Hillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire

Hillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire
© Michael M. Santiago/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 haven'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.

President BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE on Thursday said that while the Russian government was not behind the recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, the cyber criminals involved were based in Russia, and his administration would take steps to disrupt the group. Colonial Pipeline, which restarted operations Wednesday, reportedly chose to pay the ransom to gain access to its networks. In non-pipeline news, Amazon said it will soon hire 75,000 additional employees in the U.S. and Canada. 


RUSSIA (KIND OF) DIDN’T DO: President Biden on Thursday confirmed that the cyber criminals involved in launching a ransomware attack that disrupted operations at Colonial Pipeline last week are likely based in Russia, though he said officials do not believe that the Russian government was involved. 

“We do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack, but we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia, that’s where it came from,” Biden said, citing findings from the FBI. 

“We have been in direct communication with Moscow about the imperative for responsible countries to take decisive action against ransomware networks,” he noted. “We are also going to pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate.”

Asked directly if he was confident Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Overnight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin MORE was not involved, Biden emphasized that the FBI did not believe Putin was involved.

Biden’s comments came the day after Colonial Pipeline announced that it would resume operations after several days of being shut down due to an attack using what the FBI identified as the “DarkSide” ransomware variant.

Read more about Biden’s remarks here. 

As part of his remarks, Biden urged Americans not to panic about fuel shortages, and warned against hoarding gasoline as the Colonial Pipeline ramped back up to full operation.


Read more here. 

The comments came the day after Biden signed an executive order taking a range of actions to increase federal cybersecurity. 

ICYMI, read more about the order here. 


COLONIAL PAID UP: Colonial Pipeline paid almost $5 million in ransom to hackers last Friday despite reports that said the company had no intention of paying, Bloomberg news reported.

Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the company paid in untraceable cryptocurrency within hours of the attack. After the hackers received the payment, they provided the operator with a decrypting tool to restore its computer network.

However, one of the people said the tool was so slow that the company continued to use its own backups to help restore its system.

Colonial declined to comment to The Hill.

President Biden declined to comment when asked by a reporter on Thursday whether he was briefed on the company's decision to pay the ransom.

Read more about the payment here. 


PELOSI WEIGHS IN: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene after her apology Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe 21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol on Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.) warned Thursday that private firms should reject hackers' demands for ransoms, just hours after reports emerged that a major energy company had paid almost $5 million to help restore service following a crippling ransomware attack.

Pelosi emphasized that she had no window into the internal management deliberations of the Colonial Pipeline Company, a private firm that runs a massive, 5,500-mile network of petroleum pipelines from the Gulf Coast to the major population centers on the East Coast.

But when asked if firms should pay out such ransoms, she didn't hesitate.

"No," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "The point is that we don't want people to think that there's money in it for them to threaten the security of a critical infrastructure in our country."

Read more about her comments here. 



RIDESHARE WOES: Demand for ridesharing services is beginning to pick back up as Americans get vaccinated against coronavirus, but many eager riders are running into the same problem: a lack of drivers.

Both Uber and Lyft have acknowledged the mismatch between demand for rides and supply of drivers, which is resulting in longer waits and higher fares for consumers.

Uber has announced that it is investing $250 million into bringing back past, and recruiting new, drivers.


A spokesperson for Lyft told The Hill that the company is “working to meet demand, including providing incentives to drivers, who are busier and earning more than they were even before the pandemic."

Despite those economic incentives and verbal commitments to protect workers from COVID-19, many drivers remain hesitant to start giving rides again.

Multiple workers who stopped driving during the pandemic told The Hill in interviews that going back is not worth it for them without bigger changes to how the companies operate.

Read more.


FOR HIRE: Amazon announced Thursday that it is looking to hire 75,000 more employees across the U.S. and Canada.

The e-commerce giant also said it will offer a $100 bonus to new hires who show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.


"We look forward to hiring 75,000 associates across our fulfillment and transportation network," said Alicia Boler Davis, vice president of global customer fulfillment at Amazon.

The new positions will have an average starting pay of $17 an hour, the company said in a blog post.

Read more about the hiring effort here. 


CUTTING TIES: Apple has cut ties with a controversial new hire after internal pushback from employees over comments the ads engineer made in his book, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to multiple outlets. 

Apple employees circulated a petition Wednesday demanding an investigation into the hiring of Antonio García Martínez despite his “overly racist and sexist remarks” about former colleagues in his 2016 book, “Chaos Monkeys.” 

García Martínez has left the company after a few weeks in the new job, an Apple spokesperson said in a statement to Bloomberg News. 

“At Apple, we have always strived to create an inclusive, welcoming workplace where everyone is respected and accepted,” an Apple spokesman told Bloomberg. “Behavior that demeans or discriminates against people for who they are has no place here.”

Read more here


INSTA UPDATES: Instagram users will now be able to list their preferred pronouns on their profiles, with the image-sharing app allowing for up to four pronouns to be displayed, it announced this week.

Users can change pronouns at any time and can also set it up so only followers can see theirs. If a user is under 18 years old, then pronouns will be hidden from nonfollowers as a default.

"We are giving people more tools to express themselves on Instagram," a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, told Mashable. "Sharing pronouns has been widely adopted by our community, and with this feature we hope to normalize the adoption further."

Read more here


Lighter click: Thank you kindly CDC

An op-ed to chew on: Three essential elements needed for broadband access 


Pentagon Surveilling Americans Without a Warrant, Senator Reveals (Motherboard / Joseph Cox)

Inside the nasty battle between Silicon Valley and the reporters who write about it. (Intelligencer / Benjamin Wallace)

Tech’s non-compete agreements hurt workers and anger some lawmakers (Protocol / Megan Rose Dickey)