Alphabet CEO Calls for Government Action in Tech Innovation

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent Alphabet, is urging the U.S. government to step up innovation and more actively police cyberthreats. In a year beset with security breaches attributed to Russian and Chinese hackers, Pichai says it’s time to draft a Geneva Convention for technology, outlining international legal standards, safeguards and behavioral norms for the connected age. Pichai also made an appeal for state-sponsored innovation in the face of competition from China, where the Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has outlined plans to advance artificial intelligence and develop a proprietary semiconductor sector. Continue reading Alphabet CEO Calls for Government Action in Tech Innovation

U.S. Advances Cybersecurity Steps as Ransomware Doubles

Payments flagged by U.S. banks as suspected ransomware in 2021 are on pace to nearly double those of 2020, according to reports filed with the Treasury Department. Almost $600 million in potential ransomware payments have been filed with the federal government from January through June, which is more than 40 percent more than the tally for full-year 2020. Reflecting the fact that governments worldwide describe cybercrime as a critical national security threat, the first International Cybersecurity Challenge is scheduled for Greece in June 2022, where 25 Americans aged 18 to 26 are set to compete. Continue reading U.S. Advances Cybersecurity Steps as Ransomware Doubles

SEC Probe of SolarWinds Attack Concerns Corporate Execs

A Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the 2020 Russian cyberattack of SolarWinds has corporate executives concerned over the possibility that information unearthed in the probe will expose them to liability. Companies suspected of or known to have been downloading compromised software updates from SolarWinds have received letters requesting records of all breaches since October 2019, raising fears that sensitive cyber incidents previously unreported and unrelated to SolarWinds may be revealed, providing the SEC with details that many companies may never have wanted to disclose. Continue reading SEC Probe of SolarWinds Attack Concerns Corporate Execs

Facebook Decides to Curtail Political Content in News Feed

All politics may be local, but you can expect less of it to be social. As of August 31, Facebook began reducing political content that appears in its News Feed. The move comes as the social media giant attempts to beat back a barrage of criticism for spreading misinformation through the use of algorithms that appear to reward click-generating controversies over level-headed dialogue. The new content modification is “in response to common feedback from our community,” a Facebook spokesperson said. Continue reading Facebook Decides to Curtail Political Content in News Feed

U.S. Cybersecurity Agency Enlists Amazon, Google, Microsoft

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, debuted the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC), which will leverage the expertise of Big Tech companies including Amazon, Google and Microsoft. According to CISA director Jen Easterly, the initiative’s aim is first to combat ransomware and cyberattacks on cloud-computing providers and ultimately to improve defense planning and information sharing between the government and private sectors. Continue reading U.S. Cybersecurity Agency Enlists Amazon, Google, Microsoft

Spotify Increases Its Ad Revenue While User Growth Is ‘Soft’

Spotify Technology saw its advertising revenue more than double during the quarter ending June 30, but its audio streaming service added fewer total users than expected. Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek noted that, “while I’m disappointed that our [user] growth was softer in the last half of Q1 and the first half of Q2, the good news is that we’ve seen that trend line reverse, and all the leading indicators I’m seeing show that we are back on track.” At the end of the quarter, Spotify had 365 million monthly active users, a 22 percent bump year-over-year. Continue reading Spotify Increases Its Ad Revenue While User Growth Is ‘Soft’

Massive Ransomware Attack Affects Hundreds of Businesses

Software company Kaseya was targeted by a cyberattack starting Friday that has since spread to hundreds of mainly small and medium-size businesses. On Monday, Kaseya chief executive Fred Voccola reported to Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, that the attackers demanded a $70 million ransomware payment and that his company wasn’t aware of any breach of critical infrastructure impacting national security. According to experts, the attackers may be members of REvil, a Russian cybercriminal group. Continue reading Massive Ransomware Attack Affects Hundreds of Businesses

U.S. Offers Incentives for Countries to Avoid China’s 5G Gear

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) is leading a program to encourage nations to avoid gear from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE in building their own 5G networks. The workshops on how to do so, combined with a handbook and some financial incentives, are aimed at legislators in Central and Eastern Europe as well as developing countries around the world. The handbook will include case studies of how the United Kingdom, for example, deployed 5G without Chinese equipment. Continue reading U.S. Offers Incentives for Countries to Avoid China’s 5G Gear

Government Establishes Task Force to Promote AI Innovation

The Biden administration has formed the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force with plans to “develop a roadmap to democratize access to research tools that will promote AI innovation and fuel economic prosperity.” The task force, composed of 12 academic, government and industrial members led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), will establish the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR). The task force is charged with drafting a strategy to create an AI research system about Americans and finding enough computing power to analyze the data.  Continue reading Government Establishes Task Force to Promote AI Innovation

Facebook Will No Longer Offer Politicians Special Treatment

Facebook revealed that former President Donald Trump’s suspension from its platform would last for at least two years. Trump will be eligible for reinstatement on the social network in January 2023, before the next U.S. presidential election. At that time, experts will decide “whether the risk to public safety has receded.” Further violations would trigger “rapidly escalating sanctions” and potentially a permanent suspension. The company also announced that it would end its policy of treating the posts of world leaders and other politicians differently than those of other Facebook users. Continue reading Facebook Will No Longer Offer Politicians Special Treatment

FBI Director Raises Alarm Over Ransomware Threats to U.S.

The FBI is investigating 100 ransomware variants, stated director Christopher Wray, who revealed that many of them trace back to Russian hackers. He noted that the cyberattacks share “a lot of parallels … a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention” with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Most recently, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline cost its operators $4.4 million to regain control and restore services (however, federal authorities recovered $2.3 million in cryptocurrency yesterday). Another attack targeted JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company.  Continue reading FBI Director Raises Alarm Over Ransomware Threats to U.S.

Russia Amps Up Demands, Threatens to Throttle Social Media

Russia’s Internet regulator, Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media), has increased demands that Facebook, Google and Twitter remove “illegal” content and restore blocked pro-Kremlin content or face restrictions. Since anti-Kremlin protesters used the platforms more recently, Roskomnadzor has upped the frequency of its demands. This week it told Google to block “thousands of pieces of illegal content” or risk throttling. A Russian court also fined Google six million rubles ($81,000) for not removing another piece of content. Continue reading Russia Amps Up Demands, Threatens to Throttle Social Media

U.S. Takes Steps Against Russian and Chinese Cyberattacks

Blaming Russia for attacks that interfered in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, President Biden imposed new sanctions on 32 entities and individuals in that country. Although sanctions will make it more difficult to partake in the global economy, the White House did not immediately limit Russia’s ability to borrow money on the global market. Biden noted he “chose to be proportionate” and “is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia.” The FBI has also recently taken strong steps to stop Chinese hacking. Continue reading U.S. Takes Steps Against Russian and Chinese Cyberattacks

Biden to Issue Executive Order Upgrading U.S. Cybersecurity

President Joe Biden is working on a draft executive order to require companies doing business with the federal government to report hacks within a few days. Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated the order would also require the companies to use data encryption and two-factor authentication and would combat ransomware and improve protection for industrial control systems, transportation and election security. The SolarWinds hack has prompted the government to pay closer attention to cybersecurity. Continue reading Biden to Issue Executive Order Upgrading U.S. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity: White House Pursues Public-Private Alliances

Russia and China recently ran sophisticated hacks from servers inside the United States, going undetected by the National Security Agency, which is prohibited from conducting surveillance in the U.S., as well as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Private computer security firms were the first to raise the alarm on these foreign attacks, and Microsoft reported that its patches are being reverse-engineered by criminal groups to launch ransomware attacks on corporations. The White House is paying attention. Continue reading Cybersecurity: White House Pursues Public-Private Alliances