Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed while you were in a pub:
1. The plot thickens in U.S.-Russia cyber espionage. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted four men, including two Russian intelligence officials working for the FSB, for the breach of over 500 million Yahoo accounts. The DOJ indictment marks the first time the United States has charged Russian government officials with cyber crime-related charges. One of the officials, Dmitry Dokuchaev is emerging as a particularly interesting figure given that he was also charged with treason in Russia earlier this year. According to the indictment, 6,500 Yahoo accounts belonging to both U.S. and Russian targets were mined for information potentially useful to FSB intelligence targets. The defendants have been charged with a laundry list of conspiratorial cybercrimes, including thefts of identities and trade secrets, and economic espionage. I give my two cents on the case here, Charley Snyder and Michael Sulmeyer over at Lawfare do the same here, and Marcy Wheeler argues that this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black here.
2. Is this what Russia meant by public diplomacy? The Russian embassy in the United Kingdom is turning its Twitter followers into automated bots to generate a positive social media presence for the Russian ambassador. According to Motherboard, this “diplomacy of the future” scheme entails that users voluntarily register their Twitter credentials with a third-party app that then automatically follows ambassador Alexander Yakovenko and retweets “important” tweets from his week. The Russian embassy is pitching the program as a way for those interested in international affairs to get information from top Russian diplomats. Unsurprisingly, some are skeptical and view it as a way to Russia to boost the numbers of its troll and bot army.
3. Google and Facebook get a grilling in Europe. Germany has formally proposed fining Facebook and Twitter to the tune of $53 million if both do not toughen up on fake news and hate speech. German interior minister Heiko Maas introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require social media networks to delete illegal posts from their platforms within twenty-four hours, as well as publish quarterly reports outlining how they have been policing content. The tech firms maintained their commitment to protecting freedom of expression, stoking the already rigorous debate in Germany regarding the implications of censorship on the right to free speech. Earlier this year, Facebook introduced a tool allowing German users to flag fake news stories for removal. That move has apparently not persuaded German officials, who seem to believe that a legislative approach will solve the problem of online trolls and misinformation.
4. The Privacy Shield is safe for now. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross indicated this week that the Privacy Shield, one of many arrangements that allow the transfer of EU citizens’ data across the Atlantic, will remain intact under the Donald J. Trump administration. President Trump’s unpopularity in Europe and his executive order on immigration that banned Privacy Act protections to non-U.S. citizens led some in Europe to believe that the shield would be torn asunder. At the end of a meeting with Ross, the European Commission’s lead on the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said that they both supported a “robust and predictable” Privacy Shield.
5. NSA official Rob Joyce tapped as White House cybersecurity coordinator. The Trump administration has picked Rob Joyce to serve as the next cybersecurity coordinator for the National Security Council. Joyce has worked at the National Security Agency (NSA) for more than twenty-five years, and has served since 2013 as chief of Tailored Access Operations, the NSA’s elite hacking division.