Tech Brief: North Korea May Be Responsible for Ransomware Cyberattack

Washington Brief

  • A South Korean researcher who specializes in cyberattacks and North Korean malware believes he has found circumstantial evidence that North Korea is linked to the massive global “WannaCry” ransomware attack that continued to affect computers Monday. (The Associated Press)
  • On Wednesday, the House will likely vote on a bill to modernize the government’s Information Technology. The Congressional Budget Office has scored the bill at costing $500 million between 2018 and 2022, and said it would not impact the budget deficit. (Nextgov)
  • Overshadowed by the net neutrality debate is a plea by activists to the Federal Communications Commission to undo the reinstatement of a UHF discount for the broadcast industry. In light of the coming Sinclair-Tribune merger, groups like Free Press and the National Hispanic Media Coalition say it doesn’t make technical sense to allow broadcast companies to exceed a national ownership cap. (Fierce Cable)

Business Brief

  • A U.S. judge has decided Uber Technologies Inc. can continue its self-driving car program, but has ordered the company to immediately return stolen documents to Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s driverless car program. (Reuters)
  • U.S. and other foreign tech companies are concerned that a cybersecurity law set to take effect June 1 in China will treat them unfairly and have asked the government to delay it. Requirements concerning encryption disclosure could give local companies an advantage, they argue. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission have revealed some high-profile investment firms aren’t counting Snap Inc. out just yet, and are contributing to a resurgence of the company’s stock. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

NIST holds cybersecurity framework workshop 7:30 a.m.
AEI author event to discuss new book on big data 4 p.m.
NIST holds cybersecurity framework workshop 8 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on emergency alert systems 10 a.m.
ITIF event on federal radio systems and freeing up spectrum 10 a.m.
Phoenix Center event to discuss legal, economic and policy issues of FCC actions 11 a.m.
NTIA holds monthly webinar on accelerating broadband access 2 p.m.
FCC holds open meeting 10:30 a.m.
R Street Institute and Center for Democracy & Technology host tech policy happy hour 5 p.m.
Federal Communications Bar Association event on Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network 6 p.m.
The U.S. Chamber holds an event with Rep. Marsha Blackburn on broadband infrastructure 8:30 a.m.
Senate Broadband Caucus event on telehealth 10:30 a.m.
FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee meeting on robocalls 11 a.m.



With Friendly CBO Score, IT Modernization Bill Hits House Floor Wednesday
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

After sailing through committee vote two weeks ago, Rep. Will Hurd’s Modernizing Government Technology Act will see a floor vote Wednesday, according to multiple sources—and this time around, it has a much friendlier Congressional Budget Office score than its failed predecessor did. If enacted, CBO said the new tech modernization legislation would cost $500 million between 2018 and 2022, assuming appropriators fully fund the bill’s central modernization fund.

FTC goes after tech support scams
Ali Breland, The Hill

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking tougher steps to try and stop fraudulent tech support schemes, which are scamming consumers out of millions of dollars. The agency has launched a new effort, dubbed Operation Tech Trap, to end online scams where customers are tricked into believing their computers are infected with a virus and that they must pay a third party to solve the issue.

Snap’s Rebound Accelerates After Big-Name Funds Disclose Positions
Drew Singer and Morwenna Coniam, Bloomberg News

Snap Inc. keeps clawing back losses from last week’s 21 percent swoon, welcome news to any of the institutional owners now reporting stakes in the messaging service — as long as they didn’t bail in the downdraft. New York-based hedge fund Coatue Management and Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte were among those listing positions with the Securities and Exchange Commission in filings today.

Euro Soars Amid Trump Concerns; Oil Extends Gain: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter et al., Bloomberg News

The dollar weakened for a fifth day and the euro surged to the highest since November after a report U.S. President Donald Trump revealed classified information to Russia’s top diplomat. Crude extended gains as confidence grew that output cuts will be extended.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

As Sinclair-Tribune megamerger looms, groups ask FCC to block return of UHF discount
Ben Munson, Fierce Cable

With the prospect of the Sinclair-Tribune megamerger on the horizon, groups are urging the FCC to block the return of the UHF discount in order to slow broadcast industry consolidation. In a joint filing to the FCC, Free Press, United Church of Christ, Prometheus Radio Project, Media Mobilizing Project, Media Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition and Common Cause requested a stay of the reinstatement of the UHF discount, which would allow broadcasters to once again count UHF stations as 50% toward the national broadcast ownership cap.

Uber must return stolen Waymo files, can continue self-driving work: U.S. judge
Dan Levine and Heather Somerville, Reuters

Uber Technologies Inc must promptly return stolen confidential files to Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self-driving car unit, a federal judge ruled, while stopping short of shutting down the ride-services company’s autonomous car program. The judge wrote that Uber knew, or should have known, that an ex-Waymo engineer it later hired had taken Waymo files potentially containing trade secrets, and that some of the intellectual property had “seeped into” Uber’s own development efforts.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Tucows’ Noss: Google Fiber’s realignment won’t have a material impact
Sean Buckley, Fierce Telecom

Ting, the wireline internet division of Tucows, does not envision Google Fiber’s recent troubles posing challenges to the larger FTTH service community. Elliot Noss, president and CEO of Tucows, told investors during its first-quarter earnings call that there are still plenty of opportunities to expand its FTTH reach.

Comcast officially the only top pay-TV operator to grow subscribers in Q1
Daniel Frankel, Fierce Cable

With Altice USA finally reporting a first-quarter loss of 35,000 video customers across its Optimum and Suddenlink footprints last week, Comcast officially became the only top U.S. pay-TV operator not to lose video customers during the three-month period ending March 31. Of course, with one analyst already predicting worst-Q1-losses-ever attrition of 762,000 video customers, we already know pay-TV’s numbers are bad in Q1.

Small cells and fiber don’t threaten tower companies: MoffettNathanson
Colin Gibbs, Fierce Wireless

The worlds of wireless and fixed-line telecom are colliding as U.S. operators look to fiber to provide backhaul and other connections to small cells in advance of commercial 5G rollouts. But those efforts don’t pose much of a threat to traditional tower companies, according to MoffettNathanson Research.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Technology and Car Companies Are More Intertwined Than Ever
Alex Webb and Chloe Whiteaker, Bloomberg News

The line between the technology and automotive industries is blurring. The rise of rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft means that transportation is being tied ever more closely to your cell phone, while autonomous driving technology is turning your car into a computer.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Experts see possible North Korea links to global cyberattack
Youkung Lee, The Associated Press

A South Korean cybersecurity expert said Tuesday there is more circumstantial evidence that North Korea may be behind the global “ransomware” attack: the way the hackers took hostage computers and servers across the world was similar to previous cyberattacks attributed to North Korea. Simon Choi, a director at anti-virus software company Hauri Inc. who has analyzed North Korean malware since 2008 and advises the government on cyberattacks, said the North is no newcomer to the world of bitcoins and has been mining the digital currency using malicious computer programs since as early as 2013.

US defends NSA over WannaCry cyber attack
Barney Jopson and Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times

The White House sought to deflect blame away from US intelligence services on Monday, after the National Security Agency was accused of “stockpiling” cyber weapons, putting organisations across the world at risk from attacks like those spreading the WannaCry ransomware. “This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold ransom data,” said Tom Bossert, Homeland Security adviser to President Donald Trump.

Global Tech Companies Call on China to Delay Cybersecurity Law
Eva Dou, The Wall Street Journal

Trade groups representing U.S., European and Asian companies called on China to delay a cybersecurity law set to go into force June 1, saying it could discriminate against foreign businesses. The law, adopted late last year, sets up a committee to conduct security reviews of technology products supplied to the Chinese government and critical industries.

China, Addicted to Bootleg Software, Reels From Ransomware Attack
Paul Mozur, The New York Times

China is home to the world’s largest group of internet users, a thriving online technology scene and rampant software piracy that encapsulates its determination to play by its own set of digital rules. But as the country scrambles to recover from a global hacking attack that hit its companies, government agencies and universities especially hard, its dependence on pirated software is getting a harder look.

Hardly Anyone Paying the Hackers? Because Using Bitcoin Is Hard
Nate Lanxon and Adam Satariano, Bloomberg News

An unprecedented cyberattack swept across the globe over the weekend, but so far the majority of victims haven’t paid hackers a ransom. After the ransomware began infecting users on Friday, they were given 72 hours to pay $300 in bitcoin — chosen by the hackers because the crypto currency is harder to track than conventional payments — or pay twice as much.

Just two domain names now stand between the world and global ransomware chaos
Joon Ian Wong, Quartz

A second wave of global infections caused by hackers in a global ransomware attack has been halted. The hackers responsible for the cyberattack, unprecedented in its global scale, demanded ransom be sent to three bitcoin addresses. So far, they have amassed the equivalent of over $42,000 in ransom.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Debit and credit cards make it far more convenient to buy the things you need and love, yet the Durbin amendment has put red tape on these purchases. Check out EPC’s new video to find out how this impacts you.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Flooded with thoughtful net neutrality comments, FCC highlights “mean tweets”
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

Widespread support for strong net neutrality rules continues, both from individuals who use the Internet and companies that offer websites and applications over the Internet. But Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has made a point of trumpeting anti-net neutrality sentiment as the FCC begins the process of reclassifying Internet service providers and eliminating net neutrality rules.

The Thinning Line Between Commercial and Government Surveillance
Arvind Narayanan and Dillon Reisman, The Atlantic

Internet service providers have realized that they are sitting on a treasure chest of data about your online activities that they could be selling to advertisers. Recognizing the privacy threat, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules that would have stopped them from doing so without your consent, but Congress recently shot down the regulation.

The Path To Weakening Antitrust Policy
Andrew Gavil, Forbes

Antitrust policy is already shifting. Even though the permanent leadership of the two federal enforcement agencies is not yet in place, most early signs indicate that we will see a less interventionist antitrust enforcement policy from the new Trump Administration.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Do you know how the Durbin amendment affects you? Customers haven’t seen lower prices as promised by big box retailers-but that’s not all. The Electronic Payments Coalition has a new video to explain this failed policy. Watch it now.

Research Reports

It’s Working: How the Internet Access and Online Video Markets Are Thriving in the Title II Era
Free Press

Financial and marketplace evidence demonstrates that the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order is an absolute success, accomplishing its stated goal of preserving and promoting the online ecosystem’s “virtuous cycle of investment.” ISP investments accelerated following the vote (e.g., aggregate capital expenditures by publicly traded ISPs have risen by more than 5 percent during the two-year period since the FCC’s February 2015 vote; investments in core network technology at cable companies during that same time period are up by more than 48 percent).