Tech Brief: WikiLeaks Offers Firms Access to CIA Hacking Tools to Patch Vulnerabilities

Washington Brief

  • Julian Assange said WikiLeaks will offer tech companies access to Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools in its possession to allow firms to patch vulnerabilities in their software. (Reuters)
  • The U.S. government isn’t sharing cyber-threat information efficiently because of issues with government classification, industry officials said at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing. (Nextgov)
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to examine whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank. One official said there is still a lot of work for the agency to do. (CNN)

Business Brief

  • Airbnb Inc. closed on a more than $1 billion round of funding, increasing its worth to $31 billion. The company also turned profitable in the second quarter of 2016. (CNBC)
  • Lyft Inc. has expanded to 100 new U.S. cities so far this year. The ride-sharing company said it was aiming to achieve that goal by the end of 2017. (The Verge)
  • The number of self-driving cars on California public roads has more than doubled as automakers and tech firms compete with startups to test their autonomous vehicles. (Financial Times)

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RadioShack Files For Bankruptcy. Again
Rebecca Hersher, NPR News

RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy for the second time. Just over two years ago, the electronics chain declared bankruptcy and then reorganized its business, closing thousands of stores and selling others to a hedge fund called Standard General, which took over the remaining business through its affiliate General Wireless.

Amazon Seeks Fresh Investment in India With New Grocery Service
Rajesh Roy and Newley Purnell, The Wall Street Journal Inc. wants to stock and sell groceries online directly to consumers in India, two senior government officials said, the latest move in its quest to boost sales in the South Asian nation. The e-commerce company has sought approval from India’s Trade Ministry to invest about $500 million in the new venture.

Japan to vet bidders in Toshiba chip sale for national security risks – sources
Kentaro Hamada and Makiko Yamazaki, Reuters

The Japanese government, fretting over the future of Toshiba Corp’s flagship memory chips unit, is prepared to block a sale to bidders it deems a risk to national security, sources said, a stance that gives U.S. suitors a major advantage. The government would use Japan’s foreign exchange and foreign trade laws to control the auction if need be, one of the sources said.

Stocks Gain as U.S. Debt Stems Worst Run Since ’12: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter and Cecile Gutscher, Bloomberg News

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.4 percent, as the FTSE 100 gained 0.5 percent. Futures on the S&P 500 added 0.3 percent.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Appeals court throws out six Intellectual Ventures “do it on a computer” patents
Joe Mullin, Ars Technica

Intellectual Ventures boasts of having more than 30,000 patents—but you’d have to look for a long time to find one that can hold up under real scrutiny. After staying quiescent for years, IV opened up a barrage of lawsuits to enforce its patents in 2010.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Verizon Wireless wades right back into the net neutrality debate with Fios deal
Nick Statt, The Verge

Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T’s book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap.

Net neutrality hurts health care and helps porn, Republican senator claims
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

Republican senators yesterday claimed that net neutrality rules are hurting broadband network investment and urged Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to overturn them. “Chairman Pai, I would encourage you and the commission to revisit that order and to rescind it in its entirety,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said during an FCC oversight hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday.

Amazon Says It’s Open to Pushing Content Through Cable Boxes
Rebecca Penty, Bloomberg News Inc., the e-commerce giant that’s shaking up the entertainment industry, says it’s open to pursuing deals to stream content through cable operators’ set-top boxes, much like Netflix Inc. has done in the U.S. and Europe. “Amazon is definitely open to those partnerships and to be fair, we haven’t done as much there as Netflix have done,” Alex Green, managing director of Amazon Video, said Thursday at the Cable Congress conference in Brussels.

Trump Begins to Map Out $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
Michael C. Bender, The Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump pushed his White House team on Wednesday to craft a plan for $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that would pressure states to streamline local permitting, favor renovation of existing roads and highways over new construction and prioritize projects that can quickly begin construction. “We’re not going to give the money to states unless they can prove that they can be ready, willing and able to start the project,” Mr. Trump said at a private meeting with aides and executives that The Wall Street Journal was invited to observe.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Airbnb just closed a $1 billion round and became profitable in 2016
Lauren Thomas, CNBC

Airbnb has closed on a more than $1 billion round of funding, a source close to the company told CNBC. The round was confirmed in an SEC filing that dropped on Thursday. It is now worth approximately $31 billion.

‘Nothing to negotiate’ with Airbnb, Mayor Regalado says
David Smiley, The Miami Herald

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado doubled down Thursday on a growing fight with Airbnb, saying he wants the city to crack down on property owners who illegally rent out homes and apartments to tourists through the popular website. “The pricey lobbyists from Airbnb will tell us that we can make a deal.

Airbnb Nears Approval in Room-Starved Japan With Tighter Rules
Pavel Alpeyev and Takako Taniguchi, Bloomberg News

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved rules on Friday that limits home-sharing by private citizens to 180 days a year, according to the final draft of the legislation. The bill, which also leaves room for local authorities to impose their own restrictions, is now submitted for deliberation and approval by Japan’s parliament.

Lyft says it’s expanding to new US cities faster than expected
Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge

A little over a month ago, Lyft announced plans to launch in 100 new cities in the US by the end of 2017. Today, the ride-hail company said that it has reached that goal — nine months ahead of schedule.

Self-driving car numbers double on California roads
Tim Bradshaw, Financial Times

The number of autonomous vehicles on California’s roads has more than doubled as carmakers and big tech companies race against secretive start-ups to test their self-driving cars. Two new permits granted for autonomous testing on Wednesday by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has taken the total number of companies licensed to drive their prototype vehicles in Silicon Valley’s home state to 27 — more than twice as many as a year ago and up from just seven in early 2015, according to the state’s automotive regulator.

It’s Drone vs. Drone as Airspace Systems Takes Flight
Cat Zakrzewski and Patience Haggin, The Wall Street Journal

On a recent afternoon, a large white van parked outside The Battery, a private club for tech elites in San Francisco. Passersby stared at the cumbersome vehicle on the busy city block, some snapping photos of the large antennas emerging from its trailer that suggested something out of a spy movie.

Police win warrant to search Dakota Access Pipeline protest Facebook page
David Kravets, Ars Technica

Local Washington state police have obtained a court warrant to search the Facebook page of a group dedicated to protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The warrant from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department seeks data surrounding the Bellingham #NoDAPL Coalition’s Facebook page.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

WikiLeaks will share CIA hacking tools with tech companies: Assange
Dustin Volz and Eric Auchard, Reuters

WikiLeaks will provide technology companies with exclusive access to CIA hacking tools that it possesses, to allow them to patch software flaws, founder Julian Assange said on Thursday. The anti-secrecy group published documents on Tuesday describing secret Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools and snippets of computer code.

Government Isn’t Sharing Cyber Threats As Promised, Private Sector Says
Joseph Marks, Nextgov

When it comes to cyber threat information sharing, it’s government that’s not holding up its end of the bargain, industry officials told lawmakers Thursday. Government classification frequently hinders cybersecurity companies’ ability to share information with clients and others in the private sector, effectively giving an adversary a broader playing ground, witnesses told members of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity panel.

Sources: FBI investigation continues into ‘odd’ computer link between Russian bank and Trump Organization
Pamela Brown and Jose Pagliery, CNN

Federal investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, sources close to the investigation tell CNN. Questions about the possible connection were widely dismissed four months ago. But the FBI’s investigation remains open, the sources said, and is in the hands of the FBI’s counterintelligence team — the same one looking into Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 election.

Senate panel advances Trump’s intelligence director pick
Katie Bo Williams, The Hill

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday afternoon voted 13-2 to advance the nomination of former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) to be President Trump’s director of national intelligence (DNI). Coats, a former member of the panel, is liked by his colleagues and is expected to sail through to a final confirmation vote.

Technology is now at root of almost all serious crime: Europol
Waverly Colville, Reuters

High-tech crimes, such as document fraud, money laundering and online trading in illegal goods, are at the root of almost all serious criminality, Europe’s police agency said on Thursday. “These cross-cutting criminal threats enable and facilitate most, if not all, other types of serious and organized crime,” such as drugs and people trafficking, Europol said in a study of organized crime that it publishes every four years.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

New FCC Chairman Is Weakening the Nation’s Cybersecurity
David Simpson, Morning Consult

President Donald Trump has promised aggressive cybersecurity policy. In a dangerous departure from the president, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has taken actions to eliminate its role in addressing cybersecurity.

The Truth About the WikiLeaks C.I.A. Cache
Zeynep Tufekci, The New York Times

On Tuesday morning, WikiLeaks released an enormous cache of documents that it claimed detailed “C.I.A. hacking tools.” Immediately afterward, it posted two startling tweets asserting that “C.I.A. hacker malware” posed a threat to journalists and others who require secure communication by infecting iPhone and Android devices and “bypassing” encrypted message apps such as Signal and WhatsApp.

Rural broadband subsidy programs are a failure. We need to fix them.
Scott Wallsten, The Hill

On March 1, the Senate held a hearing focused heavily on subsidies for rural broadband. Given that the witness list included only those with an interest in receiving money and the general excitement surrounding the possibility of even more funding from Washington, you would be forgiven for thinking that rural broadband has been neglected.

The CIA could probably hack your smartphone. Here’s why they likely won’t.
Timothy B. Lee, Vox

When WikiLeaks released a trove of documents stolen from the CIA on Tuesday, it generated sensational headlines. CNN called the release “explosive.” People quickly drew comparisons to Ed Snowden’s leak of documents taken from the NSA.

Travis Kalanick Doesn’t Need a New COO. He Needs a New CEO
Davey Alba, Wired

Have you heard? Uber is hiring. CEO Travis Kalanick wants a chief operating officer.

Research Reports

Zero Days, Thousands of Nights
Lillian Ablon and Timothy Bogart, The RAND Corporation

Zero-day vulnerabilities — software vulnerabilities for which no patch or fix has been publicly released — and their exploits are useful in cyber operations — whether by criminals, militaries, or governments — as well as in defensive and academic settings. This report provides findings from real-world zero-day vulnerability and exploit data that could augment conventional proxy examples and expert opinion, complement current efforts to create a framework for deciding whether to disclose or retain a cache of zero-day vulnerabilities and exploits, inform ongoing policy debates regarding stockpiling and vulnerability disclosure, and add extra context for those examining the implications and resulting liability of attacks and data breaches for U.S. consumers, companies, insurers, and for the civil justice system broadly.