Overnight Cybersecurity

Overnight Cybersecurity: Pentagon taps Silicon Valley talent

Welcome to OVERNIGHT CYBERSECURITY, your daily rundown of the biggest news in the world of hacking and data privacy. We’re here to connect the dots as leaders in government, policy and industry try to counter the rise in cyber threats. What lies ahead for Congress, the administration and the latest company under siege? Whether you’re a consumer, a techie or a D.C. lifer, we’re here to give you…


–LOVE ME, LOVE ME, SAY THAT YOU LOVE ME: The Defense Department is going west. The Pentagon unveiled two initiatives on Wednesday meant to tap Silicon Valley’s bountiful tech resources. One is the “Hack the Pentagon” pilot program, which will bring in “vetted hackers” to test the military’s cyber defenses. The second is a new Pentagon board headed by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. That panel, dubbed the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, is aimed at bringing Silicon Valley’s culture to the Defense Department. The announcements were made as Defense Secretary Ash Carter swings through Silicon Valley and meets with industry leaders. To read more about the “Hack the Pentagon” program, click here. To read more about the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, click here.

{mosads}–ANOTHER ONE: A key Senate leader is throwing his support behind a compromise bill on encryption, possibly helping the measure gain momentum in the upper chamber. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Wednesday told The Hill that he planned to back legislation to create a national commission to study how law enforcement can access secure data without endangering Americans’ privacy. “I’m going to be supportive of the commission bill,” Johnson said. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the bill on Monday. Johnson gives McCaul and Warner a critical ally in the Senate, given the Homeland Security Committee’s jurisdiction over domestic safety issues. The duo’s national commission is meant as an alternative to legislation that would force companies to help unlock secure devices under court order. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — the Intelligence Committee leaders — have been drafting such a bill for several months. To read our full piece, click here.

–WE GOT YOU: Digital rights groups on Wednesday filed a series of briefs urging a federal judge to reject an FBI court order directing Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple last week asked a judge to vacate the order, arguing the request sets a dangerous precedent that would allow the government to force companies to hack their own secure devices. This stance was backed on Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Access Now and the Wickr Foundation, all privacy advocates. The trio filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Apple to the judge in the case. “This case is not about a single phone — it’s about the government’s authority to turn the tech companies against their users,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “If the government succeeds in forcing the companies to exploit their users’ trust, it will have set back digital privacy and security in this country by decades.” To read our full piece, click here.


–NEXT UP? The Senate could hold hearings on the Apple-FBI feud, but several committee leaders told The Hill on Wednesday that nothing was in the works right now.

“Not right now,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee.

“At some point, that might make some sense,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the Homeland Security Committee’s ranking member.

“Maybe, maybe,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the Commerce Committee’s ranking member.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday held Capitol Hill’s first hearing on the standoff.

Read about what lawmakers said to FBI Director Jim Comey here and how Apple’s general counsel defended his company here.



–WHAT IF YOUR FURNITURE CAME TO LIFE? Here are some important questions that you can ask in any social situation. (We answered all of them today.)



–A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME. As the FBI and Apple continue to wrangle over San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s locked iPhone, some people have asked: What if the phone was an Android, like a Samsung Galaxy 6?

For one thing, Apple controls both the hardware and the software on its devices. Samsung, however, does not make its own operating system — Android is primarily developed by Google.

Read on at The Washington Post, here.

–MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CAT? Meanwhile, as the debate rages on, supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have spent the last month promoting strong encryption tools from countries outside of the United States: Finland, Romania, France, the Czech Republic, Canada, Panama, Germany, Switzerland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and other nations, according to a Daily Dot review.

Read on, here.



–JOHN MCAFEE. The software entrepreneur is arguing that he would be able to easily defeat both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the general election in November, running as a Libertarian.

“Trust me, I’ll have no problem whatsoever winning this election,” McAfee said.

Citing the tumultuous 2016 presidential race, the creator of the eponymous antivirus software argued that the Libertarian Party has a unique opportunity to take the White House.

“If I can’t win in a year when we have dissatisfaction and children on stage, well then the Libertarians should just give up,” McAfee said. “This is the only chance we have, this opportunity to enter a clown show dressed as and acting like the people who are actually suffering in this country.”

McAfee entered the presidential race in September under the banner of the self-named Cyber Party. Since then, he has abandoned those plans and announced he will run as a Libertarian candidate — although cybersecurity still remains a definitive tenet of his platform.

To read our full piece, click here.



Links from our blog, The Hill, and around the Web.

Here’s how hackers recruit new talent. (NextGov)

Court documents reveal details of how the FBI located the administrators of an underground child pornography ring in the largest known law enforcement hacking operation to date. (Motherboard)

If Apple is forced to help the FBI unlock Farook’s iPhone, the company could face similar demands in China. (The Wall Street Journal)

Silicon Valley companies are shying away from selling cyberwarfare services to the Pentagon to avoid jeopardizing their relationship with the Chinese market, a leading geopolitical strategist has suggested. (The Guardian)

Brazil has freed the imprisoned Facebook exec who couldn’t decrypt WhatsApp messages. (Ars Technica)

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Tags Bill Nelson Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mark Warner Richard Burr Ron Johnson Tom Carper

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