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Friday Cyber News, February 3 2017

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 1/28 - 2/3:

1. Cybersecurity featured prominently in the election and continues to pose problems and provide negative press for the current administration, but Atlantic editor Kaveh Waddell argues cybersecurity shouldn't be political--it's dangerous to tie security decisions to partisan agendas. On the other hand, software design is political insofar as the public's ability to access services and understand regulatory actions can depend on the decisions of software designers. [Atlantic;]

2. Russia arrested two FSB cybersecurity experts on charges of treason and providing information to US intelligence about Russia's involvement in recent US election-related hacks. [Guardian]

3. Sending the wrong message: From Citizen Lab, a new report on a large-scale phishing campaign targeting Egyptian civil society. Web Ops, a multimillion-dollar DoD effort to combat ISIS online, and on social media in particular, is now accused of manipulating data to appear more successful and assigning contracts despite conflicts of interest. According to Cisco, spam email, which had been in decline since 2010, has regained its foothold and now composes 65% of all email worldwide, thanks to spam botnets. [Citizenlab; AP; Dark Reading]

4. The Secret Service's cell phone forensics lab in Tulsa, Oklahoma only has two full-time staff; it partners with students and faculty at the University of Oklahoma to train budding cyber investigators and extract data from locked phones. [CSM Passcode]

5. Analysis of millions of posts on Sina Weibo, one of China's most prominent social media outlets, indicates that China uses censorship selectively to maintain its access to information--like critical posts about government activity--that allows protests to be predicted before they occur. This strategy has stymied Facebook's inroads, as Facebook is much less transparent to the Chinese government and has struggled with the government's requests for control of postings. [SSRN; Wall Street Journal]

6. Pacemaker data has led to arson charges when it contradicted the defendant's story of escaping from a fire. [Journal News]

7. The US Treasury Department eased economic sanctions on Russia to allow the sale of information security products to Russia's security services. Because the hacking relationship between the US and Russia is definitely that Russia needs the US's help to avoid being hacked. Right? [USA Today]

8. Venezuela's subsidized electricity had attracted Bitcoin miners, but now four miners have been arrested on charges of fraud and electricity theft. In the US, a former Federal Reserve Board employee was sentenced to  a year probation and a $5,000 fine for using Federal Reserve servers to mine bitcoin. The long-term effects of incentives in blockchain systems was a topic of discussion at the Initiative's blockchain conference last week, as noted in the highlights from Thursday's talks. [Ars Technica; OIG; Coindesk; Youtube]

9. The immigration ban hit cybersecurity researchers hard; many have students and colleagues from the affected countries, and the ban has disrupted their research and future plans for employment in the US. Many tech companies rallied with the ACLU in forming plans to combat the order in court. [CyberScoop; Reuters]

10. Long-time readers of the newsletter will remember we referred to Alex Stamos as a human warrant canary last October (see item 1); Cory Doctorow picks up on the term and points out that Stamos may also serve that function at Facebook, as an indicator of its collaboration with surveillance efforts. [Cyber Initiative; BoingBoing]

Thanks for reading,

Stanford Cyber Initiative

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