Hillicon Valley: Texas, other states bring antitrust lawsuit against Google | Krebs emphasizes security of the election as senators butt heads | Twitter cracks down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation

Hillicon Valley: Texas, other states bring antitrust lawsuit against Google | Krebs emphasizes security of the election as senators butt heads | Twitter cracks down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation
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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.

ANOTHER ANTITRUST LAWSUIT AGAINST GOOGLE: Ten GOP state attorneys general on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing the search giant of illegally stifling competition in the advertising technology market.


The lawsuit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who was joined by Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho.

“This Goliath of a company is using its power to manipulate the market, destroy competition and harm you, the consumer," Paxton said in a video posted on Twitter.

"It isn't fair that Google effectively eliminated its competition and crowned itself the head of online advertising," he said.

The 118-page lawsuit alleges that Google used its market power to unlawfully box-out competitors in the ad tech space.

It highlights Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick in 2008 as the point where the company started using its position to gain leverage against publishers and ad exchanges.

“Within a few short years of executing this unlawful tactic, Google successfully monopolized the publisher ad server market and grew its ad exchange to number one, despite having entered those two markets much later than the competition,” the suit reads.

The complaint also says that Google uses its market power to extract a tax from ad spending that ultimately hurts American consumers through higher prices and lower quality.


A spokesperson for Google pushed back on the suit’s claims, pointing out that digital ad prices and ad tech fees have fallen in the time that the company was allegedly monopolizing the market.

Read more here

KREBS STRESSES ELECTION WAS SECURE: Christopher Krebs, the nation’s former top cybersecurity official, told lawmakers Wednesday that he stands by his statements that the 2020 election was secure and safe from interference while warning against further attacks against the outcome as senators locked horns over the issue.

“While elections are sometimes messy, this was a secure election, of that I have no doubt,” Krebs, who served as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during a hearing on election security.

Krebs was fired by President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE last month after CISA, which is the key agency involved in coordinating election security, took steps to address disinformation and misinformation around the election, including by setting up a “rumor control page” and issuing a statement with election officials describing the 2020 election as the “most secure in American history.”

Wednesday's hearing took place two days after the Electoral College voted to certify President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' US officials testify on domestic terrorism in wake of Capitol attack MORE's win in the presidential election, with Krebs calling on elected officials to stop casting doubt on election results for the sake of democracy.

Read more here


TWITTER CRACKS DOWN ON COVID-19 VACCINE MISINFO: Twitter said Wednesday it will begin labeling and removing posts with false claims about coronavirus vaccines during the coming weeks as efforts to vaccinate front-line workers across the country are underway. 

The social media platform said it will expand its existing policies regarding coronavirus misinformation to include posts that “advance harmful, false or misleading narratives” about the COVID-19 vaccinations. Those posts will be labeled and the platform said it may require users to remove such tweets.

Posts subject to the new policy include ones that falsely claim vaccines are used to “intentionally cause harm” or tweets that spread widely debunked claims about the adverse effects of receiving vaccinations, Twitter said in a blog post.

Twitter said it will start enforcing the updated policy Monday, and expand its actions in the following weeks. 

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SENATORS PUSH FOR INFO ON CYBERATTACK: A group of bipartisan senators is urging key federal agencies to share more information on the recent massive cyberattack attributed to a Russian hacking group that led to the successful breach of multiple agencies. 


Sens. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranBottom line Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill Senate passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill MORE (R-Kan.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThis week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning Biden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push Biden visits local Mexican restaurant to highlight relief program MORE (R-Miss.), Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellThis week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning Will Biden's NASA win the space race with China? Bill Nelson is a born-again supporter of commercial space at NASA MORE (D-Wash.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneBiden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House Top female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote MORE (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress may force Biden to stop Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline Kabul attack spurs fears over fate of Afghan women as US exits Bowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right' MORE (D-N.H.) expressed concerns in a letter this week to the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) over the “alarming” attack on the federal government. Wicker is the chairman of the Commerce Committee and Cantwell is its ranking member.

“We are seeking all available information on the scope and details of the recently exposed vulnerability’s impacts on the U.S. federal government,” the senators wrote. 

The senators’ concerns were raised two days after Reuters first reported that the Treasury Department and a Commerce Department agency had been breached by a nation state as part of an attack on IT company SolarWinds between March and June. 

The company counts a litany of federal agencies and hundreds of U.S. Fortune 500 companies as customers. On Monday, reports emerged that the Department of Homeland Security was also breached, along with branches of the Pentagon and the State Department. 

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DURBIN CALLS HACK ‘DECLARATION OF WAR’: Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate poised for all-day brawl over sweeping elections bill Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House Amazon blocks 10B listings in crackdown on counterfeits MORE (D-Ill.) called Russia’s alleged hack of multiple government agencies “virtually a declaration of war.”

During an interview on CNN, the Senate minority whip said the reported hack shows that the U.S. needs an “honest reset” in terms of its relationship with Moscow.


“We can’t be buddies with Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinREAD: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Scarborough, Greenwald trade insults on Twitter over rise of Trump Congress may force Biden to stop Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline MORE and have him at the same time making this kind of cyberattack on America,” Durbin said. “This is virtually a declaration of war by Russia on the United States and we should take that seriously.”

Reuters reported on Sunday that the Treasury Department and a Commerce Department agency were breached as part of an attack on IT company SolarWinds earlier this year. The Washington Post reported that “Cozy Bear,” a Russian military intelligence unit that has previously hacked the State Department, was behind the attack.

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SCHIFF WEIGHS IN: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFree Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech Trump backs Stefanik to replace Cheney Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday called on Congress to undertake “urgent work” to defend critical networks in the wake of a massive cyber espionage attack on the U.S. government. 

The attack, which occurred between March and June of this year, involved a nation state hacking group, widely reported to be a Russian military group, inserting a vulnerability into software from IT group SolarWinds. The company counts much of the federal government as customers, along with the majority of U.S. Fortune 500 companies.

As of Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department, branches of the Pentagon, and a Commerce Department agency were reported to have been breached as part of what is quickly becoming one of the largest cyberattacks in U.S. history. 

Schiff said that both the House and Senate Intelligence committees received briefings from officials with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Wednesday. These agencies are actively working to investigate and respond to the incident. 


“The United States faces untold numbers of cyber threats from malicious foreign actors, both to the government agencies and private industry, and sometimes both at the same time,” Schiff said following the briefing. “The seriousness and duration of this attack demonstrate that we still have enormous and urgent work to do to defend our critical information and networks, that we must move quicker than our adversaries do to adapt.”

“Cybersecurity professionals in the government and private sector will need to work tirelessly to assess the scope and impact of the SolarWinds vulnerability on the United States and our allies,” he said.

Read more here.

FACEBOOK’S FIGHT WITH APPLE: Facebook launched an ad campaign and new website Wednesday blasting Apple’s new privacy changes that will limit the ability for personalized ads to target users. 

Facebook’s new website features small-business owners from across the U.S. with blurbs attached to their photos stating how the new privacy changes would negatively impact their livelihoods.

The move represents the latest effort by Facebook to ramp up criticism of the update as being harmful for small-business owners who advertise on its platform. 

The social media giant also ran print and digital ads Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post saying that Facebook is “standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill. 

Earlier this week, Apple said it is launching privacy labels that will require all apps sold on its stores to disclose information about the data it tracks from users. It's part of a broader set of changes Apple announced in June that the company said aims to increase transparency regarding data collection. 

One feature Apple said is set to be put in place early next year would require developers to ask users for permission to track them across platforms before accessing data about them.

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BIPARTISAN BILL TO REPEAL PATRIOT ACT: Reps. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program MORE (R-Ky.) and Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFox News says network and anchor Leland Vittert have 'parted ways' New co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials Tulsi Gabbard blasts new House rules on gender neutral language as 'height of hypocrisy' MORE (D-Hawaii) have teamed up to introduce a bill designed to repeal the Patriot Act.

The two House members are proposing bipartisan legislation designed to limit government surveillance of people without warrants and probable cause. 

The Protect Our Civil Liberties Act would repeal both the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act that permitted government agencies to collect mass telephone and email data. Gabbard and Massie argue that this surveillance violates Americans’ right to privacy and their civil liberties. 

In a video announcement Wednesday, Gabbard said the bill would make sure that Congress "reexamines how best to strike this balance of protecting our national security interests while also ensuring that the constitutional rights of every single American is preserved.”

“Protection of our civil liberties is essential,” she later said. “Join us in making sure that our constitutional rights are upheld.”

The Hawaii Democrat also called out the intelligence community, saying it “has not been transparent or honest with the American people or even Congress about what they've been doing.”

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CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD, MR. PRESIDENT: The Netherlands’ public prosecutor said on Wednesday that a Dutch hacker accessed President Trump’s Twitter account, according to a report by Vox.

The Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday said that they believed that Victor Gevers, a security researcher, had accessed Trump's account by guessing the password, according to a translated version of the Dutch news report.

The new details came out as the prosecutors detailed their investigation of Gevers, who they said would not face charges. 

Gevers argued that he was trying to show the vulnerability of the president's account, and the prosecutors determined he had acted ethically in deciding not to bring charges, according to Vox.

Gevers told police he hacked the account because there were “major interests involved” if Trump’s account could be hacked so close to an election.

Prosecutors added that he tried to contact U.S. authorities about the vulnerability and how to fix it.

Read more here.

MORE GMAIL ISSUES: A number of Gmail users faced error messages and other issues on Tuesday, a day after Google's email service suffered outages around the globe.

Around 4:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Google's service status page reported "a significant subset of users" experiencing “error messages, high latency, and/or other unexpected behavior."

The company noted that "affected users are able to access Gmail," but are subsequently met with errors beyond general access into the tool.

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CELTICS PUSH FOR FACIAL RECOGNITION REGULATION: Boston Celtics players are calling on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) to restore proposed regulation on facial recognition in a police reform bill.

“Baker’s rejection is deeply troubling because this technology supercharges racial profiling by police and has resulted in the wrongful arrests of innocent people,” the team wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed Wednesday.

Baker last week sent a police reform bill back to the state legislature, asking lawmakers to strike out a provision that would ban police and public authorities from using facial recognition technology.

The Republican governor told the Boston Globe that he’s “not going to sign something that is going to ban facial recognition.”

The bill would leave an exception to run facial recognition searches against the state’s license database with a warrant.

Baker has defended the technology, claiming it has been used to convict criminals including a child sex offender and double murder.

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ICYMI: GRAHAM’S NEW 230 REPEAL BILL: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Lindsey Graham: 'In this fight it is clear — Israel is the good guy and Hamas is the bad' MORE (R-S.C.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would repeal a key tech liability shield by 2023 as debate over the protection has put a top defense bill in jeopardy. 

Graham’s bill would implement a sunset for Section 230, the 1996 law that grants legal protects to tech platforms for third party content posted on their sites. The law has come under fire from lawmakers of both parties, and President Trump has said he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense policy bill, because it does not include a Section 230 repeal.

Trump has increasingly railed against the law as social media platforms flag his false posts claiming election fraud cost him a second White House term, and Republicans have long said the protections allow tech platforms to discriminate against conservative users, though they have failed to back their claims up with evidence. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also said repealing the law could serve as a check on increasingly powerful companies such as Facebook. 

“The time has come for these largely unregulated Big Tech giants to either be broken up, regulated, or subject to litigation for their actions,” Graham said in a statement. “It’s time we put the Section 230 protections these companies enjoy on the clock.” 

Read more here

Lighter click: Move over Mayor Pete

An op-ed to chew on: Utilizing the International Space Station to enable humans to reach Mars


Suspected Chinese hackers stole camera footage from African Union (Reuters / Raphael Satter) 

Lawmakers are trying to use the end-of-year spending bill to pull Section 230 out of trade deals (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum) 

The new normal for concerts could involve mixed-reality holograms (The Washington Post / Dalvin Brown) 

Twitter fined nearly $550,000 in Europe for response to bug that exposed private tweets (CyberScoop / Joe Warminsky)