Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Biden to take ‘executive action’ to address SolarWinds breach | Facebook and Google respond to Australian proposed law | DOJ charges North Korean hackers with stealing $1.3 billion in cryptocurrency

President Biden at CNN town hall
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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. 

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

Biden will be rolling out action to address cybersecurity following the recent Russian hack, while the Justice Department announced major indictments against North Korean hackers. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley’s eyes were on an Australian proposal today, with Facebook announcing it would restrict news content in the country and Google reaching a deal to pay News Corp to distribute content. In other news, you win some, you Zoom some. 


EXECUTIVE ACTION INCOMING: President Biden will soon roll out an “executive action” to address “gaps” in federal cybersecurity following the recently uncovered massive Russian hack of the federal government. 

Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security director for cyber and emerging technology, announced the upcoming order while appearing at the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday, noting that nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups had been compromised by what has become known as the SolarWinds breach.

“We are working on close to about a dozen things, likely eight … to be part of an upcoming executive action to address the gaps we’ve identified in our review of this incident,” Neuberger said, noting that the review of the SolarWinds incident would likely take “several months.”

Read more about the update here.


NO NEWS FOR YOU: Facebook has been pushing back on an Australian proposal that would require tech giants to pay publishers for news content. On Wednesday, Facebook upped the ante, announcing it will restrict news content in Australia over the proposed law. 

Facebook’s update will restrict Australian publishers from sharing or posting content on the platform’s pages and limit Australian users from viewing or sharing international publishers’ links and posts.

Read more here


PAYING UP: Google has also pushed back on the Australian proposal, but on Wednesday confirmed it reached a deal with the News Corp media conglomerate to pay for content shared on the search giant’s News Showcase. 

News Corp’s announcement did not share the financial details of the agreement, and a spokesperson for Google declined to share the details when asked. 

Read more here


NORTH KOREA’S BEEN UP TO NO GOOD: The Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against three North Korean nationals for allegedly stealing $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency and engaging in a range of malicious cyber activities. 

The indictment charges three North Korean nationals — Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il and Park Jin Hyok — as engaging in cyberattacks against the U.S. as part of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s military intelligence agency. 

They are alleged to have been involved in a wide array of cyber incidents over the last several years, including involvement in the 2014 Sony Pictures hack, stealing over $81 million from a Bangladeshi bank, and in the 2017 WannaCry cyberattack that impacted hundreds of thousands of computer systems across 150 countries.

The FBI, the Treasury Department, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out an alert warning of North Korean malware used to target cryptocurrency exchanges in conjunction with the charges. 

Read more about the case here.


AMAZON UNDER FIRE (YES, AGAIN): New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) moved Tuesday to sue Amazon over alleged “flagrant disregard” of workplace safety codes and for allegedly retaliating against employees who spoke out.

James accused the company of failing to create a reasonably safe workplace, including what she said were insufficient steps to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19.

Amazon expected the suit, and preemptively filed its own against James last week in an attempt to head off her legal filing by arguing that workplace safety was not under the attorney general’s purview. 

Read more here


EPIC’S EPIC FIGHT AGAINST APPLE: Epic Games, the developer behind the popular Fortnite app, expanded its fight against Apple through an antitrust complaint filed with the European Union on Tuesday. 

Epic Games alleges Apple has eliminated competition in app distribution and payment through a series of “carefully designed anti-competitive restrictions,” according to a statement announcing the complaint.  

Read more here


GEARING UP FOR GAMESTOP: A group of technology and financial industry executives will face a bipartisan firestorm Thursday during the first congressional hearing on the GameStop stock controversy.

The leaders of major companies at the center of last month’s wild stock market volatility will find few allies on the House Financial Services Committee as members in both parties plan to hold their feet to fire.

Read more here


WHEELS IN MOTION ONCE MORE: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are gearing up for a renewed effort this year to pass legislation that would create federal safety and security standards for autonomous vehicles. 

Congressional efforts to regulate autonomous vehicles have largely been bipartisan, but bills in both the House and Senate have struggled to advance over concerns about safety provisions. 

But key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have previously pushed for legislation, including Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), are pledging to overcome these difficulties in the 117th Congress.

Read more about the effort here. 


FLORIDA FALLOUT: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Wednesday demanded answers from the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the ongoing investigation into a recent attempted poisoning of the water supply of a Florida city. 

Warner sent letters to the two agencies asking about the hack of the Oldsmar, Fla., water treatment facility, which was successfully breached earlier this month by a hacker who attempted to increase the levels of sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, to dangerous levels. The hacker was unsuccessful. 

“While the Oldsmar water treatment facility incident was detected with sufficient time to mitigate serious risks to the citizens of Oldsmar, and appears to have been identified as the result of a diligent employee monitoring this facility’s operations, future compromises of this nature may not be detected in time,” Warner wrote to the agencies. 

Read more about his concerns here. 


HASSAN AT THE HELM: Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) will chair the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s subcommittee focused on national security threats and spending oversight, committee leaders announced Wednesday.

The Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight will focus on national security issues, including cybersecurity threats, on whether the federal government is prepared to confront these threats, and evaluate government use of taxpayer dollars. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will serve as ranking member of the panel, and Hassan takes over as chair from him. 

Read more here. 


CHINESE CRACKDOWN: The Chinese government is launching new rules requiring bloggers and online influencers to acquire state credentials in order to publish content on certain topics, including politics, health and economics. 

According to The Associated Press, the Cyberspace Administration of China will launch the regulations next week, the latest move to control online content from a country that has been condemned by the U.S. and others in the international community for imposing overreaching censorship on its own citizens. 

Read more here. 


HALT IT: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil rights groups are urging President Biden to halt the use of facial recognition technology by the federal government over dangers the technology poses that the groups said disproportionately impact people of color and other marginalized groups. 

The coalition of more than 40 organizations sent a letter to Biden Tuesday, calling on him to take executive action to place a moratorium on all federal government use of facial recognition technology, as well as prevent state and local governments from using federal funds to buy access to such technology. 

Read more here.


TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: Hundreds of Microsoft Team users are reporting technical difficulties Wednesday with the company’s workplace messaging apps. 

There have been around 840 reports of technical problems with Microsoft Teams, according to Downdetector. Seventy percent of the reported problems were related to server connection. 

Read more here.


ICYMI: A WIN FOR APPLE: A North Dakota bill that would have mandated app stores allow software developers to implement their own payment processing tools was shut down in the state Senate Tuesday.

The chamber voted by a 36-11 margin to scrap the bill in a win for tech giants such as Apple and Google that would’ve seen some of their fees bypassed had the bill become law.

Read more here


Lighter click: The neverending story


An op-ed to chew on: Russia’s hack was bad–but if we don’t act fast, it will get much worse 



Lonely, angry, eager to make history: Online mobs are likely to remain a dangerous reality (The Washington Post / Drew Harwell) 

The race to fix virtual meetings (The New York Times / Yiren Lu)  

Kia Motors suffers ransomware attack, asked for $20 million ransom (BleepingComputer / Lawrence Abrams)

Tags Australia Cryptocurrency Facebook Gary Peters Google Joe Biden John Thune Maggie Hassan Mark Warner Microsoft North Korea Rand Paul SolarWinds WannaCry ransomware attack

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