Tech Brief: DHS Designates Election Systems as Critical Infrastructure

Washington Brief

  • Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson designated election systems to be part of U.S. critical infrastructure in an effort to better protect the voting process from potential hacking efforts. (Ars Technica)
  • Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said President-elect Donald Trump now accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia played a role in hacking the Democratic National Committee and the emails of John Podesta, who was campaign chairman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (Politico)
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday will hold a hearing to discuss Russian hacking operations against the U.S. The panel will hear testimony from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey. (Morning Consult)

Business Brief

  • Waymo, the self-driving car firm spun off from Google Inc. late last year, is expected to deploy a fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans on public roads later this month in Phoenix and Mountain View, Calif. (The Verge)
  • Uber is creating a tool for traffic analysis that will be publicly available, part of an effort to smooth over the issue of data sharing that has caused tension between Uber and city authorities in some of its biggest markets. (Financial Times)
  • Facebook hired former NBC News correspondent and CNN prime-time host Campbell Brown to lead its news partnerships team. In the newly created position, Brown said she will “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook.” (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled.
FCC hosts Informal Working Group Four on regulatory issues 10 a.m.
Clapper, Rogers, Brennan, Comey testify at Senate Intelligence Committee hearing 1 p.m.
Open Technology Institute event on internet freedom 9:30 a.m.
Rep. Pompeo testifies at Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for CIA post 10 a.m.
Reps. Hultgren, Luján speak at event on tech R&D 10 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing for Elaine Chao to lead Transportation Dept. 10:15 a.m.
Atlantic Council event on a nonstate strategy for cybersecurity 3:30 p.m.
FTC hosts PrivacyCon 9 a.m.
Commerce Committee nomination hearing for Wilbur Ross to lead Commerce Dept. 10 a.m.
No events scheduled.



This Week: Goodbye from Obama, Grillings for Trump’s Cabinet Picks
Meghan McCarthy, Morning Consult

Discussion of Russian hacking operations continues on Capitol Hill. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, CIA Director John Brennan and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey are scheduled to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Russia Requires Apple and Google to Remove LinkedIn From Local App Stores
Cecilia Kang and Katie Benner, The New York Times

Smartphone users in Russia can no longer download the LinkedIn app on iPhone or Android devices, following a similar move in China to block The New York Times app on iPhones. The demand by Russian authorities to remove LinkedIn in Apple and Google app stores comes weeks after a court blocked the professional networking service for flouting local laws that require internet firms to store data on Russian citizens within the nation’s borders.

China Chip Policy Poses Risk to U.S. Firms, White House Says
David McLaughlin and Ian King, Bloomberg News

China’s push to develop its domestic semiconductor technology threatens to harm U.S. chipmakers and put America’s national security at risk, the Obama administration warned in a report that called for greater scrutiny of Chinese industrial policy. China’s goal to achieve a leadership position in semiconductor design and manufacturing, in part by spending $150 billion over a 10-year period, requires an effective response to maintain U.S. competitiveness in the industry, according to the report released Friday.

SpaceX Delays Rocket Launch Owing to Weather
Andy Pasztor, The Wall Street Journal

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has delayed a planned return to flight for another week owing to bad weather and predictions of continuing storms around a central California launch complex. The latest schedule calls for blastoff of a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications Inc., from Vandenberg Air Force Base next Saturday morning. The backup date is the following day.

Canada’s competition watchdog closes two-year Apple probe
Alastair Sharp, Reuters

Canada’s Competition Bureau on Friday said it had not found sufficient evidence that Apple Inc had engaged in anti-competitive conduct, closing a two-year investigation into the iPhone maker. The watchdog launched a probe into Apple’s business practices in December 2014 to investigate allegations the company’s Canadian unit had used anti-competitive clauses to force domestic operators to sell rival devices at higher prices than they otherwise would have and restricting how they could market and sell iPhones.

Currencies Gripped by Political Risk, Oil Slumps: Markets Wrap
Eddie Van Der Walt and Natasha Doff, Bloomberg News

The S&P 500 futures were little changed. The underlying gauge rose 0.4 percent to a record close of 2,276.98 on Friday in New York.

Intellectual Property

Testing for fool’s gold in intellectual property investment
Kate Burgess, Financial Times

New year, new moniker. Imperial Innovations, the fund set up more than a decade ago to help turn the bright ideas of scientists at Imperial College into commercial successes, is to be called Touchstone Innovations. Touchstone is the jester in Shakespeare’s As You Like It who displays the wisdom of fools, exposes the follies of the wise and serves up earthy truths to those who don’t wish to hear them.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

FAA looks to spur spectrum sharing tech
Mark Rockwell, FCW

Four agencies are banking on industry coming up with an innovative way to free up spectrum by combining surveillance, air safety and weather radar applications into a single “system of systems” by 2024. The federally owned spectrum between 1300 and 1350 MHz is “prime real estate” that offers the telecommunications and other commercial industries spectrum that can sustain wireless transmission over long ranges, said Rebecca Guy, the Federal Aviation Administration’s program manager for the new spectrum relocation plan.

FCC Resolves Political Ad Complaints
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The FCC’s Media Bureau Friday has resolved complaints about political ad disclosures, complaints facilitated by the FCC’s decision, under former Chairman Julius Genachowski, to require stations to upload public files, including political files, to a searchable, FCC-administered online database. It levied no fines, but warned one station and put all on notice.

All NYC subway stations will have cellular and Wi-Fi service tomorrow
Andrew Liptak, The Verge

The largest underground mass transit system in the US is now fully wired. New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transit Wireless have completed upgrades to the city’s subway system, allowing commuters to make calls from all of New York City’s Subway stations as of tomorrow.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Google’s new self-driving minivans will be hitting the road at the end of January 2017
Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge

Waymo, the self-driving car startup spun-off from Google late last year, will be deploying its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans onto public roads for the first time later this month, the company announced at the North American International Auto Show today. The minivans will be hitting the roads in Mountain View, California and Phoenix, Arizona, where the company’s self-driving Lexus SUVs have already driven thousands of miles over the past few years.

Alphabet’s Waymo says it has cut the cost of crucial self-driving car technology by 90 percent
Jason Del Rey, Recode

If self-driving cars are going to become the norm, they are going to have to get cheaper to produce. Waymo, the self-driving initiative recently spun out of Google, says it has already made a bunch of progress on that front. The company has slashed the cost to produce Lidar sensors, the radar-like systems crucial to many driverless car efforts, by 90 percent over the last several years, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a presentation at the Automobili-D conference in Detroit on Sunday.

Carmakers steer cautious driverless path
Richard Waters, Financial Times

As an important milestone looms on the road to driverless cars, many auto industry executives are worried the technology is still not good enough to pass it. The marker is set for later this year, with a promise from Audi to bring out the first cars designed for drivers to take their hands off the wheel — and their eyes off the road — for extended periods of time.

Uber to share more travel data with city authorities
Leslie Hook, Financial Times

Uber is extending an olive branch to city authorities with a new tool for traffic analysis, in an attempt to smooth over an issue — data sharing — that has been a source of contention in several of the ride-hailing app’s biggest markets. The disruptive Silicon Valley company has frequently resisted requests from regulators to share specific data about its trips, such as pick-up and drop-off locations.

Facebook Hires Campbell Brown to Lead News Partnerships Team
Jim Rutenberg and Mike Isaac, The New York Times

Facebook is turning to a former television news journalist to help smooth over its strained ties to the news media, which views it as both a vital partner and a potentially devastating opponent. It has hired Campbell Brown, a former NBC News correspondent and CNN prime-time host, to lead its news partnerships team, starting immediately.

This app will notify you if Trump tweets about a company you’re invested in
Karen Turner, The Washington Post

Trump’s tweets are proving again and again to have the capacity to make significant waves. Now there’s an app that will send a phone notification to users if Trump tweets about any companies where they own stock.

Martin Shkreli has been suspended from Twitter for targeted harassment of a reporter
Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Verge

Martin Shkreli’s Twitter account was suspended sometime early Sunday afternoon, following a period of targeted harassment against freelance reporter Lauren Duca. Update: In an email to The Verge, Twitter confirmed that the temporary suspension was related to the harassment of Duca, but would not give any further details and a spokesperson declined to be quoted directly.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

It’s official: US election systems designated as critical
Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

On Friday, US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson designated election systems to be part of the nation’s critical US infrastructure. He said this move would better protect elections from increasingly sophisticated hacking.

Priebus claims Trump accepts Russia’s role in hack
Kevin Robillard, Politico

Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said Sunday that President-elect Donald Trump accepts that Russia played a role in hacking the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta. Trump “is not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular hacking campaign,” Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Hackers Tried To Break Into DNC Computers Right Before New Year’s Eve
Ali Watkins and Sheera Frankel, BuzzFeed News

The FBI alerted the Democratic National Committee as recently as New Year’s Eve that hackers were once again trying to break into their computer systems, BuzzFeed News has learned. “There was activity the day after the president issued sanctions [against Russia], looking for ways to get into the servers,” one high-level source familiar with the investigation said.

U.S. Reacting at Analog Pace to a Rising Digital Risk, Hacking Report Shows
David E. Sanger, The New York Times

Of the many questions left unanswered by the American intelligence agencies’ accusation that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, led a multilayered campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, one stands out: Why did it take the Obama administration more than 16 months to develop a response? The short answer, suggested by the report the agencies released on Friday, is that the United States government is still responding at an analog pace to a low-grade, though escalating, digital conflict.

Data Could Be the Next Tech Hot Button for Regulators
Steve Lohr, The New York Times

Wealth and influence in the technology business have always been about gaining the upper hand in software or the machines that software ran on. Now data — gathered in those immense pools of information that are at the heart of everything from artificial intelligence to online shopping recommendations — is increasingly a focus of technology competition.

FBI blacks out most details on hack of terrorist’s iPhone
Elizabeth Weise, USA Today

A heavily redacted Friday evening data dump by the FBI revealed almost nothing about how the agency was able to break into the locked iPhone of one of the gunmen in the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The Justice Department released close to 100 pages of records in response to a lawsuit by USA TODAY and two other news organizations.

France thwarts 24,000 cyber-attacks against defence targets
BBC News

France says it was the subject of 24,000 cyber-attacks against defence targets last year. Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said such attacks were doubling every year and this year’s presidential elections could be targeted.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

A special interest bill allowed retailers to pocket $42,000,000,000. The longer we go without a Durbin Amendment repeal, the more money merchants pocket at the expense of consumers. It is time to end this failed policy. Get the facts from the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

On Intelligence And Russian Hacking, Are Trump And His Team Missing The Point?
Domenico Montanaro and Brian Naylor, NPR News

After casting doubt on the legitimacy of U.S. intelligence (even referring to it as “intelligence”), President-elect Donald Trump was briefed Friday by the nation’s top intelligence officials on their investigation into Russia’s hacking attempts and interference in the U.S. presidential election. Director of National Security James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey briefed the president-elect on their findings at Trump Tower early Friday afternoon.

What Facebook’s Decision to Hire Campbell Brown Says About Its Future
Will Oremus, Slate

Facebook has hired former TV anchor turned education-reform advocate Campbell Brown as its head of news partnerships. The social network announced the move Friday via a New York Times article, and Brown shared the news on her Facebook page.

It’s time to retire the tainted term ‘fake news’
Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

When Jim DeMint wanted to dis a TV interviewer’s suggestion that Obamacare has merits as well as flaws, the former senator and tea partyer used a handy putdown: “You can put all that under the category of fake news.” When conspiracy theorist Alex Jones wanted to deny a CNN report that Ivanka Trump would take over the East Wing offices traditionally occupied by the first lady, he used the same label.

Why Apple’s Critics Are Right This Time
Christopher Mims, The Wall Street Journal

Almost since the birth of Apple Inc., critics have declared it was headed in the wrong direction. In 1997, when the company was 90 days from bankruptcy and Steve Jobs returned to save it, that criticism was correct.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Despite their promises before the bill was passed, only one percent of merchants actually lowered prices following the Durbin Amendment’s implementation. It is time to end this failed policy. Learn more about retailers’ broken promises from EPC.

Research Reports

Ensuring Long-Term U.S. Leadership in Semiconductors
President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

Semiconductors are essential to modern life. Progress in semiconductors has opened up new frontiers for devices and services that use them, creating new businesses and industries, and bringing massive benefits to American workers and consumers as well as to the global economy.

Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency

This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency, which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies. It covers the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding US elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion.