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The Cyber Brief
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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2016
TWITTER CUTTING OFF EXTREMIST ACCOUNTS
The social media giant announced on Friday that since the middle of last year it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts “for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.” It is the first time that Twitter has made these actions public, and analysts say the move appears to be a response to pressure from the Obama administration and other western governments, including the French and British. The company also said that it has tasked more staff with reviewing reports of extremist accounts. Because social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have massive amounts of user-generated content on their platforms, they mostly rely on users to report inflammatory material. (NYT, CBS, WashPost)
Ukraine: U.S. investigators have reportedly confirmed what is believed to be the first-of-its-kind cyberattack on an electrical grid in Ukraine last December that caused a blackout for hundreds of thousands of people. The malware has origins in Russia, but U.S. officials are not ready to attribute the attack to Moscow. (CNN)

Alibaba: Hackers tried to access over 20 million active accounts on the Taobao shopping website, according to Chinese state media. An Alibaba spokesman said the company had detected the attack, reminded users to change passwords, and was working closely with police. (Reuters)

iPhone: The latest software update for the iPhone 6 is rendering the devices useless if it detects that repairs were not carried out by Apple. The problem is known as "error 53" and has appeared in Apple products before. (BBC)

Tax Prep: TaxSlayer, a publisher of online tax preparation software, revealed that hackers may have accessed 8,800 customers’ tax return information. The company believes the digital intruders got in by stealing usernames and passwords from a third-party vendor. (The Hill)
NRC Employee: A former Nuclear Regulatory Commission scientist, Charles Harvey Eccleston, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to attempted spear-phishing attacks on Department of Energy computers. He faces a prison term of 24 to 30 months and a fine of up to $95,000. (NYT)
Data Sharing: Legal and privacy advocates say that European governments are poised to strike down a newly penned transatlantic data-sharing deal if they find that Washington hasn't done enough to reform its surveillance programs. Some lawmakers are expressing frustration that the EU has used the threat of enforcement action against U.S. companies to push Congress to make more concessions. (The Hill)

Classified Emails: Former secretary of state Colin Powell said he disagreed with a State Department decision to retroactively classify two emails from his personal account while he was in office. The originators of the messages to Powell did not classify them, he said, and “if the department wishes to say a dozen years later they should have been classified, that is an opinion of the department that I do not share.” (WashPost)

UK-U.S.: The two allies are reportedly working on an agreement that would enable the British government to serve wiretap orders directly on U.S. communication firms for live intercepts in criminal and national security investigations involving its own citizens. The UK would also be able to serve orders to obtain stored data, such as emails. (WashPost)
NSA: The National Security Agency is reportedly moving toward a major reorganization, merging its offensive and defensive organizations in the hope of making them better at countering future digital threats. (WashPost)
Uber: The car-hailing service is monitoring the movements of some of its drivers in an experimental Texas-based pilot that is attempting to flag dangerous driving. Uber did not explicitly tell drivers that their movements are being tracked, but the company says it is informing users only when it needs to access the data after a company complaint. (Guardian)

Kik: A wildly popular messaging app called Kik is becoming a concern for law enforcement. The texting app, which is reportedly used by 40 percent of U.S. teenagers, conceals users identities and has been linked to suspects in a number of violent crimes. (NYT)
China: Washington is growing increasingly wary about China’s efforts to acquire the know-how to make the microchips that power all kinds of sophisticated electronics, including military applications. These fears were reportedly the main reason that the United States blocked the purchase of a controlling stake in a unit of the Dutch electronics company Philips by Chinese investors. (NYT)
Must Reads
The Gig Economy: “Technological advancement and the proliferation of the smartphone have reshaped the commercial landscape, providing consumers new ways to access the retail marketplace. On-demand companies are one such innovation, and underpinning on-demand
commerce is the gig economy, the collection of markets that match service providers to consumers of on-demand services on a gig (or job) basis. Flagship on-demand companies such as Uber (driver services) and Handy (home cleaners and household services) have garnered significant media attention both for their market success and recent legal challenges, particularly concerning the classification of gig workers,” explains this report from the Congressional Research Service.

Getting Serious About Online Privacy: “Congress could soon vote on a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant from a judge to obtain emails, photographs and other documents Americans have stored online. This important legislation would update the law to reflect how people use the Internet today,” write editors of the New York Times.

Drone Wars: “The emphasis in American military technology in recent decades has been on developing weapons platforms that are deployed in fewer numbers but boast much greater capabilities, such as the F-35 fighter jet. However, backed by low-cost production techniques such as 3D printing, Pentagon planners are flirting with a different model that seeks to saturate an enemy with swarms of cheaper, more expendable drones,” writes Geoff Dyer for the Financial Times.
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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, KAREN J. GREENBERG, DIRECTOR, CENTER ON NATIONAL SECURITY, FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL
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