Election assistance agency pleads for more funding

Officials from the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency charged with managing the nation’s electoral systems and helping states adopt good election administration practices, are pleading for more money before the 2020 elections. The agency is operating at half the capacity it had 10 years ago, while threats have increased. “What we are working on is the infrastructure of our democracy,” Vice Chair Benjamin Hovland said. “What we need is an investment from Congress to help us do that work.”

US and EU take down global cybercrime syndicate

The cybercrime network is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from businesses around the world and has members in several Eastern European countries. Authorities have arrested most members of the syndicate. Prosecutors in Eastern Europe and in the U.S. are preparing to file criminal charges against those in custody.

Trump signs EO to protect US networks from China

Amid a deepening trade war with China, President Trump on Wednesday declared a “national emergency” via executive order to protect U.S. communications networks in a move that gives the federal government broad powers to bar American companies from doing business with certain foreign suppliers. But instead of Russia, it appears to target China.

Pompeo confronts Russia on election meddling

Unlike his boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out Russia on its interference in the 2016 election while meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday. “If the Russians were to engage in that in 2020, it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been,” he said, adding he would “encourage them not to do that, we would not tolerate that. Our elections are important and sacred and they must be kept free and fair and with no outside country interfering in those elections.” Way to go, Pompeo.

Florida gov says Russians hacked two counties

Two Florida counties were hacked by Russians prior to the 2016 elections, but there was no “manipulation” of voting results, Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters on Tuesday. DeSantis said the FBI recently briefed the governor and other members of his administration on what he called an “intrusion” into the two unidentified counties. “There was no manipulation, or anything, but there was voter data that was able to be got,” DeSantis said. “It did not affect any voting, or anything like that.”

Crippling ransomware attacks targeting cities

Targeted ransomware attacks on local U.S. government entities — cities, police stations, and schools — are on the rise, costing localities millions as some pay off the perpetrators in an effort to untangle themselves and restore vital systems. The tally by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future found that at least 170 county, city, or state government systems have been attacked since 2013, including at least 45 police and sheriff’s offices.

Putin’s ‘iron-cyber curtain’ may backfire

Putin signed off on a bill which would allow Russia to more easily monitor cyberspace and potentially protect Russia from foreign online threats. The move is seen as an attempt to monitor Russian citizens more easily. It has prompted protest, it is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and may actually leave Russia less protected from cyber threats.

With ‘friends’ like these, you don’t need enemies

Be careful who you friend on Facebook. The company said Monday that it had removed a network of 21 fake Russian accounts that were “engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts to join Groups, impersonate other users, and to amplify allegations about a public figure working on behalf of intelligence services.” A sample post shared by one of the fake accounts was about a conspiracy theory about the Democratic Party.

Chris Cillizza: Of course Trump didn’t mention interference to Putin

“The simple fact is this: Trump remains — despite all available evidence — a skeptic about both Russia’s past attempts at interference in the 2016 election and, therefore, the country’s attempts to target future elections. That skepticism could have far reaching consequences when it comes to just how much (or little) the administration prioritizes dealing with these threats from foreign powers heading into the 2020 election. And that is a truly scary reality.”

The downside of smart cities

While AI-powered smart city technology, currently in use in some Asian cities, provides insights into how a city is operating, the use of facial recognition and surveillance projects have come under heavy scrutiny from civil liberties advocates. What if they make their way here? “It’s not difficult to imagine the potential for abuse that would exist if a platform like this were brought to the U.S. with no civilian and governmental regulations or oversight,” said security researcher John Wethington.

Ignoring Navy’s advice, Trump reallocates funds wanted for cybersecurity

Donald Trump is still fighting the last century’s wars. A March report from the U.S. Navy said, “Navies must become information enterprises.” But on Tuesday, Trump reversed his decision to retire a 21-year-old nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, costing the Navy more than $20 billion it had planned to spend on advanced technologies.

UN calls for Julian Assange’s release from UK jail

UN experts have called for Julian Assange to be released from prison and accused the British government of breaching his human rights. Assange is technically only in jail for breaching the terms of his bail, and the UN working group on arbitrary detention believes a disproportionate sentence has been imposed upon the WikiLeaks founder.

Assange vows to fight extradition

In court in London on Thursday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vowed to fight extradition to the U.S., in what could become a long, complicated legal battle. Assange told Judge Michael Snow via video link, “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people.” Two more hearings were scheduled for May 30 and June 12, after Assange’s lawyers receive the full contents of the U.S. extradition request.

Record number of Americans in contact with foreign intelligence

A U.S. government report indicated that nearly 17,000 Americans were unmasked by U.S. cyber spies for their contact with foreign intelligence targets. Government protocol mandates that when a message is intercepted by the NSA, in which one of the participants is American, the American’s name and identity is blacked out. Unmasking can occur when requested by intelligence officers or high-ranking government officials.

Sen Rubio: Russians were ‘in a position’ to alter FL voter rolls

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that Russian hackers had infiltrated Florida’s county-level election systems in 2016. The attack included malicious viruses sent by the GRU, a Russian military intelligence unit, to government officials who were handling 2016 county elections. Though the hackers “were in a position” to alter voter roll data, Rubio said, they didn’t appear to do so.

Rosenstein: Mueller report ‘only the tip of the iceberg’

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended himself on Thursday against criticism of his handling of the Mueller report, saying, “There was overwhelming evidence that Russian operatives hacked American computers and defrauded American citizens, and that is only the tip of the iceberg of a comprehensive Russian strategy to influence elections, promote social discord, and undermine America…”

Lexington Herald Leader: McConnell has some explaining to do

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should explain why he blocked a bipartisan denunciation of Russian interference in our election before voters went to the polls. Americans deserve to hear why McConnell did not trust them with the evidence that he and 11 other congressional leaders received in a confidential briefing in September. … Now McConnell and other Republicans are saying the integrity of our elections is too important for partisanship. But before the election McConnell appears to have put partisan concerns first.”

Arjun Bisen: Disinfo is drowning democracy

“From India to Indonesia to Brazil, democracy is being compromised by online domestic disinformation campaigns from political parties seeking to gain an advantage. Democratic institutions have not been able to keep up and have instead deferred to tech firms, trusting them to referee online behavior. But this is a task far beyond the limited capabilities and narrow motivations of companies such as Facebook and Twitter. If the democratic recession is to end, democratic institutions need to create new rules and hold the responsible parties to account.”

Global effort to stop spread of terror on social media

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that she and French President Emmanuel Macron will lead a global effort to stop social media from promoting terrorism. Freedom watchdog groups worry they could enact laws and regulations that infringe on people’s privacy and freedom of expression, but Ardern says their efforts will uphold the principles of a free Internet.

No high-level meetings on election interference since last year

Former Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen pushed for the White House to convene a cabinet meeting to address election interference but was refused. The last such meeting occurred before the November 2018 midterm elections, and since then there have been none. “We are far, far better prepared than we were in 2016, but we are still way behind where our adversaries are. It’s clear the administration hasn’t made foreign interference a high enough priority,” said an official.

Hillary Clinton: Mueller documented a serious crime — we must respond

“The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.”

Trump won’t commit to a hack-free campaign

Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is refusing to publicly state that it will not use hacked materials to its advantage — in glaring contrast with the Democratic National Committee and a long list of the party’s 2020 candidates who have pledged not to do so. Just more proof that the president is perfectly fine with election interference…as long as it helps him.

Russian interference went way beyond Facebook ads

On Tuesday, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers, said that the multiple investigations into Russian election interference have been more harmful to American democracy than the original interference itself. He couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, he might want to actually read the Mueller report, which reveals a years-long plot by the Russian government to interfere in the U.S. that investigators call “sweeping and systemic.”

New questions about Russian hacking

Some worrisome details in the Mueller report revive questions about just how far the Russians got in their quest to hack the American voting system. Florida, which has developed a reputation for voting issues, appeared to be a target. The report says the FBI believes Russian military intelligence gained access to at least one county government network in the Sunshine State.

Millions of Instagram passwords exposed

In March of 2019, Facebook wrote a blog post noting that millions of Facebook password were exposed in an internal data storage system. In that blog post, Facebook noted that relatively few Instagram passwords were affected. Conveniently timed on the day of the Mueller report release, Facebook amended the blog post now noting that millions of Instagram passwords were also left unprotected.

Weathering cyber attacks

A malicious software attack took The Weather Channel off the air for over an hour on Thursday. The Weather Channel eventually gained control and has turned the matter over to federal investigators.

Russia wants ‘Iron Cyber-curtain,’ like China’s ‘Great Firewall’

Russia’s lower house of parliament passed a bill giving the government a very high level of control over Russia’s internet. The bill will continue through the upper chamber and then to Putin, where it will certainly pass. The Russian government will be able to block certain content, monitor its citizens with greater efficiency, and have control over all internet traffic.

Assange’s cyber-army strikes back

Ecuador said on Monday it has suffered 40 million cyberattacks, originating around the world, on the webpages of the country’s public institutions since stripping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of political asylum. Hardest-hit were the foreign ministry, the central bank, the president’s office, the internal revenue service, and several ministries and universities.

Russians hack global navigation satellite system

The Russians are hacking the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) on a mass scale in order to confuse thousands of ships and airplanes about where they are, according to a study by Centre for Advanced Defense. Law enforcement, shipping, airlines, power stations, mobile phones, and anything else dependent on GPS time and location synchronization, are vulnerable to GNSS hacking.

Hackers breach FBI sites

A hacker group has breached several FBI-affiliated websites and uploaded their contents to the web, including dozens of files containing the personal information of thousands of federal agents and law enforcement officers. The hacker, who claims to have breached more than 1,000 sites, says he has “over a million data” on employees across several U.S. federal agencies and public service organizations.

The case against Assange explained

How far does freedom of the press go? Not as far as hacking. Some press freedom advocates have expressed concern that prosecuting Julian Assange represents a violation of freedom of the press. But he’s not being charged with publishing secrets but for conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, to illegally hack a government computer to obtain national security information.

Isaac Stone Fish: China has access to Grindr. We all should worry.

“Because a Chinese company now oversees Grindr’s data, photographs, and messages, that means the Party can, if it chooses to do so, access all of that information, regardless of where it’s stored. And that data includes compromising photos and messages from some of America’s most powerful men — some openly gay, and some closeted. Couple this with China’s progress in developing big data and facial recognition software, industries more advanced there than in the United States, and there are some concerning national security implications of a Chinese-owned Grindr.”