Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case

Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case
© Greg Nash

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. 

Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. This just about sums us up.

Authorities are getting prepping for tomorrow due to a QAnon conspiracy theory prediction, and Capitol police said Wednesday they are aware of online musings about “an identified militia group” potentially planning to breach the Capitol. The Biden administration outlined its approach to national security threats, marking a departure from Trump's “America first” policy. Meanwhile, political ads will once again be allowed on Facebook after an extended pause in the wake of the deadly Capitol riot. And Parler is not giving up.



CAUTIOUS, BUT CALM: Authorities will be on high alert Thursday over a QAnon conspiracy theory prediction, but according to experts, chances of violence appear minimal compared to the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6.

Some segments of the convoluted theory community have been claiming for months that former President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE will return to the White House on March 4, which was the date of presidential inaugurations up until 1933.

While belief that Thursday would mark the triumphant return of Trump have been building, some influential figures in the community have recently turned back on that prediction.

Even if some QAnon supporters still think that Trump will reassume office, there’s little to suggest they will act on that belief.

“We haven’t seen anything to suggest that there’s any physical, real world mobilization behind that chatter,” Jared Holt, a visiting research fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab, told The Hill.

A memo from the top security official overseeing the House shared with lawmakers this week echoes that the significance of March 4 has “reportedly declined amongst various groups in recent days.”


Read more. 


CONCERN REMAINS AROUND MILITIA ACTIVITY: Authorities are aware of online chatter about “an identified militia group” potentially planning to enter the Capitol on Thursday.

The United States Capitol Police Department (USCP) said in a statement Wednesday that it has “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol.”

“We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers,” it added.

CNN reported Wednesday per sources familiar with the matter that some of the chatter about breaching the Capitol came from Three Percenters.

The militia movement, which draws its name from the belief that only three percent of American colonists fought against the British during the War of Independence, is fragmented, with many different three percent related groups around the U.S. and Canada.

Read more.


NEW (TEMPORARY) STRATEGY: The White House released an interim national security strategy on Wednesday outlining the Biden administration’s approach to a range of threats, emphasizing "working in common cause with our closest allies and partners," and moving away from the Trump administration’s “America first” policy.

The guidance, meant to serve as a stopgap while the administration compiles a more concrete national security strategy, digs into cybersecurity and tech issues, emphasizing that in the wake of the SolarWinds hack, cybersecurity in particular will be a “top priority.”

Read more about the strategy here.

The strategy was released hours after Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' | Blinken says US falling behind China as global leader on climate change White House defends 'aspirational' goal of 62,500 refugees MORE gave his first major address while in office, during which he announced that he would work to foster U.S. leadership on global cyber and technology issues. 

He cited the SolarWinds hack as an example of why it was important to prioritize these areas in the international arena. 


Read more about Blinken’s comments here.


WHEN ONE CASE CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS: Parler filed to dismiss its federal lawsuit against Amazon on Tuesday — the same day the platform filed a new lawsuit in Washington state court alleging defamation and breach of contract. 

The federal lawsuit was filed in January, and had sought a court order ruling that Amazon had to resume hosting Parler after Amazon Web Services (AWS) pulled the platform due to violent posts surrounding the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. But a federal judge in January denied Parler’s request for a court order that would have forced Amazon to resume hosting the platform. 

The new lawsuit alleges Amazon “attempted to kill Parler” because the app’s rising popularity made it a “competitive threat” to the mainstream tech platforms. 

An Amazon Web Services (AWS) spokesperson dismissed Parler’s latest legal challenge, stating that “there is no merit to these claims.” 

Read more here



PATCH IT NOW: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Wednesday ordered federal agencies to immediately investigate, patch or disconnect their systems from a Microsoft email application after the company discovered a vulnerability exploited by Chinese hackers. 

CISA issued an emergency directive ordering agencies to “triage” whether they have been compromised by the new vulnerability, and if they have collected “forensic images” of the vulnerability to either patch or immediately disconnect from the Microsoft Exchange Server. 

The order came the day after Microsoft warned that a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group known as Hafnium was attempting to take advantage of previously unknown vulnerabilities in the email application Exchange Server. 

Read more about the directive here. 


GET YOUR ADS READY: Facebook will resume allowing political advertising on its platform starting Thursday, ending a freeze that was put in place around the general election.


“We put this temporary ban in place after the November 2020 election to avoid confusion or abuse following Election Day,” the company wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

Facebook had partially lifted the ban in December to allow advertising for the Georgia Senate run-off elections.

The decision to fully lift the ad ban comes the same day that the Democratic Party’s House and Senate campaign arms released a joint statement calling for it to be ended.

Read more.


A WIN FOR APPS IN ARIZONA: An Arizona bill that would allow app developers to bypass fees from the Apple and Google stores advanced Wednesday in the state House. 

The bill, introduced by Republican state Rep. Regina Cobb, passed in a tight 31-29 vote.

The bill would bar the app stores from requiring in-app payment as the only mode of accepting payment from users.

Google and Apple’s terms allow the companies to collect 15 to 30 percent of app revenue. If the bill were to pass in the Senate and be signed into law by Arizona Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceySex ed rules passed in Arizona would require parents to sign off on LGBT discussions, info Republican legislators target private sector election grants More GOP-led states risk corporate backlash like Georgia's MORE (R) it could greatly impact the tech giants’ ability to collect funds from in-app purchases and sales. 

Apple had pushed back on the bill, with the company’s chief compliance officer Kyle Andeer testifying at a state House hearing that the bill would serve as “a government mandate that Apple give away the App Store.”


Read more about the bill



GOOGLE TO STOP TRACKING USERS: Google will stop tracking users across their internet searches to sell targeted ads, the tech giant said Wednesday. 

Google confirmed in a blog post that it will not build alternative methods to track users after phasing out its existing tracking methods, which involve using third-party cookies.

“Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products,” David Temkin, Google’s director of product management, ads, privacy and trust, said in a blog post.

Google announced last year it would phase out third-party cookies with a goal of doing so within two years, meaning the tech giant may stop tracking users by early 2022.

Read more about the update.


AMAZON’S AI CAMERAS IN THE HOT SEAT: A group of five senators on Wednesday called on tech giant Amazon and its CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosNASA picks Elon Musk's SpaceX to build spacecraft for manned moon missions Harvard Business community backs alumna's discrimination lawsuit against Amazon Union leader: 'Amazon left no stone unturned' in unionization fight MORE to provide additional information on the company’s recently installed artificial intelligence-equipped cameras in its delivery vans. 

Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory BookerCory BookerBass 'hopeful' on passing police reform: 'Republicans that I am working with are operating in good faith' Progressive lawmakers press DHS chief on immigration detention Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.J.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' | Don't attack Zoom for its Bernie Sanders federal tax bill Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWorld passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (D-Mass.), all signed onto a letter asking Bezos to provide additional information on the cameras and how the footage will be used by the company. 

Deborah Bass, an Amazon spokesperson, confirmed to CNBC last month that it recently began testing AI-equipped cameras in vehicles to monitor drivers and ensure they are maintaining safe practices while making deliveries. 

However, the senators wrote that they “are concerned that adding further surveillance tools and monitoring could increase dangers on America’s roads, place unsafe pressure on drivers, and infringe on individuals’ privacy rights.”

Read more about the letter


Lighter click: (yes he drives a jetski)

An op-ed to chew on: Raimondo has won confirmation, but the fight to restrict export technology to China continues


Inside 'TALON,' the Nationwide Network of AI-Enabled Surveillance Cameras (Motherboard / Joseph Cox)

The most engaging political news on Facebook? Far-right misinformation. (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky)

Your tweet goes viral. Here come the companies asking you to sell their crap. (Vox / Rebecca Jennings)

Cloud security firm Qualys reportedly victimized by prolific scammers (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas)