has also been subject to hijacking, or "Zoombombing," as some call it, which has often involved pornographic images or hate speech.

James questioned whether Zoom's current security measures can keep pace with the surge in users.

She said that her office is "concerned that Zoom's existing security practices might not be sufficient to adapt to the recent and sudden surge in both the volume and sensitivity of data being passed through its network."

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Read more here.

 

ANOTHER BAD DAY FOR MARRIOTT: Hotel chain Marriott International announced Tuesday that a data breach had compromised the personal information of about 5.2 million guests, the company's second major breach in as many years.

The latest breach involves names, birthdays, emails, phone numbers and Marriott account numbers, though the company said not all of those personal details were compromised for every guest.

Marriott said it discovered the breach at the end of February, and believes the data was accessed through the login credentials of two employees beginning in mid-January. The credentials were later disabled and the authorities alerted.

"Although Marriott's investigation is ongoing, the company currently has no reason to believe that the information involved included Marriott Bonvoy account passwords or PINs, payment card information, passport information, national IDs, or driver's license numbers," the company said in a statement.

Notices will start to be sent to all affected guests starting Tuesday, Marriott said, adding that there's a website and call center to allow customers to access more information on the breach and next steps.

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The hotel chain's previous breach stemmed from a hack of its Starwood guest reservation database in 2018 that exposed the personal information of at least 383 million customers, including passport numbers.

Read more here.

 

AI POLICING: Major social media platforms are relying on artificial intelligence more than ever to moderate content as the coronavirus pandemic keeps human reviewers at home, raising new challenges for efforts to prevent misinformation online.

Companies have used AI to police their networks and aid in content moderation before, but experts say that the increased reliance on automated tools during the current public health crisis poses a new test. And they warn that the stakes are as high as ever at a time when spreading authoritative information -- and curbing misinformation -- can save lives.

"There's essential information about the virus that needs to get disseminated," Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, told The Hill. 

"There's also bogus information that's causing extraordinary harm, and the machines are not going to be able to easily sort between those two," he said.

The pandemic has forced companies to quickly change how they oversee content on their platforms. In the past month, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have all said that they will be decreasing their use of human moderators to review content.

Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers Twitter adds fact-checking labels to hundreds of tweets despite Trump attacks Pelosi says Zuckerberg comments are a 'disgrace' MORE told reporters that the nearly 15,000 contract workers employed by Facebook for content moderation would be working from home, where they would not have access to the mental health services and support necessary to review sensitive content safely.

Some of the work on that kind of content, which involves child exploitation, terrorism and self-harm, will be transferred to full-time employees, the CEO said. But the workforce issues will mean more reliance on machine moderation.

Read more here on the challenges that entails.

 

HEALTH CARE AI IN THE CROSSHAIRS: The health care sector has increasingly turned to artificial intelligence to aid in everything from performing surgeries to helping diagnose and predict outcomes of patient illnesses. 

But as the coronavirus crisis ramps up, and hackers turn their eyes toward the health sector, experts warn these systems and the patients they support are increasingly at risk. 

"Obviously any disruption or denial of service of any type of medical health technology which interrupts patient care is definitely a significant issue," said John Riggi, the senior adviser for cybersecurity and risk at the American Hospital Association (AHA). "Worst-case scenario, life-saving medical devices may be rendered inoperable."

AI systems have gradually been integrated into health care in the United States, often used to help speed diagnoses, such as reading X-rays, and for determining risks to patients. But with the increase in AI use comes an increase in risks to the networks they rely on. 

John Frownfelter, the chief medical information officer for health care-focused AI group Jvion, told The Hill that he believes that, as it stands, hospitals are "losing the battle" against hackers. 

"Cybersecurity is getting more and more sophisticated where for hospitals, it's not their core business, but the bar is getting higher for them to match the efforts to breach them essentially," Frownfelter said. "I think this trend is going to continue until some paradigm shift occurs."

Read more here.

 

SCAMMERS GONNA SCAM: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Tuesday that consumer complaints related to the novel coronavirus have surged recently as the pandemic has worsened.

The agency says it has received 7,800 such complaints since the beginning of the year, double the amount reported as of last week.

The fraud complaints include fake vacation reports about cancellations and refunds, mobile texting scams and government imposter scams.

Consumers in complaints related to the coronavirus reported losing $4.77 million, with a median loss of nearly $600.

Scammers and grifters have taken advantage of the uncertainty around coronavirus to trick people with fake treatments, phony donation drives and false warnings.

Read more here.

 

"ZOOM BOMBING": A virtual meeting that included a group of black students at the University of Texas at Austin was cut short Monday after it was interrupted by visitors who logged on and began using racial slurs.

The incident occurred during an online meeting hosted by the Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males, a university initiative that aims to support African American male students, where Director Ryan Sutton was talking about staying focused on school amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Approximately halfway through the meeting, which was shared on Zoom, students reported that unknown users appeared in the video chat yelling racial slurs, according to the newspaper.

University President Greg Fenves said in a tweet Monday that the school is investigating the incident and called it "reprehensible."

The Sweatt Center condemned the actions in a tweet the same day.

"We denounce the actions of the hackers in our call and are working to better our newly found space on Zoom," the center said.

Read more here.

 

THIS IS NOT A JOKE: Google will skip its annual tradition of April Fools' Day jokes and pranks amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company confirmed on Tuesday

Chief Marketing Officer Lorraine Twohill said in an internal email obtained by Business Insider that the tech giant would not share April Fools' jokes across its platforms, as it normally does every year. 

Google officials made the decision as a show of respect to those fighting the virus and to live up to their vow to provide a helpful resource for accurate information during the pandemic, Twohill wrote. 

The company has halted any plans by Google's centralized marketing team managers but wanted to ensure all managers were aware that smaller April Fools' Day initiatives should not be carried out, Forbes reported.

Read more here.

 

WE'RE NOT KIDDING: Several nations, including Thailand, Germany and India, have warned against spreading coronavirus-related misinformation on April Fools' Day, with some countries threatening jail time for perpetrators.

Thai officials announced Tuesday that such jokes could carry a sentence of up to five years, with the government tweeting "DON'T lie, spread false info about Covid-19 situation, infections tomorrow."

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, meanwhile, warned that spreading misinformation about the virus could result in up to three years in jail or the equivalent of more than $99,000 in fines, Reuters reported.

The cybersecurity unit for Maharashtra, India, meanwhile, vowed legal action against anyone spreading misinformation or rumors, with Home Minister Anil Deshmukh tweeting "the state govt won't allow anyone to spread rumors/panic on #Corona."

Mumbai police have already registered a case against an unnamed resident who falsely claimed on WhatsApp that the military had been deployed in the city, India Today reported.

"Every year on April 1, people do pranks with friends and relatives. However, this year they should avoid it," Deshmukh said. "Maharashtra and India are fighting a battle against coronavirus. Fake messages, rumors in the name of April Fools' will create a panic situation in the community and therefore it should not be done."

Read more here.

 

A lighter click: School in the time of coronavirus

 

An op-ed to chew on: Encryption helps America work safely--and that's good for Congress, too

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Coronavirus ended the screen-time debate. Screens won (The New York Times / Nellie Bowles) 

Zoom is leaking user email addresses and photos to strangers ( Vice Motherboard / Joseph Cox) 

ZTE seeks to delay cut-off of using FCC funds to purchase its equipment (Inside Cybersecurity / Sara Friedman)