Hillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction

Hillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction
© Getty Images

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.

Two months after the discovery of a massive Russian cyber attack, the federal government is grappling with a new Chinese-linked hacking incident that may have hit a “large number of victims," according to the White House. The Biden administration also added well-known Big Tech critic Tim Wu to its team.



CHINA HACKERS IMPLICATED: White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiFive states have yet to administer one dose of vaccine to half their populations Biden has convinced allies 'America is back,' says France's Macron Biden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit MORE said Friday that the Biden administration is closely following the breach of a Microsoft email application, reportedly carried out by Chinese hackers, calling it an “active threat” with a “large number of victims.”

“This is a significant vulnerability that could have far-reaching impacts. First and foremost, this is an active threat,” Psaki told reporters during the daily press briefing. 

She pointed to a tweet from national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanBiden meets with UK's Johnson ahead of G-7 Biden, UK's Johnson to unveil renewed Atlantic Charter Biden must get tough on China's forced-labor industries, including solar MORE on Thursday night urging network administrators to patch their systems against a previously unknown vulnerability in Microsoft’s Exchange Server email application.

Microsoft said earlier this week that the flaw was being used by a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group to target a variety of organizations.

Read more about the hack here.

Psaki’s comments came the day after FireEye released research on the vulnerability, finding that the hackers had exploited it as early as January and had compromised organizations including U.S. local governments and a Southeast Asian government. 


Psaki declined to comment on whether U.S. federal agencies had been compromised by the breach, which comes as the Biden administration is still investigating the impact of the SolarWinds attack, but warned that there may be a “large number of victims.”

Read more about FireEye’s findings here.


WHITE HOUSE TAPS WU: The White House on Friday announced that notable big tech critic Tim Wu is joining the Biden administration in a role focused on addressing the market power of tech giants.

The Columbia University Law School professor and author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age,” will serve as special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy. 

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHouse unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' Senate Democrats befuddled by Joe Manchin MORE (D-Minn.) touted Wu’s appointment as a signal that the Biden administration is “serious about promoting competition in the United States.”

But Aurelien Portuese, the director of antitrust and innovation policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said there are some risks to Wu’s appointment. Portuese said Wu’s “anti-bigness” stance may pose a risk to American innovation.

Pressed during a briefing on whether President BidenJoe BidenEx-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' News leaders deal with the post-Trump era MORE will pursue a policy to break up big tech companies, press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration doesn’t have a new policy to announce on that front.

“The president believes, as he has talked about before, that it’s important to promote competition and address monopoly and market power issues. But we don’t have a new policy to announce. We are six weeks into a new administration, but certainly we welcome the expertise of individuals like Tim Wu,” Psaki said. 

Read more about the announcement


QANON SHIFTS: The QAnon conspiracy community appears relatively unaffected after March 4 — the day many members predicted former President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE would be re-inaugurated — passed without incidence.

This is not the first time that a highlighted date has come and gone for QAnon. Dozens of its predictions have failed to be true since the theory’s birth in 2017.

The far-range conspiracy has thought that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' Huma Abedin announces book deal Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records MORE would be arrested, that former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s report on Russian intervention in the election would reveal damning evidence about Democrats participating in child trafficking rings and that former President Trump would emerge on the day of President Biden’s inauguration to execute his political opponents.

QAnon has been built on moving the goal posts from the start, experts say.

Read more.


MYANMAR MILITARY REMOVED: YouTube has removed five channels tied to television networks run by Myanmar’s military as the country experienced its deadliest week of unrest since its military-led coup last month. 

Reuters reported late Thursday that YouTube confirmed it had removed “a number of channels,” including the state network Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV), as well as the military-owned Myawaddy Media, MWD Variety and MWD Myanmar. 

A YouTube spokeswoman told Reuters that the platform had removed the channels, as well as “several videos … in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws.”

This move comes after at least 38 people were killed in Myanmar Wednesday after security forces opened fire on demonstrators protesting against last month’s coup, when the military took country leader Aung San Suu Kyi into custody and declared a yearlong state of emergency. 


Read more here


JOHN MCAFEE INDICTED: The Justice Department announced Friday that John McAfee, the founder of anti-virus software company McAfee, has been indicted on alleged fraud and money laundering charges tied to a cryptocurrency investment scheme.

McAfee, who is currently detained in Spain, was indicted alongside Jimmy Gale Watson Jr., an executive advisor to McAfee, according to federal officials. Watson was arrested in Texas on Thursday night.

Charges against the men were unsealed in a Manhattan federal court on Friday. Both are alleged to have used McAfee’s Twitter account to spread information on cryptocurrency investments to hundreds of thousands of followers and profit from the effort.

Read more about the charges here.

Lighter click: Add it to tomorrow’s to-do list 


An op-ed to chew on: Bitcoins, tulipmania and electric grid insecurity


Timnit Gebru Was Fired From Google — Then The Harassers Arrived (The Verge / Zoe Schiffer)

After SolarWinds breach, White House preps executive order on software security (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas) 

Social commerce has taken over China. Can it do the same overseas? (Protocol / Shen Lu)