The Trump administration this week took a major step toward empowering the military to conduct more cyberattacks. President Donald Trump rescinded Presidential Policy Directive 20, an Obama-era document that required high-level discussions between many agencies before the military could conduct significant cyber operations. The change gives the military freer rein to deploy its advanced hacking tools without pushback from the State Department, the Commerce Department and the intelligence community.
A group of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia late Monday asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate the Obama administration’s 2015 landmark net neutrality rules and reject the Trump administration’s efforts to preempt states from imposing their own rules guaranteeing an open internet. Several internet companies filed a separate legal challenge on Monday to overturn the FCC ruling.
A group affiliated with the Russian government created phony versions of six websites — including some related to public policy and to the U.S. Senate — with the apparent goal of hacking into the computers of people who were tricked into visiting, according to Microsoft, which said Monday night that it discovered and disabled the fake sites. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, which is responsible for the company’s response to email phishing schemes, took the lead role in finding and disabling the sites, and the company is launching an effort to provide expanded cybersecurity protection for campaigns and election agencies that use Microsoft products.
In a report scheduled for release on Tuesday, Microsoft Corporation said that it detected and seized websites that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U. The sites appeared meant to trick people into thinking they were clicking through links managed by the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, but were secretly redirected to web pages created by the hackers to steal passwords and other credentials. Microsoft also found websites imitating the United States Senate, but not specific Senate offices or political campaigns.
Microsoft is offering a new cybersecurity program to help political candidates and organizations protect themselves from hackers in the run up to the November mid-term elections. Observers are concerned that the mid-term elections will be targeted by hackers from around the world, and Microsoft is doing its part to fend off attacks with its Defending Democracy program. The latest feature, known as AccountGuard, aims to help campaigns and organizations identify and neutralize threats. Read more about AccountGuard from Microsoft on the Issues.
Tech companies are taking a more transparent approach than usual in disclosing cyberthreats against their platforms — especially when it comes to election interference. One high-profile example came this week when Microsoft announced that Russian hackers tried to use the company’s domains to launch phishing attacks on U.S. political institutions. The company also revealed recently that hackers had used similar means to target 2018 congressional candidates.
Associated Press Microsoft’s anti-hacking efforts make it an internet cop
Intentionally or not, Microsoft has emerged as a kind of internet cop by devoting considerable resources to thwarting Russian hackers. The company’s announcement Tuesday that it had identified and forced the removal of fake internet domains mimicking conservative U.S. political institutions triggered alarm on Capitol Hill. Microsoft stands virtually alone among tech companies with an aggressive approach that uses U.S. courts to fight computer fraud and seize hacked websites back. In the process, it has acted more like a government detective than a global software giant.
Tens of millions of Americans, especially in rural areas, still don’t have access to broadband internet. As part of its five-year plan to help close that gap, Microsoft is partnering with telecoms company Agile Networks to roll out broadband access to 110,000 people in rural Ohio. The companies will also expand access in underserved areas over the next four years, and say that more than 900,000 people could benefit overall.
The Columbus Dispatch Agile Networks, Microsoft working to bring broadband to more rural Ohioans
A new effort is underway to bring the internet to thousands of people in rural Ohio who lack access. Microsoft and Agile Networks have announced a new agreement to extend broadband access over the next four years to 110,000 unserved people in rural Ohio. The agreement helps to address a longstanding need in rural Ohio, where more than 900,000 people lack access to reliable broadband. This lack of availability keeps them from tapping into digital tools that are now available in agriculture, education and other areas.
Tech Radar GDPR sees cookies crumble on EU news sites
Several months on from GDPR, the new laws are having a dramatic effect on how news websites gather information on their readers. A new study has found that the number of tracking cookies on EU news sites has fallen 22 per cent since GDPR came into force, with the UK has seen the biggest drop, with a post-GDPR fall of 45 per cent fewer cookies. Cookies related to website design and optimization saw the biggest overall fall, with 27 per cent less in July compared to April, with advertising cookies dropping 14 per cent and social media falling nine per cent.
Carnegie Mellon’s Andrew Moore talks about the future of tech education as fields like artificial intelligence and machine learning take center stage. Moore, the dean of CMU’s computer science school, says he’s “concerned” that anti-immigrant fervor will deter the next generation of great computer scientists from coming to America, although CMU has not yet seen an impact on its application numbers.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing Facebook of violating the Fair Housing Act. The agency filed a formal complaint against the social media company on Friday, alleging that it allows landlords and home sellers to use targeted Facebook (FB) ads to discriminate against potential buyers or tenants on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability and other characteristics.
THINK TANK/TECH TRADE ASSOCIATION HIGHLIGHTS
American Enterprise Institute
- Blog on Rural Broadband: Just how much money should we spend and in what format, or what other incentives can we design, to most effectively extend access to the Americans without broadband internet? Visiting AEI fellow Bret Swanson examines the digital divide and how best to address it. (AEI Blog — Rural broadband: it’s complicated, August 22, 2018).
- Blog on the U.S. Broadband Market: On Friday, New America’s Open Technology Institute filed comments at the FCC on the state of the market for fixed broadband service. In this blog, Amir Nasr and Joshua Stager write that the market is “stagnant at best, marked by low competition, high costs, and opaque service quality.” (NEW AMERICA BLOG — The U.S. Broadband Market is Deeply Anticompetitive, August 21, 2018).
Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)
- Statement on Telemedicine: ITI President and CEO Dean Garfield and several ITI member companies participated in the Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference at the White House where they announced their commitment to removing barriers for the adoption of technologies for healthcare interoperability, particularly those that are enabled through the cloud and AI. “As transformative technologies like cloud computing and artificial intelligence continue to advance, it is important that we work towards creating partnerships that embrace open standards and interoperability,” said ITI president and CEO Dean Garfield. (ITI STATEMENT — Tech Industry Looks to Improve Healthcare Through Cloud Technology, August 13, 2018).
- Statement on Diversity in Tech Council: ITI President and CEO Dean Garfield and several ITI member companies participated in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Caucus’ inaugural Diversity in Tech Summit at North Carolina A&T State University focused on improving diversity in the tech workforce. ITI appreciates the Caucus’ efforts to further tech’s commitment to a more inclusive workforce and to sustain meaningful partnerships with these important institutions. (ITI STATEMENT — Tech Industry and HBCUs Commit to Work Together To Increase Workforce Diversity, August 9, 2018).
Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not endorse specific platforms or bills.