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

After SolarWinds Hack, Big Tech Debates Cloud Data Security

The SolarWinds hack invaded at least nine U.S. government agencies and 100+ corporations. Now, Microsoft is at odds with Dell Technologies and IBM on the best way to secure data. Microsoft president Brad Smith stated that “cloud migration is critical to improving security maturity,” but the other two companies opine that a hybrid cloud and on-premise data storage is preferable. Smith stated that all the breached accounts Microsoft identified involved on-premise systems and that a hybrid system is more vulnerable to attacks. Continue reading After SolarWinds Hack, Big Tech Debates Cloud Data Security

White House Names Official to Lead Probe of Expansive Hack

In December, suspected Russian hackers compromised SolarWinds Corp., a small software vendor, leveraging it to infiltrate the U.S. departments of Commerce, State and Treasury, as well as numerous private companies. An in-depth investigation revealed that the hack’s scope was larger than first known, with about one-third of those hacked having no direct connection with SolarWinds. Now, the Biden administration has selected White House National Security Council senior official Anne Neuberger to lead the response. Continue reading White House Names Official to Lead Probe of Expansive Hack

Spotify Reports Q4 Subscriber Growth, Focuses on Podcasts

Spotify Technology SA posted unexpectedly strong subscription growth during Q4 2020, to 345 million monthly active users, up 27 percent from a year earlier. Paid subscriptions grew 24 percent above the same period last year to 155 million. But average revenue per subscriber fell 8 percent to €4.26 ($5.13) due to discounted plans and lower rates in India and Russia. The company’s 2021 outlook takes into account that such growth could diminish in 2021. Shares of the company fell 9 percent to $315. Continue reading Spotify Reports Q4 Subscriber Growth, Focuses on Podcasts

EU Commission Recalibrates Its Positions with Big Tech, U.S.

The European Union is eagerly anticipating the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, even as it scrutinizes proposals targeting U.S. Big Tech behavior and, in some cases, business models in an effort to reestablish itself as the “global tech cop.” Although the Electoral College has yet to convene and vote and inauguration day isn’t until January 20, the European Commission and Council are already issuing policy papers on how they hope to partner with the new U.S. administration on numerous issues. Continue reading EU Commission Recalibrates Its Positions with Big Tech, U.S.

Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

At a Senate Judiciary Committee, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey reported that their companies made improvements in blocking misinformation during the 2020 presidential election, compared to their inability to stop Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Judiciary chair Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said both companies will face modifications to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects them from liability for user-posted content, and the two chief execs expressed cautious support for the idea. Continue reading Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

MPAA Reports on Threat of Geolocation Piracy to Streaming

The Motion Picture Association submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative stating that VPNs, DNS masks and Tor networks can be a direct threat to legitimate streaming services. MPAA membership has been limited to top Hollywood studios such as Disney and Warner Bros. but that changed last year when Netflix joined. The mission, however, remains the same, which is to deter global piracy. The association goes after copyright infringers, be they site owners or app developers, and is also involved in lobbying. Continue reading MPAA Reports on Threat of Geolocation Piracy to Streaming

Russia Pushes More Disinformation via Facebook and Twitter

Facebook and Twitter reported that the Internet Research Agency in Russia, which reportedly interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is again using fake accounts and created Peace Data, a fake left-wing website. With the likely goal of influencing the 2020 election, it is believed to be spreading disinformation about Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden. U.S. intelligence agencies have warned for months about Russian meddling. Both social platforms have already taken steps to address such disinformation; most recently, Facebook announced plans to block political ads one week before the November election and Twitter is adding more context to Trending Topics. Continue reading Russia Pushes More Disinformation via Facebook and Twitter

Quality of Deepfakes and Textfakes Increase Potential Impact

FireEye data scientist Philip Tully showed off a convincing deepfake of Tom Hanks he built with less than $100 and open-source code. Until recently, most deepfakes have been low quality and pretty easy to spot. FireEye demonstrated that now, even those with little AI expertise can use published AI code and a bit of fine-tuning to create much more convincing results. But many experts believe deepfake text is a bigger threat, as the GPT-3 autoregressive language model can produce text that is difficult to distinguish from that written by humans. Continue reading Quality of Deepfakes and Textfakes Increase Potential Impact

Spotify, Universal Music Join Forces With New Licensing Pact

Spotify inked a new multi-year global licensing deal with Universal Music Group after being out-of-contract for about a year. Under the terms of the agreement, Spotify has access to UMG’s catalog for streaming and UMG will be part of Spotify’s so-called two-sided marketplace, whereby it will pay for analytics, data and marketing. Spotify, under pressure to prove to investors that it can be more consistently profitable, spends most of its revenue on licensing deals with music publishers and record labels. Continue reading Spotify, Universal Music Join Forces With New Licensing Pact

Social Media Campaign Aims to Link Coronavirus to 5G Tech

One conspiracy theory making the rounds on the Internet connects the coronavirus outbreak to 5G technology. Although actors Woody Harrelson and John Cusack are among those endorsing the misinformation, researchers indicate the majority of online activity around this theory is coordinated and possibly state sponsored. That’s the conclusion of Marc Owen Jones, a researcher at Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifa University, who analyzed 22,000 Twitter interactions and found a large number displaying “inauthentic activity.” Continue reading Social Media Campaign Aims to Link Coronavirus to 5G Tech

Commission Finds U.S. Is Unprepared for Major Cyberattacks

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission released a report based on a months-long study that showed the U.S. government’s lack of ability to block cyber threats. The Commission lists 75 recommendations for major structural changes, including the creation of Congressional committees dedicated to cybersecurity and a White House-based national cybersecurity director to be confirmed by the Senate. The report is blunt in its assessment that the U.S. government’s current approach to cyberattacks is “fundamentally flawed.” Continue reading Commission Finds U.S. Is Unprepared for Major Cyberattacks

Study Reveals Power, Reach of Paid Influence Campaigns

The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, an independent group that advises the organization, conducted a test to see how well big tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter are doing in filtering out paid influence campaigns that use automated bots and other means to manipulate social media. It did so by hiring 11 Russian and five European companies in the business of selling fake social media engagement and found that a small amount of money could cause a lot of damage. Continue reading Study Reveals Power, Reach of Paid Influence Campaigns

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