Gopal Ratnam

Cost Isn’t Everything. Pentagon Should Judge Contractors on Cybersecurity, Report Says
Security would be ‘fourth pillar’ in weapons purchase decisions

The Pentagon should take into account the cybersecurity capabilities of defense contractors in addition to cost and performance measures when awarding contracts, a U.S. government-funded think tank recommended in a report published Monday.

Through its buying process, the Pentagon “can influence and shape the conduct of its suppliers,” the Mitre Corp. said in a report titled “Deliver Uncompromised: A Strategy for Supply Chain Security and Resilience in Response to the Changing Character of War.”

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Say They Don't Censor Conservatives

Executives from the world’s top social media companies tried to reassure Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that their platforms do not censor or control conservative content and commentary, contrary to assertions by some lawmakers about the companies’ practices.

While social media companies such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have been removing false accounts, fake ads, and banning foreign government-owned propaganda outlets, lawmakers said some of them also have been restricting conservative content.

DHS: Russia Not Targeting Election Systems Like 2016
No evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with midterms

U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security are not seeing evidence so far of a concerted effort by Russia to hack or penetrate American election systems during the 2018 midterms, top Homeland Security officials told lawmakers Wednesday.

Although the 2018 “midterms remain a potential target for Russian actors,” the intelligence community has yet to see evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with our election infrastructure along the lines of 2016 or influencing the makeup of the House or Senate races, Christopher Krebs, the top DHS official overseeing cybersecurity and elections security, told the House Homeland Security Committee.

War Over FBI and Justice Reaches Crescendo on Hill
Divided House passes resolution demanding surveillance documents by July 6

Partisan clashes over the Justice Department and the FBI intensified Thursday as the House passed a resolution 226-183 demanding that Justice leaders turn over thousands of pages of investigative documents pertaining to the investigation of Carter Page and other former aides to President Donald Trump’s campaign. 

The House resolution insists that the Justice Department by July 6 comply with document requests and subpoenas issued by the Intelligence and Judiciary committees regarding potential violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by department personnel during the FBI’s investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign.

CIA Nominees Often Feel Like a ‘Dancing Bear’ in Capitol Circus

One of President Bill Clinton’s nominees for CIA director, after months of repeated hearings and delays by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, dropped out, saying that he felt like a “dancing bear in a political circus.”

Another one of Clinton’s CIA nominees, a retired Air Force general, Michael P. C. Carnes, withdrew because of a scandal involving a Filipino servant he had brought to the United States.

Fearing New Government Rules, Tech Titans Promise Security Vigilance
Lawmakers also may be likely to push for new legislation

SAN FRANCISCO — New European privacy rules, the spotlight on Facebook’s role in the 2016 elections, and the potential that cyberattacks targeting devices could harm consumers in their homes are propelling the tech industry to question its security practices and prompting top executives to promise to make amends.

During five days at the annual RSA Conference last week in San Francisco, top executives from the world’s largest technology companies, including Google, Microsoft, IBM, CISCO, McAfee and Symantec, said they took the scrutiny seriously and would not only step up to make their own devices and software safer but also work with thousands of vendors worldwide urging them to do the same.

Three Cybersecurity Bills to Hit Trump’s Desk This Year, Staffers Say
Movement on ‘Internet of things,’ intelligence and homeland security measures

SAN FRANCISCO — Dozens of bills are filed in Congress relating to cybersecurity and data breaches but many if not most may never see a committee markup let alone a floor vote. But key congressional staffers speaking at the RSA Conference here predicted at least three bills are likely to get to the president’s desk this year. 

A House-passed measure that would reorganize the Department of Homeland Security and create a new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has also cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and is awaiting Senate floor passage. 

Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Silos
Administration looks for ways to strengthen cyberattack defenses

SAN FRANCISCO — The Homeland Security Department is working on a cybersecurity strategy that aims to strengthen the overall digital economy’s defenses against cyberattacks, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at a cybersecurity conference here on Tuesday.

The strategy “will bolster our digital defenses by prioritizing enhancements in risk identification, vulnerability reduction, threat reduction, and consequence mitigation,” Nielsen said without identifying when the strategy is likely to be made public. “We must be more aware of vulnerabilities built into the fabric of the internet, and other widespread weaknesses.”

A Deeper Look at 2016 Facebook Ads Targeting Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
Large volume of ads came from suspicious groups, many of them Russian in origin

A forthcoming peer-reviewed study of paid political ads that appeared on Facebook in the weeks just prior to the 2016 presidential election shows that of 228 groups purchasing ads on hot-button issues, 122 — more than half — were submitted by “suspicious” groups whose identities may never be known.

The University of Wisconsin researchers, led by Professor Young Mie Kim, defined “suspicious” as meaning there was no publicly available information on who was behind the groups.

Zuckerberg Vows to Step Up Security at Expense of Facebook’s Profits
Social media CEO plans to say ‘I’m sorry’ during House testimony

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will tell lawmakers this week that the social media company plans to significantly increase spending on security even at the cost of its bottom line to prevent the kinds of data leaks and manipulation by fake accounts that have dogged the company in the past two years.

“I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security — on top of the other investments we’re making — that it will significantly impact our profitability,” Zuckerberg plans to tell Congress, according to his prepared remarks made public by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday. “But I want to be clear about what our priority is: protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”

Facebook Case Highlights Possibility of New Privacy Laws
Data experts say U.S. privacy regulations could move toward European model

Facing mounting criticism after news broke that his company shared users’ data with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said in recent days he would accept some federal regulation.

The question is what sort of rules or legislation would even begin to address the authorized data sharing that appears to be at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica case.

DARPA Chief Touts Artificial Intelligence Efforts
Assertions push back on private sector worries about lagging behind

The United States is no laggard on investment and advances in artificial intelligence technologies, Steven Walker, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told reporters on Thursday, disputing assertions by top U.S. technology executives that China was racing ahead.

“I think I’d put our AI, our country’s efforts, up against anybody,” Walker said at an event hosted by the Defense Writers Group. DARPA “helped create the field in the early 1960s” and since then has consistently invested in the three waves of artificial intelligence technologies, Walker said.

No White House Order to Combat Russia, Cybercom Chief Says
Third administration official says Trump has given no guidance on countering interference

Russia hasn’t been sufficiently penalized for its meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, and that has emboldened Moscow to continue interfering in American elections, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

“They haven’t paid a price sufficient to change their behavior,” Rogers said under questioning by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Report: Cybercrime May Have Cost 0.8 Percent of 2016 Global GDP
Russia, North Korea and Iran named as top perpetrators of cybercrime

Theft of personal data, loss of intellectual property and opportunity costs stemming from these and other cybercrimes in 2016 may have cost the global economy 0.8 percent — or as much as $600 billion — according to a report released Wednesday.

The growing spread of computer connectivity, easy availability of malware and the ability to monetize stolen information is leading to an explosion in cybercrime, according to the report, titled Economic Impact of Cybercrime. It was prepared by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, and McAfee, a computer security firm.

Grand Jury Indicts Russian Nationals for Election Interference
Operatives targeted Clinton, Rubio and Cruz, while largely supporting Trump and Sanders

Updated 3:25 p.m. | The Justice Department charged Russian operatives Friday with a sweeping effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, spending millions of dollars to wage social media campaigns, buy political advertisements and pose as grass-roots organizers to spark political rallies on American soil.

The grand jury criminal indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies landed like a bombshell in Washington, where the debate has raged over the extent of Russia’s influence in the election while President Donald Trump has waged a campaign to quell special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

Schiff Says He Fears Mueller’s Findings Won’t Become Public
Top Intelligence Committee Democrat concerned about politicized decision-making

The complete findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections may not become public when the probe is completed, California Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday.

“One of the issues I have raised with the deputy attorney general” Rod Rosenstein is “how are we going to deal with this when the investigations come to an end?” Schiff said, referring to findings of the Mueller probe. “Will there be a report to Congress and what will Bob Mueller be able to disclose publicly?”

Nunes Memo Could Weaken FISA, Congressional Panels
Officials worry about compromising sources, chilling intelligence officials

Releasing a four-page memo authored by aides to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., alleging abuse of surveillance power by the FBI could ultimately weaken the process by which U.S. intelligence agencies seek secret court orders to conduct surveillance on foreigners, lawmakers and former intelligence professionals say.

Moreover, releasing the memo could erode the trust between the intelligence community and the congressional intelligence panels, these officials say.

With House Passage of FISA Measure, Action Moves to Senate
GOP leaders in chamber move to restrict amendments to reauthorization

The House on Thursday approved 256-164 a bill to reauthorize provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for another six years, putting the measure in the Senate’s hands.

The bill, backed by the Trump administration and all the U.S. intelligence agencies, would preserve the FBI and the intelligence agencies’ ability to search a surveillance database for information on Americans with minimal warrant requirements.

FISA Vote in the House Pivots on Privacy
Bipartisan group is demanding tougher protections

The House is set to vote Thursday on a bill to extend the electronic surveillance powers of the National Security Agency. 

How the House votes could determine whether the bill wins Senate passage for a long-term extension of provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or if lawmakers hit another roadblock and decide to punt again. Facing an impasse before Christmas, Congress passed a short-term extension until Jan. 19. The provisions were due to expire Dec. 31. 

Tech Companies Get an Earful From Intelligence Committee
Senators accuse executives of just not getting extent of Russian meddling

Big technology companies faced a second day of public lashing on Capitol Hill, with the Senate Intelligence Committee accusing companies of a lackluster response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

On Tuesday, executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter told the Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee that ads and automated non-advertising content generated by Moscow-backed companies reached hundreds of millions of Americans during the 2016 election — a number that is far higher than previous estimates offered by the companies.