Skip to content Skip to navigation

Friday Cyber News, June 2 2017

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 5/27 - 6/2:

1. The head of France's national cybersecurity agency warns that we're headed toward a state of permanent cyber war, while Putin now feels comfortable enough with the outcome to say that "patriotically-minded" Russian hackers could have interfered in the 2016 US election, and could continue to meddle in upcoming European elections if the spirit--not to say the Moskovskaya--moves them. [Independent; NY Times]

2. Sales of cryptocurrency-like tokens, many built on Ethereum, have taken off in the past month, for purposes as varied as a Tesla lottery and financing digital infrastructure repair. They have also fostered the development of ponzi schemes using an ICO (initial coin offering) structure for tokens not destined to do much, or tokens residing on a "blockchain" that is actually an Excel spreadsheet. [Bloomberg; Atlantic]

3. Silicon Valley tech companies are urging reform of Section 702, which authorizes the NSA to tap the physical infrastructure of the internet and collect large volumes of communications that contain, "incidentally", US citizens' data. The legal authorization for Section 702 expires on Dec. 31st, and renewal is expected to be controversial. [GovTech]

4. 2017 is on track to be the worst year on record for data breaches, with over 1,200 breaches and 3.4 billion records exposed. Are all these lost credentials being used? An FTC study found that identity thieves will use stolen info within as little as nine minutes. [Helpnet Security;; GIFv]

5. QR codes didn't take off in the US, but in China they're facilitating mobile payments to cafes, convenience stores, restaurants, and beggars, and increasing support for a cashless society. [South China Morning Post]

6.​ Cyber policymakers need more outside expertise, including voices from civil society, but one of the usual sources of that expertise--academia--is under-utilized. Academics can condense recommendations or research results to make them more palatable to policy-makers, and policy-makers can reach out to academia, provide funding, and define their needs better to avoid the perception that academics only work on theoretical concerns. [War on the Rocks]

7. Nationwide 10th and 12th grade exams led Ethiopia to shut down the internet for the entire country, for more than 12 hours. Many have protested that this violates Ethiopians' rights and costs the economy, but there are few avenues for lodging these protests, and the internet may be the wrong place for them. In May, an Ethiopian politician received a six-year prison sentence for writing Facebook posts criticizing the government. [Quartz]

8. How to identify Russian Twitter bots and distinguish them from, e.g., actual Russians who tweet infrequently. Be careful retweeting a bot; a court in Switzerland fined a man for liking defamatory Facebook comments posted by another user, the first time that defamation has been found for redistribution through likes. [DFRlab; BBC] 

9. US cyber liability insurance renewal rates declined for the first quarter since 2014, driven by more competitors and larger customers increasing policy limits. Meanwhile, ransomware-related claims are now almost a quarter of all cyber insurance claims, but 27% of US firms have no plans to buy cyber insurance, and cite uncertainty over pricing as a concern. [Marsh; FT; Insurance Journal]

10. Participants in an MRI study who opened the Facebook app on their phones more frequently, and those who stayed on Facebook longer, tended to have reduced gray matter volume in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic system that plays an important role in addiction. Is Facebook destroying your brain? The study couldn't assess cause and effect, and did not investigate what they considered to be "excessive" usage. [PsyPost] 

Special note: Work with the Cyber Initiative! The Stanford Cyber Initiative is seeking candidates for a full-time one-year fixed-term research position to produce original research and writing on policy-relevant issues that arise from the study of computer security, with a particular focus on either labor and the workforce, financial systems and risk, democracy, internet governance, or the tension between individual security and state security. Learn more and apply here:

Thanks for reading,

Stanford Cyber Initiative

(To suggest an item for this list, please email You can view news from past weeks, subscribe, and unsubscribe at