Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Facebook experiences widespread outage

Today is Monday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing with a Facebook whistleblower — who came forward publicly in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night — Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp experienced widespread outages that stretched into Monday evening. 

Meanwhile, top lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee introduced a new bill to overhaul federal cybersecurity policies.

Follow The Hill’s cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

Let’s jump in.

Mark Zuckerberg, call your office 

Facebook and associated platforms owned by the tech giant were down on Monday in an apparent widespread outage. 

Wide issue: Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram all experienced outages around noon. Reports for outages on Facebook peaked around 11:45 a.m., according to the site DownDetector.

Facebook tweeted that it was aware of the issue and is looking to “get things back to normal.”

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing Facebook app. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” the company said. 

Facebook is showing users a message that the site “can’t be reached” and Instagram is displaying a “5xx Server Error.” The apps for the platforms are also down and failing to load new content. 

Facebook’s platforms were still down as of 3:30 p.m., without any statement from the company as to a potential cause.

Problem expands: Around 3 p.m. users also started reporting outage issues on Twitter, according to DownDetector. Replies to users’ tweets appeared to fail to load on the platform.

Read more about the outage here.

The outages came in the midst of bad 24 hours for Facebook, with a former Facebook employee coming forward Sunday during a “60 Minutes” interview as the whistleblower behind reports that the company prioritized growth over safety when it came to misinformation.

Read more about the interview here. 

A MESSAGE FROM AEP

Nine-in-Ten Voters in Key Frontline Districts Support Candidates Who Ensure U.S. Tech Remains Globally Competitive

A new survey released by Ipsos in partnership with the American Edge Project (AEP) shows that voters in frontline districts want their elected officials to focus on issues of national security, jobs, and health care as opposed to breaking up tech companies.

See the poll here.

New cyber bill in the mix 

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and ranking member Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced a bill Monday to overhaul and improve federal cybersecurity policies following multiple major cyberattacks.

The legislation is aimed at updating the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, signed into law in 2014, and takes steps to clarify reporting requirements for federal agencies if they are successfully targeted by hackers.

“Increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks against our federal agencies by foreign adversaries – and criminal organizations they often harbor – highlight the urgent need to enhance federal cybersecurity,” Peters said in a statement Monday. 

Reporting space: The bill clarifies the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) role in responding to cybersecurity incidents, with federal agencies required to report major attacks to both CISA and Congress, and would ensure CISA is the lead organization on responding to these incidents. 

It also requires the Office of Management and Budget to develop guidance to help federal agencies best use funds to shore up cybersecurity, and codifies part of the executive order President Biden signed in May aimed at improving federal cybersecurity.  

Troubling early signs: Portman on Monday pointed to two reports put out by the committee since 2019 that found massive cybersecurity shortcomings at several federal agencies. These reports have raised even more concerns following the SolarWinds hack, discovered in December, which involved Russian government-linked hackers compromising at least nine federal agencies for much of 2020. 

“These reports show that federal agencies are unprepared to meet the sophisticated, determined threat we face and have failed to address many vulnerabilities for nearly a decade putting the sensitive data of all Americans at risk,” Portman said. 

Read more about the legislation here.

KEEP AN EYE ON CHINA

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday warned of continuing threats posed by the Chinese government to telecommunications systems and other critical technologies ahead of a major international summit.

Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to use this week’s Organization for Economic Co-operation and Defense (OECD) ministerial meeting to work with other democratic nations to establish rules of the road around developing technologies, particularly to counter Chinese efforts in this area. Blinken is set to speak at the meeting.

“I urge you to use the OECD’s upcoming ministerial meeting on October 5-6, 2021 to work to establish rules and norms around strategic technology issues, including development and governance strategies and best practices for communications applications, AI-enabled products and services, next-generation networks, Internet of Things devices, blockchain and fintech products, and renewable energies,” Warner wrote to Blinken.

Warner criticized the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) use of telecommunications company Huawei and its promotion of the firm as a “national champion” in the 5G technology and standards space.

Read more here.

LAW SCHOOL PROTESTS

Law students across the country are calling on their schools to sever ties with two major research firms over their work with immigration enforcement agencies. 

A set of protests demanding the termination of contracts with LexisNexis and Westlaw scheduled throughout the week marks a high-water mark in the growing movement to hold data brokers accountable for their role in assisting deportations.

The coalition of students is also pushing for the databases’ parent companies, RELX and Thomson Reuters, respectively, to stop providing tools to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

“We know that law schools are relying on these tools, but it doesn’t absolve the culpability and the role that they play in funding and fueling these violent deportations and detentions,” said Peyton Jacobsen, a Seattle University Law School student involved in organizing the week of action.

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM AEP

Ipsos + AEP frontline district poll across 32 districts found that:

There is virtually no constituency for breaking up U.S. tech companies. Despite recent efforts to break up U.S. tech companies, just 14% support such a move, including just 15% of Democrats, 12% of independents, and 12% of Republicans.

Voters believe breaking up tech companies will harm the economy, national security, and small businesses.

The poll results make it clear that policymakers who are pushing misguided tech regulation are out of touch with voters.

See the poll here.

WHEN WORKING TOGETHER WORKS

An international coalition of American, French, Ukrainian, and European Union (EU) law enforcement authorities coordinated on the arrest last week of two individuals and the seizure of millions of dollars in profit allegedly involved with a spree of damaging ransomware attacks. 

Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, on Monday announced the arrests on Tuesday in Ukraine of the unnamed individuals alleged to have been behind ransomware attacks that extorted between 5 million to 70 million euros.

Authorities say the two began carrying out a series of “prolific” ransomware attacks in April 2020 against industrial groups in both Europe and North America, encrypting files and threatening to release stolen data online if the victims did not pay the ransoms demanded. 

In addition to the arrests, authorities carried out seven property searches that resulted in the seizure of $375,000 in cash, two six-figure luxury vehicles and the freezing of $1.3 million in cryptocurrencies.

Read more here. 

BEAM ME UP

William Shatner might soon be saying, “Beam me up” on a real-life intergalactic trip — the “Star Trek” actor is poised to join the next space flight on Jeff Bezos‘s Blue Origin.

The 90-year-old performer, who played Captain Kirk on the long-running series, will fly on New Shepard NS-18 next week along with Blue Origin’s Vice President of Mission and Flight Operations Audrey Powers, the company announced Monday. 

Two other crew mates will also be onboard for the Oct. 12 flight launching from a site in West Texas.

“I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” Shatner said in a statement about the trip. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”

Read more here. 

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Ceding regulatory power to Europe will weaken the security of the free world 

Lighter click: Limited options Monday

Notable links from around the web:

Clearview AI Has New Tools to Identify You in Photos (Wired / Will Knight)

Google pushes emergency update for Chrome zero-days, the latest in a hectic year of vulnerabilities (CyberScoop / Tim Starks) 

DHS and NIST release post-quantum cryptography guidance (The Record / Adam Janofsky) 

One last thing: Election officials have security disinformation concerns

Officials say the biggest threat facing U.S. elections isn’t Russian hacking or domestic voter fraud but disinformation and misinformation increasingly undermining the public’s perception of voting security.

Since the 2016 vote, Congress has allocated millions of dollars to states in an attempt to shore up cybersecurity and replace outdated, vulnerable voting machines, but even as improvements are made, faith in the system is being eroded.

“I believe that the biggest vulnerability is disinformation, that these machines are not functioning in the way that they were intended,” Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Commissioner Thomas Hicks, who was nominated by former President Obama, said Thursday during a virtual event hosted by Freedom House, the Bush Institute, Issue One and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

EAC Chairman Donald Palmer, nominated by former President Trump, agreed with Hicks, telling The Hill Friday that “our systems are secure, and they have been tested and are secure, and the misinformation about those systems, that hurts voter confidence.”

Read more here. 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Tuesday.

Tags Antony Blinken Barack Obama Donald Trump Gary Peters Jeff Bezos Joe Biden Mark Warner Mark Zuckerberg Rob Portman
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