Hillicon Valley: Cyberattack forces shutdown of Baltimore County schools for the day | Trump administration extends TikTok sale deadline | Government watchdog urges policymakers to boost cybersecurity for 5G networks

Hillicon Valley: Cyberattack forces shutdown of Baltimore County schools for the day | Trump administration extends TikTok sale deadline | Government watchdog urges policymakers to boost cybersecurity for 5G networks
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

SCHOOL’S OUT IN BALTIMORE: The Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) system was forced to shut down classes on Wednesday after it was hit by a debilitating ransomware attack. 


“Due to issues with our network, all Baltimore County Public Schools and offices will be closed today,” the district tweeted Wednesday morning.

An hour later, BCPS tweeted that “we were the victim of a Ransomeware attack that caused systemic interruption to network information systems. Our BCPS technology team is working to address the situation & we will continue to provide updates as available. For now, please don’t use BCPS device.”

The website for the district, which has over 110,000 students and moved primarily to online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, was also down Wednesday morning. 

Mychael Dickerson, BCPS chief of staff, tweeted a confirmation of the attack, and Dickerson later told The Hill that the school district was working with federal, state, and local officials to investigate the attack.

District officials said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that Maryland's Department of Information Technology and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency were among the organizations assisting. The Hill also reached out to the FBI for comment. 

Baltimore city's school system, which serves around 83,000 students, also wrote in a notice on its website that students should “only use City-issued laptops or devices” and not personal devices or those issued by Baltimore County Public Schools. 

Read more here. 


CLOCK KEEPS TICKING ON TIKTOK BAN: The deadline for ByteDance to divest its popular video sharing app TikTok has been pushed back one week to Dec. 4, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. 

The deadline was set for Friday after a previous 15-day extension. It was delayed again as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) reviews a “revised submission” it recently received, a Treasury spokesperson said in a statement. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT MORE signed an executive order in August calling for Beijing-owned ByteDance to sell the app to an American company or have the app banned in the U.S. Trump’s order targeting TikTok alleged the company posed a threat to national security, which TikTok has denied. 

TikTok filed a petition asking the court to extend the deadline of the divestiture earlier this month, arguing it was necessary since the company had yet to hear a final decision about a proposed deal the president tentatively approved in September. 

Read more here.

5G SECURITY CONCERNS: The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal watchdog agency, recommended this week that policymakers consider creating cybersecurity standards to ensure a safe rollout of fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks.

In a report made public Tuesday, the agency detailed “capabilities and challenges” involved in the buildout of 5G networks, making a number of recommendations aimed at scaling up cybersecurity, spectrum availability, and consumer data privacy, along with addressing potential consumer health concerns stemming from 5G radio waves. 

“5G networks introduce new modes of cyberattack and expand the potential points of attack,” the GAO report reads, also noting that “5G networks will exacerbate existing privacy concerns.”

The watchdog agency wrote that as a result, “policymakers could support” nationwide cybersecurity monitoring of 5G networks, along with considering adopting 5G network cybersecurity requirements. 

“Taking these steps could produce a more secure network,” the agency wrote. “Without a baseline set of security requirements the implementation of network security practices is likely to be piecemeal and inconsistent.”

In addition, GAO noted that a coordinated cybersecurity monitoring program “would help ensure the entire wireless ecosystem stays knowledgeable about evolving threats, in close to real time; identify cybersecurity risks; and allow stakeholders to act rapidly in response to emerging threats or actual network attacks.”

Read more here. 

BRING ON THE BLUE CHECKMARKS: Twitter will be updating its process to verify accounts and relaunching its public application process after a three-year pause, the company said in a Tuesday blog post

Twitter released a draft of its new verification policy detailing criteria for accounts to receive the platform’s token blue check badge, as well as reasons accounts may lose their verification. 


Twitter said it plans to relaunch a new public application process early next year as part of the plans to build its verification policy. 

The company paused its public verification process in 2017, after public backlash over Twitter’s decision to verify the account of Jason Kessler, the organizer of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. 

Since then, Twitter has been vague about which accounts become verified and when. 

“We know how important it is to be able to express yourself and understand who you’re talking to on Twitter. So today, we’re sharing the start of our plans to revamp how people can identify themselves on Twitter, starting with verification,” the company said. 

Read more here. 

FRENCH TECH TAXES: France’s finance ministry has sent out notices to tech companies asking that they pay a new digital service tax next month, Reuters reports

France applied a 3 percent tax on revenue from digital services earned in France by companies with revenues of over 25 million euros there and over 750 million euros worldwide.


American tech companies, whom the tax would mainly apply to, opposed it, and nations have been negotiating, so far unsuccessfully, for a solution.

France is asking the companies to pay the tax in December, something it had said it would do.

“Companies subject to the tax have received their notice to pay the 2020 installment,” a ministry official said according to Reuters.

Facebook told the news outlet that it has received notice, and said it will “ensure compliance with all tax laws in the jurisdictions where we operate.” A person at Amazon familiar with the matter told Reuters that the online retail giant has been notified and intends to comply. 

France plans to withdraw the tax as soon as the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reaches a deal to update the rules on cross-border taxation in the internet age, Reuters notes. Officials have said talks stalled as the U.S. became hesitant to sign onto a multilateral agreement. 

Read more here. 

Lighter click: Good dog


An op-ed to chew on: It’s time to secure our digital sidewalks 


What Facebook Fed the Baby Boomers (New York Times / Charlie Warzel)

Jake Paul Believes COVID Is ‘a Hoax’ and ‘98% of News Is Fake’ (Daily Beast / Marlow Stern)

Check-out free tech is coming sooner than you believe (Protocol / Shakeel Hashim)