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Hillicon Valley: Microsoft (re)patch requested | International cyber threats growing | New York Times tech workers unionize

Hillicon Valley: Microsoft (re)patch requested | International cyber threats growing | New York Times tech workers unionize
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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. 

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

Today: Federal agencies urged organizations running a Microsoft email application to immediately patch their systems to prevent hackers from exploiting newly discovered vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the annual worldwide threats report which highlighted cyber incidents as a key national security threat, and tech workers at the New York Times launched a union.

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MICROSOFT PATCH, TAKE TWO: The National Security Agency (NSA), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the White House on Tuesday urged organizations running a Microsoft email application to immediately patch their systems following the discovery of new vulnerabilities. 

A different issue: The security flaws in Microsoft’s Exchange Server were separate from the vulnerabilities discovered in March by the company, which at least one Chinese state-sponsored hacking group exploited to gain access to thousands of organizations. 

The NSA discovered the new vulnerabilities and reported them to Microsoft, with the company releasing a patch on Tuesday. CISA ordered federal agencies to implement the patch by the end of the week, and a top Biden administration official said the White House was monitoring the situation closely.

Getting out ahead: “We have not seen the vulnerabilities used in attacks against our customers,” the Microsoft Security Response Center wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “However, given recent adversary focus on Exchange, we recommend customers install the updates as soon as possible to ensure they remain protected from these and other threats.”

Read more about the vulnerabilities here.

 

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THREATS REMAIN THREATS: An annual worldwide threats assessment made public by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on Tuesday warned of increasing cyber, technological and military threats from China and Russia, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. 

Skipping a beat: The report was released ahead of hearings later this week set to be held by the House and Senate Intelligence panels to examine the findings of the intelligence community. The worldwide threats report is meant to be released annually, but the Trump administration failed to release a report publicly in 2020, with the last assessment released in early 2019. 

Four big players: This year's report identified China and Russia as well as Iran and North Korea as continuing to pose major threats to national security, zeroing in on competition with China as a particularly challenging threat to the United States. 

Following two major cyber espionage attacks involving Russia and China, the assessment stressed that cyberattacks remained an “acute” threat to national security. 

“Although an increasing number of countries and nonstate actors have these capabilities, we remain most concerned about Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea,” the report reads. “Many skilled foreign cybercriminals targeting the United States maintain mutually beneficial relationships with these and other countries that offer them safe haven or benefit from their activity.”

Read more about the annual report’s findings here.

 

TIMES TECH UNION: Tech workers at The New York Times announced Tuesday that they have formed a union and will seek voluntary recognition from the paper.

The group of software engineers, product managers and data analysts will be represented by the NewsGuild of New York, which also represents more than 1,300 of the paper’s editorial and business staff.

The Times Tech Guild said in a statement Tuesday that it is seeking collective bargaining rights to address a number of challenges including “sudden or unexplained termination, opaque promotion processes, unpaid overtime, and underinvestment in diverse representation.”

NYT's response: A spokesperson for the Times confirmed that the company received the union’s request.

Read more.

 

JUST CHECKING IN: President 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 on Tuesday raised concerns with Russian President 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 about escalating tensions in Ukraine, where Moscow has taken an aggressive posture.

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Biden spoke to Putin over the phone for the second time since taking office and "emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," according to a White House readout of the call.

A warning: They also discussed the recently uncovered SolarWinds hack and potential Russian interference in U.S. elections, with Biden warning Putin against cyber intrusions against the United States. 

Read more about the call here. 

 

BROADER SCOPE FOR FACEBOOK BOARD: Facebook on Tuesday announced that users will be allowed to appeal the platform’s decisions to keep other users' posts up after being reported to a company independent oversight body.

Facebook’s announcement expands the scope of its Oversight Board, allowing users to appeal decisions about content that is allowed to remain on the site.

Previously, users who had their content removed by the platform and disagreed with the decision were eligible for appeal to the board. 

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In order to appeal to the board about content allowed to remain on the platform, a user first needs to report the content to Facebook. If the platform decides to keep the content up after the initial review, the person who reported the content will be given a chance to refer to the Oversight Board. 

Read more here

Lighter click: Marry him

An op-ed to chew on: We need systemic mobile IT security

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

How Facebook’s Ad System Lets Companies Talk Out of Both Sides of Their Mouths (The Markup / Jeremy B. Merrill)

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“I Felt Hate More Than Anything”: How an Active Duty Airman Tried to Start a Civil War (ProPublica / Gisela Pérez de Acha, Kathryn Hurd and Ellie Lightfoot, Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program)

The Crusade Against Pornhub Is Going to Get Someone Killed (Motherboard / Samantha Cole)

‘Master,’ ‘Slave’ and the Fight Over Offensive Terms in Computing (New York Times / Kate Conger)