Hillicon Valley: Warren asks SEC to take closer look at cryptocurrency exchanges | Maryland town knocked offline as part of massive ransomware attack | Huawei hires three new lobbying firms

Hillicon Valley: Warren asks SEC to take closer look at cryptocurrency exchanges | Maryland town knocked offline as part of massive ransomware attack | Huawei hires three new lobbying firms
© 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 and Happy Thursday! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCalifornia Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election Pelosi disputes Biden's power to forgive student loans Warren hits the airwaves for Newsom ahead of recall election MORE (D-Mass.) on Thursday strongly urged a key regulatory agency to look into cryptocurrency exchanges, an issue that has gained prominence in recent years and particularly following the use of cryptocurrencies as part of ransomware attacks. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Meanwhile, a town in Southern Maryland saw its government networks completely shut down by the ransomware attack on technology group Kaseya last week, and embattled Chinese telecommunications group Huawei hired three new lobbying firms to help do business under the Biden administration. 

CRYPTO CONCERNS: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to assess the effect of cryptocurrency exchanges on U.S. financial markets and the risks they could pose to consumers.

In a letter released Thursday, Warren asked SEC Chairman Gary GenslerGary GenslerHillicon Valley: Warren asks SEC to take closer look at cryptocurrency exchanges | Maryland town knocked offline as part of massive ransomware attack | Huawei hires three new lobbying firms Warren asks SEC to take closer look at cryptocurrency exchanges California AG wants SEC to 'use its regulatory authority' on climate change MORE to explain if cryptocurrency exchanges operate in a safe and efficient way, and what regulatory action might be necessary to protect investors.

"While demand for cryptocurrencies and the use of cryptocurrency exchanges have skyrocketed, the lack of common-sense regulations has left ordinary investors at the mercy of manipulators and fraudsters," she said.

Read more about Warren’s request

 

KASEYA FALLOUT CONTINUES: A Maryland town was taken offline last week during the massive ransomware attack on Miami-based technology firm Kaseya.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Leonardtown in Southern Maryland fell victim to the cyberattack, with town administrator Laschelle McKay first learning of the problem when she logged on Friday.

"Everything shut down,” McKay said. “You couldn’t open any document, you’re completely locked from all your files.”

The town's IT management company JustTech is a client of Kaseya's and uses products that had been affected by the hack, the Post reported.

Read more about the incident here.

 

HUAWEI’S HIRES: Embattled Chinese telecom Huawei recently hired three new lobbying firms, according to disclosure reports filed with Congress.

The new hires come as President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE keeps in place policies enacted by former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE that have stifled Huawei’s ability to do business internationally.

“Huawei has engaged with these firms to generate a better understanding between Huawei and the U.S. government,” a source familiar with the matter told The Hill.

Read more here

 

BETTING BIG: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Kinzinger supports Jan. 6 panel subpoenas for Republicans, including McCarthy Ocasio-Cortez: Democrats can't blame GOP for end of eviction moratorium MORE’s (D-Calif.) husband gained nearly $5 million on a trade of stocks in Google parent company Alphabet Inc. and also added bets to Amazon and Apple ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s vote last month to advance a set of antitrust bills targeting major tech giants. 

According to a recently released financial disclosure report signed by the Democratic leader on July 2, Paul Pelosi, who owns a real estate and venture capital investment firm, exercised 40 call options to gain 4,000 shares of Alphabet at a strike price of $1,200. 

Paul Pelosi gained $4.8 million from the trade, which has since risen to $5.3 million, Bloomberg reported

When reached for comment on Paul Pelosi’s recent financial moves, spokesman Drew Hammill told The Hill that Nancy Pelosi “has no involvement or prior knowledge of these transactions.” 

Read more here

 

WSJ WEIGHS IN: The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal is imploring President Biden to take swift action and send a strong message to Russia and other foreign adversaries that the U.S. will not tolerate cyber crime or those who harbor cyber criminals. 

"Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHave our enemies found a way to defeat the United States? Millennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Biden's Cuba problem: Obama made a bet and lost MORE’s misadventures in Syria showed that a President shouldn’t draw red lines he isn’t willing to enforce. President Biden hasn’t been afraid to talk tough and set expectations with Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? Democrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE, but will Mr. Biden enforce his own red lines?" the Journal wrote in an editorial published Thursday.

"Mr. Putin has spent his time in power invading neighbors, meddling in Western elections, cheating on arms-control agreements—and allowing cyber attacks against the U.S. This despite the best efforts to improve relations from George W. Bush, Mr. Obama and Donald Trump. Mr. Biden’s team argued that last month’s summit wouldn’t solve a problem like Mr. Putin but could limit the damage. The new cyberattacks suggest this was wrong," the board wrote.

Read more here.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

CALL FOR MILITARY ACTION: The top lawyer for U.S. Cyber Command is calling for the United States to push back against transnational criminal hackers with military cyber operations.

Marine Lt. Col. Kurt Sanger, general counsel at the command, wrote in a recent article published to Lawfare.com that ransomware attacks and other threats such as SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline hacks highlight “the broad and severe impacts criminals can inflict through cyberspace.”

The disruptions caused by the events “have demonstrated that what initially may be categorized as crime may be better thought of as a national security threat,” and the United States must use its own cyber strength if the threats are to be defeated, Sanger argued.

Read more here

 

EPROCTORING WOES: A coalition of 19 advocacy groups are urging school administrators to ban the use of "eproctoring" apps over concerns that the systems are invasive and can be harmful for students. 

Software that uses AI-powered systems to monitor students as they take tests, often through required webcam recordings and facial recognition technology, is known as eproctoring. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In an open letter published Thursday, the groups liken the tracking software to "spyware" and argue it raises significant issues that perpetuate racism and ableism while failing to serve their purpose to prevent academic dishonesty. 

“They also treat students as if they are guilty until proven innocent, which is a disrespectful and harmful stance for any academic institution to take,” the letter reads. 

Read more here

An op-ed to chew on: Self-driving vehicles: A greater challenge than we thought 

Lighter click: Every single time

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

We Got the Phone the FBI Secretly Sold to Criminals (Motherboard / Joseph Cox)

When Amazon Comes to Town (The Information / Paris Martineau)

The U.S. says humans will always be in control of AI weapons. But the age of autonomous war is already here. (Washington Post / Gerrit De Vynck)