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Tech Brief: Alleged Hackers in Yahoo Breach Said to Have Ties to Russian Government

Washington Brief

  • Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials plan to announce charges against hackers who they say stole the personal data of hundreds of millions of Yahoo Inc. users, disrupting that company’s sale to Verizon Communications Inc. At least some of the alleged hackers are said to have ties to the Russian government. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Republican voters are significantly more likely to approve of the leak of Central Intelligence Agency documents when told it was carried out by WikiLeaks, a frequent foe of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a new poll. While 39 percent of GOP respondents generally supported such leaks, that number rose to 48 percent when respondents were told WikiLeaks was responsible for them. (Morning Consult)
  • A federal appeals court in Washington ruled that a U.S. citizen cannot sue the Ethiopian government for hacking into his computer and monitoring him with spyware since some of the hacking took place outside the United States. Anti-surveillance advocates disputed that characterization, saying the citizen was inside the United States the entire time. (Vice News)

Business Brief

  • The German government said Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. may be fined as much as $53 million if they don’t step up their efforts to delete posts that include fake news, hate speech or terrorist propaganda. Germany’s justice minister said he would propose a law to fine social network companies that don’t respond quickly to content complaints. (The New York Times)
  • Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service said Apple Inc.’s Russia arm illegally fixed prices on certain iPhone models through coordination with retailers. The charge could lead to fines for Apple. (Financial Times)
  • Hundreds of tech workers in Silicon Valley organized on Pi Day to protest President Donald Trump’s policies and to push company leaders to speak out against the president. The rally was also designed to address the concerns of people whose jobs have been disrupted by new technology. (The Los Angeles Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Wednesday
Senate Commerce Committee hearing on integrating unmanned aircraft systems 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on advanced materials and production 10:15 a.m.
FCBA Wireless Committee meeting with FCC eighth-floor wireless aides 12:15 p.m.
FCC Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council meeting 1 p.m.
Thursday
ITIF event on Chinese innovation 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on smart communities 10 a.m.
Friday
Open Technology Institute event on strong encryption 1:30 p.m.

 

General

Tech workers celebrate Pi Day with protest against Trump administration
Tracey Lien, The Los Angeles Times

Hundreds of Bay Area tech workers converged on Palo Alto’s King Plaza on Tuesday afternoon in a show of solidarity against the Trump administration’s policies and rhetoric, which the industry believes are a threat to the “values that drive Silicon Valley.” The rally, organized by software engineer Brad Taylor to coincide with March 14’s mathematically themed Pi Day, was used to urge company leaders to speak out for employees and customers negatively affected by administration policies (the tech industry got its first taste of this in January when President Trump’s immigration travel ban left hundreds of tech workers stranded overseas).

H-1B Visas Keep Down U.S. Tech Wages, Study Shows
John Simons, The Wall Street Journal

Silicon Valley has long portrayed the U.S. visa program for skilled foreign workers as a win-win, providing much-needed tech talent and fueling innovation and economic growth. Critics—including President Donald Trump—have said that the H-1B visa program disadvantages American workers by allowing companies to hire cheaper foreign labor for roles that would have gone to U.S. workers.

Ex-Google Ventures CEO Maris Set to Raise $100 Million Fund
Lizette Chapman, Bloomberg News

Bill Maris, the former chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc.’s venture investing arm, has changed his mind again; he’s decided to raise a fund after all, according to people familiar with the plans. The founder of Google Ventures was on the verge of closing a $230 million health-care-oriented fund in December, after leaving the group last year, but abruptly pulled the plug.

Toshiba shares slide as crisis deepens, fate of Westinghouse unclear
Ayai Tomisawa and Hideyuki Sano, Reuters

Shares in Toshiba Corp tumbled on Wednesday after it said it would consider a sale of Westinghouse but did not offer any clarity on whether it would proceed with a Chapter 11 filing for the U.S. nuclear unit – a move that could stem losses. Toshiba’s failure to submit audited third-quarter earnings on Tuesday and its announcement of an expanded probe into Westinghouse also contributed to broad disappointment as did the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s placing of the stock on its supervision list.

DeepMind Finds Way to Overcome AI’s Forgetfulness Problem
Jeremy Kahn, Bloomberg News

DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence company owned by Alphabet Inc., claims it overcame a key limitation affecting one of the most promising machine learning technologies: the software’s inability to remember. The breakthrough, described in a paper published Tuesday in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may open the way for artificial intelligence systems to be more easily applied to multiple tasks, instead of being narrowly trained for one purpose.

Europe Stocks, Oil Rise as Bonds Steady Before Fed
Benjamin Purvis and Samuel Potter, Bloomberg News

Futures on the S&P 500 added 0.3 percent. The benchmark index slipped 0.3 percent on Tuesday.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Apple found guilty of price-fixing in Russia over iPhone prices
Henry Foy and Madhumita Murgia, Financial Times

Apple has been found guilty of price-fixing in Russia, after the country’s anti-monopoly agency said the US company had arranged for retailers to co-ordinate the prices of its iPhone models. Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service on Tuesday said Apple’s Russian subsidiary had illegally ordered retailers to fix prices of its iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 products, a charge that could lead to the California-based company being fined.

MacroSolve: Donald Trump Jr.’s favorite patent enforcer
Joe Mullin, Ars Technica

Before President Donald Trump took the oath of office in January, he handed off management of the Trump Organization’s business interests to his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. The family-owned company has been in various lines of business over the years—most famously, there are hotels, casinos, and golf resorts, some owned and others licensed.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

There’s a Black Market for Truly Unlimited Data Plans Hiding in Plain Sight
Adam Elder, Vice News

Unlimited data is having a moment right now. T-Mobile’s wildly successful unlimited data plan, released in August 2016 to capture market share, set off a chain reaction.

ACA Pushes FCC to End Charter’s Overbuild Condition
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The American Cable Association has filed a letter with the FCC on behalf of 38 small and mid-sized ISPs asking the FCC to remove the overbuild condition in the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger. “[W]e all have plans to invest in improved network technologies to offer greater performance or to expand our networks into unserved areas. Unfortunately, the merger condition requiring Charter to overbuild other providers has undermined those plans to provide improved services and reach new customers,” the ISPs told the FCC.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Facebook and Twitter Could Face Fines in Germany Over Hate Speech Posts
Melissa Eddy and Mark Scott, The New York Times

Social media giants including Facebook and Twitter are not doing enough to curb hate speech on their platforms and could face fines of up to $53 million if they do not strengthen their efforts to delete illegal posts, a German government minister said on Tuesday. The move by the country’s authorities comes as technology companies face increasing scrutiny worldwide over how they police online material including hate speech, possible terrorist propaganda and so-called fake news.

Uber Rival Grab Boosts Research & Development With 800 New Jobs
Yoolim Lee, Bloomberg News

Grab, Uber Technologies Inc.’s biggest rival in Southeast Asia, is hiring more than 800 new research and development staff over the next two years as it seeks to boost its ride-hailing and payment services. Two new R&D centers are opening in Bangalore and Ho Chi Minh City, the Singapore-based company said in a statement Wednesday.

Intel bets on selling Mobileye data, with maps a first test
Alexandria Sage, Reuters

To understand Intel’s $15.3 billion proposed acquisition of Israel’s Mobileye, imagine the data created and compiled by a self-driving car scanning the road and objects around it as a potential source of revenue. That data, says Intel Corp Chief Executive Brian Krzanich, is the key to the deal, and may see its first tangible revenue stream through mapping technology.

Hacked Twitter Accounts Post Swastikas, Pro-Erdogan Content
Nour Al Ali, Bloomberg News

Hacked Twitter Accounts Post Swastikas, Pro-Erdogan ContentAs Dutch voters head to the polls on Wednesday, a swath of high-profile Twitter accounts have posted content supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his feud with Germany and the Netherlands, with hashtags reading, in Turkish, “NaziGermany” and “NaziHolland.” The messages and swastikas appeared on the verified Twitter accounts of German newspaper Die Welt, Forbes Magazine, BBC North America, and Reuters Japan.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

U.S. Officials Plan to Unveil Charges Tied to Yahoo Hack
Deepa Seetharaman and Aruna Viswanatha, The Wall Street Journal

U.S. officials are planning to unveil charges Wednesday related to the theft of personal data that affected hundreds of millions of Yahoo Inc. users and disrupted the company’s sale to Verizon Communications Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. At least some of the alleged hackers have ties to the Russian government, said the people, who added the national security division of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation plan to announce the charges Wednesday morning.

Republicans More Likely to Back CIA Leaks Published by WikiLeaks
Cameron Easley, Morning Consult

Republicans are significantly more likely to back last week’s Central Intelligence Agency document leak when they know the information was published by WikiLeaks, a new Morning Consult/POLITICO survey shows. In the survey, 39 percent of Republicans said they approved of the release of CIA documents allegedly outlining agency techniques for hacking and surveillance, including tools for hacking smartphones, televisions and other devices to monitor potential terrorist.

Court Says Hacking Victim Can’t Sue a Foreign Government For Hacking Him on US Soil
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Vice News

A court of appeals in Washington D.C. ruled that an American citizen can’t sue the Ethiopian government for hacking into his computer and monitoring him with spyware. The decision on Tuesday is a blow to anti-surveillance and digital rights activists who were hoping to establish an important precedent in a widely documented case of illegitimate government-sponsored hacking.

FBI’s methods to spy on journalists should remain classified, judge rules
David Kravets, Ars Technica

A federal judge is agreeing with the FBI’s contention that publicly disclosing its methods on how it spies on journalists could hamper national security. A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Freedom of the Press Foundation sought FBI procedures surrounding the agency’s protocol when issuing National Security Letters (NSLs) against members of the media.

SAP pushes to patch risky HANA security flaws before hackers strike
Eric Auchard, Reuters

Europe’s top software maker SAP said on Tuesday it had patched vulnerabilities in its latest HANA software that had a potentially high risk of giving hackers control over databases and business applications used to run big multinational firms. While hacks on phones, websites and computers that consumers rely on every day grab headlines, vulnerabilities in big business software are more lucrative to attackers as these tools store data and run transactions which are the lifeblood of businesses.

Apple hired respected iPhone security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski
April Glaser, Recode

Apple hired an important figure from the forensic security and mobile phone hacking community. Jonathan Zdziarski announced today that he accepted a position with Apple’s security engineering and architecture team.

Maker of ‘Smart’ Vibrators Settles Data Collection Lawsuit for $3.75 Million
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, The New York Times

Forget about prying microwaves. The real spies might be sex toys.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Looking for something voters can agree on? Repeal the Durbin amendment. Recent polling shows that by a 2-1 margin voters think the Durbin amendment should be repealed. It is a failed policy, with retailers pocketing an extra $42 billion at their customers’ expense. Get the facts about retailers’ broken promises from EPC.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The real shocker in the WikiLeaks scoop
David Ignatius, The Washington Post

WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange’s revelation last week of the CIA’s arsenal of hacking tools had a misplaced tone of surprise, a bit like Claude Rains’s famous line in “Casablanca”: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” The hacking community, of which WikiLeaks and the CIA’s cyberwarriors are both aggressive offshoots, has been invading and exploiting every device in sight since the dawn of the digital age.

Cutting Social Services Only Makes the Robotic Takeover Worse
Maya Rockeymoore, Wired

Making arguments like the poor “just don’t want healthcare,” Congressional Republicans are implementing their long-standing agenda to tear down America’s social safety net. The GOP’s stunningly myopic actions ignore the fact that a strong safety net is vital to helping workers weather upcoming labor market disruptions from automation in transportation and other sectors.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Across party lines, a majority of voters identify the Durbin amendment as a price control. History has taught us price controls rarely work as intended and the Durbin amendment is another example of failed policy. It’s time to end the merchant markup once and for all. Learn how to take action now.

Research Reports

Alternative Credentials Prior Learning 2.0
Jill Buban, Online Learning Consortium

The objective of this study is to provide a better understanding of how adult learning institutions address students who possess alternative credentials and seek to apply these experiences to a degree. The findings of this study will not only allow for a better understanding of how alternative credentials are defined and used at adult learning institutions, but will serve as a useful tool for education planners, policy makers, administrators, researchers and government leaders to help shape future ideas about how to serve adult learners in their quest for degree attainment and student success.