Hillicon Valley — Report unveils extensive Russia cyber operations

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A Microsoft report released on Wednesday details how Russian-backed hackers have unleashed a series of cyber operations against Ukraine as early as March 2021. 

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are preparing to fight some of the nation’s biggest tech companies on a controversial antitrust bill.  

This is Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Send tips to The Hill’s Rebecca KlarChris Mills Rodrigo and Ines Kagubare. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Ukraine targeted by 200 Russian cyberattacks: report

Microsoft released a report on Wednesday detailing how Russian-backed hackers have unleashed a series of cyber operations against Ukraine as early as March 2021. 

  • According to the report, at least six separate Russian-backed hacking groups have launched over 200 cyber operations against Ukraine, including destructive attacks that have threatened civilian welfare. The report also found that the hackers engaged in a broad range of espionage and intelligence activities.
  • Microsoft found nearly 40 destructive attacks, with 32 percent directly targeted at Ukrainian government organizations and 40 percent aimed at critical sectors. 

“The attacks have not only degraded the systems of institutions in Ukraine but have also sought to disrupt people’s access to reliable information and critical life services on which civilians depend, and have attempted to shake confidence in the country’s leadership,” said Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, in a blog post. 

Read more here

Dems gear up in big tech battle 

Senate Democrats are gearing up to battle some of the nation’s biggest tech companies in the midst of an election year by ramping up work on a tech antitrust bill that has turned into a major fight.  

It’s a risky move. The three Big Tech companies in their crosshairs — Amazon, Apple and Google — employ more than a million people and have services widely used across the country. Millions of Americans, including members of Congress, own shares of the companies in their stock portfolios.  

And Big Tech companies spent $124 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the 2020 election cycle, during which Amazon’s spending increased by 30 percent, according to Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.    

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, briefed Senate Democrats at lunch Tuesday on her bipartisan bill to crack down on the preferential treatment Big Tech companies give their own products, which passed the full Judiciary Committee by a vote of 16-6 in January.    

Read more here.  

BIDEN ADMIN IS ALL IN 

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Wednesday the department supports a proposal that aims to block tech giants from giving preferential treatment to their own products and services.  

The Commerce Department backing adds to the Biden administration’s support behind the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, following a letter the Department of Justice released last month.  

“[I] clearly agree that we need to improve competition, which increases innovation,” Raimondo said while testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee.  

“Last month, the DOJ released a views letter on behalf of the administration in support of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the department and I certainly support that and concur with the aim of the legislation and the views expressed in that views letter,” she added. 

Read more here.  

MOST UNION FRIENDLY PRESIDENT? 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is making an appeal to President Biden amid the senator’s support for unionization at Amazon: Bar companies who violate federal labor laws from receiving contracts with the federal government. 

In a letter to the president, which was first reported by Politico, Sanders referenced a campaign promise Biden made as a then-presidential candidate in which he said he would impose a federal debarment for workplaces that opposed unions illegally and vowed to only give out federal contracts to employers who agreed not to run campaigns that were anti-union.  

“In order to implement that plan, I urge you to sign an Executive Order preventing companies that violate federal labor laws from contracting with the federal government,” Sanders wrote. 

The Vermont senator used his letter to target Amazon specifically, just days after he and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) participated in a rally with the Amazon Labor Union, whose Staten Island factory workers voted to unionize earlier in April. 

Read more. 

FEDS WARN AGAINST CYBER VULNERABILITIES 

Several federal agencies and international organizations on Wednesday warned organizations to protect themselves against common vulnerabilities that tend to be “frequently exploited by malicious cyber actors.”   

The statement from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency urged organizations to manage and patch known exploited vulnerabilities, enable security features like multi-factor authentication and use protective controls and architecture like securing networks and devices. 

It was signed by the CISA, NSA, the FBI and cyber security groups in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. 

Read more here

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: A new day in media, thanks to Elon 

Lighter click: Never satisfied 

Notable links from around the web

Twitter’s top lawyer reassures staff, cries during meeting about Musk takeover (Politico / Emily Birnbaum and Betsy Woodruff Swan) 

Apple Begins Selling iPhone Repair Parts to Customers (Finally!) (Motherboard / Jason Koebler) 

Twitter Admits It Hid Tweets About HBO’s QAnon Docuseries (Gizmodo / Dell Cameron) 

NATO’s credibility is on the line with its cyber defense pledge. That’s a bad idea (Politico / Erica Lonergan and Sara Moller) 

One more thing: A Forth Worth first 

Fort Worth, Texas, has announced it will start mining the cryptocurrency bitcoin, becoming the first U.S. city to do so.  

In a press release on Tuesday, Fort Worth’s city government said it is launching a pilot program using three S9 Bitcoin mining machines that will run 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 

Bitcoin mining is the process by which new bitcoins are put into circulation, using sophisticated hardware to solve complex math problems in order to create and award currency. 

Read more here.  

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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Author: Ines Kagubare