Skip to content Skip to navigation

Friday Cyber News, June 9 2017

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 6/3 - 6/9:

1. Publication of an NSA report on Russian spearphishing techniques targeting political infrastructure providers (e.g., electronic voter registration rolls) led to the first prosecution of a leaker under the new administration, 25-year-old NSA contractor and Air Force veteran Reality Winner. [DocCloud; NPR] 

2. After attacks in London claimed lives, British PM May called for stronger regulations on internet providers, blaming them for providing a safe space for extremism. England already has laws that allow the collection of any citizen's browsing history, which even ISPs have pushed back against, citing consumer trust and the cost of storage, and May's assertion that if human rights laws get in the way of stronger internet regulation, the laws will be changed, drew widespread criticism. [Washington Post] 

3. University of Washington researchers used cell-site sensors in rideshare drivers' trunks to map every cell tower in Seattle and identify those that behaved irregularly, which are suspected to be Stingrays (cell tower simulators). Aside from the methodological benefits of being able to identify Stingrays, using rideshare drivers to gather data indicates a new way to monetize pre-existing networks of Lyft and Uber drivers--for research, real-time crowd mapping, or other roving data-aggregating applications. [Wired]

4. The state-run Qatar News Agency was hacked, and false statements attributed to the Qatari Emir were posted that alleged Qatar's close ties with terrorist organizations. Qatar was quick to deny the statements, but other Middle Eastern countries found the allegations believable. [Washington Post]

5. A new survey of AI researchers show that strong AI, which can perform tasks better and more cheaply than human workers--is expected around 2062, and a sizeable non-majority of researchers think there is a good chance that strong AI will be hostile to humans, but don't find AI safety a particularly worthy problem to work on. [Slate Star Codex]

6.​ With Bitcoin continuing to gain value at $2800 this week, the US State Department is starting a blockchain working group, joining a number of departments investigating how blockchain and cryptocurrencies can be used by the government. The Cyber Initiative's executive director comments on Bitcoin's price gain, and its investment uses. [Coindesk; US News]

7. After the theft of iPhone users' data in China, the country's new cybersecurity law, and its stricter punishments for companies that fail to secure Chinese citizens' personal data, will have its first test case. [WSJ]

8. A young woman who pressured her boyfriend, via text messages, into committing suicide is on trial this week for involuntary manslaughter, raising the question of what level of culpability to assign cyber-bullying behavior. [Washington Post]

9. China uses SIM card registrations to track the movements of migrant workers, one of many ways that consumer data makes its way back to government decision-makers. [VOA News]

10. Malware hidden in a Firefox browser extension computes hashes of comments on Britney Spears' Instagram photos, and when a comment's hash matching a goal value, the program parses the comment for characters that sum to a URL that, when accessed, connects the malware to its controllers, allowing them to update the malware without requiring a reinstallation. Rube Goldberg would be proud. [Engadget]

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. We're looking for someone with both academic research and policy experience, who is excited about translating research into writing that will influence policy. 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