from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: March 9, 2018

Yves Herman

This week: CFIUS delays a hostile takeover of Qualcomm; Reddit opens up about Russian rolling; backlash to RSA's lack of diversity; Chinese security researchers blocked from attending Pwn2Own.

March 9, 2018

Yves Herman
Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1. The U.S. government doesn’t like your business model. This week Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the government panel that vets sensitive foreign investments, intervened to delay Broadcom’s hostile takeover of San Diego-based chip maker Qualcomm. The move has little to do with Broadcom’s home country, Singapore, and everything to do with Broadcom’s business strategy and the emerging U.S.-China race over 5G. In a detailed letter from the panel, U.S. officials worried that Broadcom's “‘private-equity’-style” approach to managing recent acquisitions would lead to lower investment in research and development "leaving an opening for China to expand its influence on the 5G standard-setting process.”

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Qualcomm is a leading player in developing 5G technology, which will be critical to deploying 5G widely. U.S. officials are fretting that China might overtake the U.S. in developing and deploying emerging technologies like 5G. The U.S. Congress is currently considering a bill, the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA), that would increase the power of CFIUS to vet and block foreign investments in emerging technologies.

2. /r/Russia. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman this week opened up about Russian information operations on Reddit during the run-up to the 2016 election. In a Reddit post, Hoffman spoke carefully about how Reddit had countered Russian trolls and confirmed that Reddit was "cooperating with congressional inquiries." Hoffman’s remarks came under swift criticism, in large part because Reddit has been the least forthcoming of the big social media companies on Russian influence. As the Daily Beast reported, Reddit hasn’t provided any materials to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the matter. And, according to Wired, links to posts created by known Russian troll remain active on Reddit.

3. Really? Really RSA? Advocates of diversity in cybersecurity are taking on RSA, the massive annual cybersecurity conference, after it booked only one female keynote speaker this year—Monica Lewinsky. Female security experts are pushing back by hosting their own diverse security conference, titled Our Security Advocates (OURSA) Conference. RSA responded to criticism by claiming the lack of diversity was due to a scarcity of women in the industry, but the OURSA conference already has a fantastic lineup including Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Aanchal Gupta of Facebook, Porter Felt of Google, and more.

4. No pwn 4 u. With the popular "Pwn2Own" hacking competition beginning next week, participants will notice a notable absence of Chinese competitors. The Chinese government has recently banned security researchers from attending foreign cybersecurity events, likely as part of a broader effort to keep Chinese security researchers from sharing knowledge of vulnerabilities with foreign counterparts. China’s Ministry for State Security (MSS) is known to stockpile new vulnerabilities. Indeed, a recent report shows that the MSS has delayed the release of new vulnerabilities to the public, so they can be utilized by state-back hackers first.

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