Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Senators express concerns over response to Russian hack | Huawei makes a legal move | Twitter sees jump in user growth

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Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

A mix of big tech companies are keeping unexpected company in the news today. Top senators on the Intelligence Committee are criticizing the “disorganized” federal response to the SolarWinds hack investigation. Meanwhile, Huawei is looking to a court to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to label it a national security threat even as the founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant said he is doubtful the Biden administration will lift the Trump-era sanctions. 

LOOKING FOR A LEADER: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday urged federal agencies investigating the SolarWinds hacking incident to designate a leader amid a “disorganized” process. 

“We are writing to urge you to name and empower a clear leader in the United States’ response to the SolarWinds cyber breach that has affected numerous federal agencies, and thousands of other private sector entities,” Warner and Rubio wrote to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines along with the leaders of the FBI, the National Security Agency, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

“The federal government’s response so far has lacked the leadership and coordination warranted by a significant cyber event, and we have little confidence that we are on the shortest path to recovery,” the letter said.

Read more about their concerns here. 

HUAWEI TURNS TO THE COURTS: The Chinese telecommunications giant is asking a court to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to label it a national security threat, accusing the agency of overstepping its authority.

“The order on review potentially impacts the financial interests of the telecommunications industry as a whole,” reads the request filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

Huawei has consistently pushed back on allegations that it poses a security threat, arguing that the decisions to punish it have been grounded in anti-Chinese sentiment rather than fact.

The Biden administration has yet to make its stance on Huawei clear, not committing on whether the company will be removed from the Commerce Department’s entity list.

Read more here.


DOUBTS FROM WITHIN: Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Chinese tech giant Huawei, said Tuesday he doesn’t expect the Biden administration to lift sanctions former President Trump imposed on the company.

“I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s extremely unlikely. We basically aren’t considering it a possibility,” Ren told reporters at a news conference, according to The Associated Press.

Zhengfei said Huawei will not likely be removed from the Commerce Department’s sanctions list, a designation which ended the company’s ability to purchase processor chips and other smartphone parts manufactured in the U.S.

Republicans have been pushing to keep the company on the list, with GOP senators putting pressure on Biden’s Commerce secretary nominee, current Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), over her comments on Huawei.

Read more here

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Twitter credited the pandemic and recent election for a boost in usage during the fourth quarter.

The company on Tuesday reported that average monetizable daily active usage reached 192 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, up 27 percent from the same time period the year before. But the social media giant warned the rate of user growth will slow in the coming months after a boost attributed to the pandemic and recent election. 

Twitter told shareholders in its quarterly report it expects user growth to slow to about a 20 percent increase in the next quarter, potentially followed by quarterly growth rates in the “low double digits” later this year. 

The company also said it expects total costs and expenses to grow to about 25 percent or more in 2021. 

Overall, however, Twitter reported a “strong finish” to last year with a revenue of $1.29 billion, up 28 percent year over year. 

Read more here

GOOGLE STEPS UP: Google on Tuesday announced that it was rolling out more services to boost cybersecurity for both federal and state campaigns after the tech giant assisted around 140 federal campaigns with security during the 2020 election cycle. 

The company noted that the effort will involve supporting nonpartisan cybersecurity training sessions to campaign officials in all 50 states, along with deploying a digital “help desk” to answer cybersecurity questions campaigns may have. 

Read more about Google’s efforts here.


Lighter click: “I’m here live, I’m not a cat”

An op-ed to chew on: Robinhood or Sheriff of Nottingham? Conflicts of interest in the GameStop affair


N.Y.’s Vaccine Websites Weren’t Working. He Built a New One for $50. (The New York Times / Sharon Otterman) 

DLive is under congressional scrutiny over Capitol attack (The Verge / Makena Kelly)

Lacking a Lifeline: How a federal effort to help low-income Americans pay their phone bills failed amid the pandemic (Washington Post / Tony Romm)

Tags Avril Haines Criticism of Huawei Donald Trump Gina Raimondo Google Huawei Marco Rubio Mark Warner Russian hack SolarWinds Twitter

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