Tech Brief: WannaCry Hero Indicted for Kronos Malware

Government Brief

  • Tech giants and startups asked the Trump administration not to rescind a rule proposed by former President Barack Obama that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to the United States for two years, with the potential to stay longer. The International Entrepreneur Rule was set to take effect this year, but last month the Department of Homeland Security delayed its implementation until March 2018. (The Hill)
  • CenturyLink Inc. and Level 3 Communications Inc., two awardees of the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract, may complicate the $50 billion telecommunications deal with their planned merger. Asked about the companies’ intended merger, an official for the General Services Administration said the GSA was aware of the negotiations and that the agency will monitor how the companies “constitute themselves.” (FedScoop)
  • Citing the record number of comments filed on the Federal Communications Commission’s docket on net neutrality rules, 21 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to extend the deadline for replies by 30 days. The current deadline for comments, of which there are already more than 13 million, is Aug. 16. (MediaPost)

Business Brief

  • Marcus Hutchins, the security researcher credited with helping to stop the spread of the global WannaCry cyberattack in May, was indicted for his alleged involvement in creating, advertising and distributing Kronos malware between July 2014 and July 2015. Kronos steals victims’ banking credentials by directing them to malicious websites. (Vice News)
  • Two chat bots were taken offline and “re-educated” in China for negatively reflecting the regime. The Chinese government believes that cyberspace should follow real-world rules. (Reuters)
  • Apple Inc. is facing public backlash for giving into China’s censorship demands. With the company’s largest foreign market as well as its production line based in the country, it would have a lot to lose if it didn’t comply with China’s rules. (The Wall Street Journal)

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Tech groups urge administration to reconsider ‘startup visa’
Ali Breland, The Hill

A coalition of 60 groups representing technology interests is pressing the Trump administration to change its tack on the international entrepreneur rule, which would have made it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to the U.S. In a letter organized and led by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), a trade association representing venture capital and startup interests in politics, the groups wrote that the rule is in line with the administration’s positions.

FCC Urged To Give People More Time To Weigh In On Net Neutrality
Wendy Davis, MediaPost

Senate Democrats are urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to give the public additional time to comment on his proposal to roll back the net neutrality rules. “This proceeding has the potential to impact all Americans and as the expert agency, you should ensure that the Commission provides ample time to ensure all voices are heard,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and 20 other lawmakers say in a letter sent to Pai Thursday.

‘Shame on Apple’: Consumers Want Apple to Stand Up to China’s Censors
Li Yuan, The Wall Street Journal

Apple Inc. took a public-opinion beating after it removed anticensorship tools from its China app store last weekend. “Shame on Apple!” was a sentiment voiced on social media by some who felt Apple was placing its commercial interests above their need to access information.

China holds drill to shut down ‘harmful’ websites
Sijia Jiang, Reuters

China held a drill on Thursday with internet service providers to practice taking down websites deemed harmful, as the country’s censors tighten control ahead of a sensitive five-yearly political reshuffle set to take place later this year. Internet data centers (IDC) and cloud companies – which host website servers – were ordered to participate in a three-hour drill to hone their “emergency response” skills, according to at least four participants that included the operator of Microsoft’s cloud service in China.

Stocks Drift Before U.S. Jobs Data; Euro Advances: Markets Wrap
Robert Brand and Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg

European and Asian stocks drifted and bonds were mixed as investors pondered the latest drama in Washington while they wait for new clues on the U.S. economy. The euro hit a fresh two-and-a-half year high against the dollar and oil retreated.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Would a CenturyLink-Level 3 merger affect EIS? GSA to wait and see
Carten Cordell, FedScoop

Telecom, Wireless and TV

FCC Revamps Programs to Bridge Rural Digital Divide
John D. McKinnon, The Wall Street Journal

Federal regulators took steps Thursday to close the digital divide in rural America, moving to reshape two subsidy programs that they say haven’t been as effective as needed. Expanding access to broadband in hard-to-serve areas across the U.S. has proved a challenge for years, not only because of costs, but also because of the rapidly changing technology itself.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Chinese chatbots apparently re-educated after political faux pas
Pei Li and Adam Jourdan, Reuters

A pair of ‘chatbots’ in China have been taken offline after appearing to stray off-script. In response to users’ questions, one said its dream was to travel to the United States, while the other said it wasn’t a huge fan of the Chinese Communist Party.

Smoke, Then Fire: Uber Knowingly Leased Unsafe Cars to Drivers
Douglas MacMillan and Newley Purnell, The Wall Street Journal

Uber driver Koh Seng Tian had just dropped off a passenger in a residential neighborhood in Singapore when he smelled smoke in his Honda Vezel sport-utility vehicle. Flames burst from the dashboard, melting the interior and cracking a football-sized hole in his windshield.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

WannaCry Researcher Indicted for Allegedly Creating Banking Malware
Joseph Cox, Vice News

On Thursday, Motherboard reported that Marcus Hutchins, a security researcher known for helping to stop the spread of the WannaCry ransomware, was arrested in Las Vegas. Now, US prosecutors claim the researcher helped create and distribute the Kronos banking trojan between July 2014 and July 2015.

Federal prosecutor struggles to describe stingray use in attempted murder case
Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

A federal prosecutor seemed to trip up during a Wednesday court hearing in an attempted murder case. The reason? This prosecutor had to explain how cell-site simulators, sometimes known as stingrays, actually operate.

Secret Service to test surveillance drone at Trump golf club
Adam Mazmanian, FCW

The Secret Service will be testing a tethered surveillance drone at President  Donald Trump’s golf course during a presidential visit, with an eye to its future use as part of the protective screen around the chief executive, according to a privacy assessment from the Department of Homeland Security. The drone is unusual in that it is linked to its operator by a microfilament tether to provide power and to transmit secure video.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Internet Fast Lanes: You May Be Surprised by Who Actually Has Them
Tom Evslin, Morning Consult

The Internet Association — lobbying organization for internet giants like Google, Amazon and Netflix — is adamant that it is necessary to apply 1934 phone regulation (aka “Title II”) to the internet to assure that there are no premium “fast lanes,” that all bits are treated equally, that internet service providers do not prioritize their own content over content from competitors. Internet Association members sometimes say that they can afford to pay more for fast lanes but they are worried about the little guys — the startup — who may not be able to pay more and whose websites therefore won’t be as zippy as they need to be.

How a Group of Engineers Hacked a 113-Year-Old Subway System’s Signs
Ankita Rao, Vice News

For those of us living in New York City, taking the train this summer has been, let’s just say, an interesting experience. Amid delays, 100-degree train cars, and weekend construction, New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo even announced a state of emergency for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in June, and pumped an extra $1 billion into the problem.

Research Reports

The Pressing Need for Digital Risk Management
Jon Oltsik, Enterprise Strategy Group

There is good and bad news around cybersecurity these days. The good news is that many CEOs and corporate boards no longer accept “good enough” security, and are willing to invest in best practices and leading security defenses to protect their organizations.


Tech Brief: Lobbying Tech Groups Target NAFTA Renegotiations

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the number of tech companies and trade associations registered to lobby U.S., Canadian and Mexican government officials has more than doubled in the last few months. Companies like Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are looking to zero out tariffs for tech goods and remove restrictions on cloud storage as officials prepare to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tech Brief: Intel CEO Leaves Trump’s Manufacturing Council

Brian Krzanich, Intel Corp.’s chief executive, joined the chief executives of Merck and Under Armour in announcing that he would leave Trump’s council on American manufacturing following the president’s response to violence during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Krzanich said he resigned “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues.” 

Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit will not block the Federal Communications Commission’s April decision to eliminate price caps for much of the business broadband market. The FCC’s business data services ruling deems certain local markets as competitive, even when there is only one broadband service provider.

Tech Brief: Benchmark Capital Sues Former Uber CEO Kalanick

Benchmark Capital is suing Uber Technologies Inc.’s co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick for not honoring the terms of his resignation and allegedly trying to stack the company’s board with allies to prepare for a return as CEO. The Silicon Valley venture firm, one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, alleges that Kalanick is attempting to “entrench himself for his own selfish ends” — an accusation a Kalanick spokesman called “without merit.”

Tech Brief: Kaspersky Lab, Microsoft Reach Antitrust Resolution

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab plans to withdraw antitrust complaints it made in Europe against Microsoft Corp. after the U.S. tech company agreed to work with outside antivirus vendors on delivery of its security updates for Windows users. The Moscow-based security company in June accused Microsoft of abusing its dominance in the computer market by favoring its own antivirus software over those of independent security companies.

Tech Brief: SoftBank Considers U.S. Ride-Hailing Investment

SoftBank Group Corp.’s founder and CEO, Masayoshi Son, publicly expressed interest in branching out into the U.S. ride-hailing market by investing in Uber Technologies Inc. or Lyft Inc. SoftBank has funded Uber’s competitors in China, India and Southeast Asia, but last month reports came out that the company was looking at buying a stake in Uber.

Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Apple Inc. agreed to remove virtual private network applications from its app stores in China. The Chinese government has been bolstering its “great firewall,” which blocks access to many, mostly foreign, websites — a firewall that VPNs could circumvent. The company defended its actions, saying it complies with the law in every country, but is facing public backlash for giving into China’s censorship demands.

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