US Treasury sanctions 5 Iranian organizations for alleged election influence operations

The Treasury Department on Thursday announced sanctions against five Iranian organizations for allegedly trying to influence the U.S. election through disinformation campaigns and other attempts to sow discord. Those sanctioned for the activity included the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, one of its alleged front companies, the IRGC’s Quds Force and media companies allegedly linked to the Quds Force. It’s part of a broader federal effort to push back on foreign influence operations less than two weeks from Election Day. The Iranian media outlets are accused of using English-language articles that amplify “false narratives” to sow divisions among U.S. audiences. “As recently as summer 2020, Bayan Gostar was prepared to execute a series of influence operations directed at the U.S. populace ahead of the presidential election,” Treasury said in a statement, referring to one of the alleged front companies. The Iranian Mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to […]

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Why the US was so fast to blame Iran for voter intimidation emails in Florida

By trying to quickly resolve concerns about an apparent Iranian influence operation, and bolster Americans’ confidence the country’s electoral process, U.S. officials have sparked an entirely new set of questions: Why were they able to connect Iran to the attack so quickly, and how? During a briefing announced to reporters 10 minutes before it began Wednesday, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said the U.S. government had determined Iran was behind an email campaign meant to intimidate American voters. Neither Ratcliffe nor FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was also at the briefing, provided any technical evidence to support the allegation that the emails, purported to be sent by the Proud Boys as threats to Democratic voters in Florida to vote for President Donald Trump, in fact were sent by Iranian attackers. The disclosure came quickly after Motherboard on Tuesday reported on a surge of suspicious emails that seemed to use technical means to try to hide their […]

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Russia-linked group that breached US state and local IT draws official accusation from feds

It’s no secret that the hacking group often referred to as Energetic Bear or TEMP.Isotope — linked by multiple security firms to Russia — is the prime suspect in a handful of breaches of state and local networks in recent weeks. But now U.S. federal officials are formally blaming the hackers for the activity. It’s part of a broader U.S effort to more swiftly accuse foreign adversaries of wrongdoing ahead of Election Day while reassuring voters that the election is being protected. In this case, federal officials said the Russian group had used a combination of old and new software vulnerabilities to breach some IT infrastructure used by state and local officials, but that there was no evidence that the “integrity of elections data has been compromised.” “The Russian state-sponsored APT actor has targeted dozens of SLTT [state, local, territorial and tribal] and aviation networks, attempted intrusions at several SLTT organizations, successfully compromised network infrastructure, and as of […]

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EU slaps sanctions on GRU leader, Fancy Bear, FBI-wanted hacker over Bundestag attack

The European Union on Thursday sanctioned the head of a Russian military intelligence unit, an alleged hacker wanted by the FBI and a Russian government-linked hacking group over a 2015 cyberattack against Germany’s parliament. It’s only the second time the EU has issued cyber-related sanctions, following July sanctions against Russia, China and North Korea in connection with a string of unrelated cyberattacks. Now, as then, the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, commonly known as the GRU, is among the targets of the EU’s ire. Igor Kostyukov, head of the GRU, was hit with sanctions in Thursday’s action over the Bundestag hack. So, too, was alleged intelligence officer Dmitry Badin, previously indicted in the U.S. for his role in 2016 election interference. The EU also sanctioned the GRU-connected hacking group known as Fancy Bear, among other names, which the U.S. has likewise connected to 2016 election meddling. “The cyber-attack against the German federal parliament targeted the parliament’s information […]

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Data protection predictions for 2021

2020 presented us with many surprises, but the world of data privacy somewhat bucked the trend. Many industry verticals suffered losses, uncertainty and closures, but the protection of individuals and their information continued to truck on. After many… Continue reading Data protection predictions for 2021

US blames Iran for threatening emails sent to Florida voters

Iran is been behind a series of intimidating emails sent to registered Democratic voters in Florida in recent days, the U.S. government has assessed. The emails, which appeared to be sent by the Proud Boys, a designated hate group supportive of President Trump, threatened voters to “Vote for Trump or else!” as Motherboard first reported. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” said some of the emails received by registered Democrats. The series of messages were “spoofed” as part of an influence campaign aimed at interfering in the U.S. election, American officials said. Voters in Alaska and Pennsylvania have also received emails like those received in Florida, according to The Washington Post. “We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest,” Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said during a press conference Wednesday. “You may have seen some reporting on this in the […]

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Bug Parade: NSA Warns on Cresting China-Backed Cyberattacks

The Feds have published a Top 25 exploits list, rife with big names like BlueKeep, Zerologon and other notorious security vulnerabilities. Continue reading Bug Parade: NSA Warns on Cresting China-Backed Cyberattacks

DOJ efforts to weaken encryption place national security at risk, congressman says

Rep. Ro Khanna has one message for politicians who continue to suggest technology companies should give law enforcement agencies access to encrypted data: This is a power grab. The U.S. Department of Justice has long called for technology firms to create software that would allow law enforcement agencies to investigate suspects who use encryption to hide illegal behavior. For Khanna, a California Democrat, the tradeoff is too dangerous. Legislation that enables law enforcement to crack strong security measures in order to root out some criminals, while also but leaving other people’s communications exposed, just is not worth it, he said Wednesday during CyberTalks, a virtual event produced by CyberScoop. “What I worry about is at a time where we already have an imbalance between the power of the U.S. government and the power of corporations and the individual, is it would shift more power to the tech companies and the government,” he said. “If you […]

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Justice Department official accuses China of acting as ‘safe haven’ for cybercriminals

China is increasingly tolerant of criminal hackers on its soil if they are willing to hack on behalf of the Chinese government, a senior U.S. Justice Department official has alleged. Recent U.S. indictments of accused Chinese hackers indicate that the country “has become a safe haven for cybercriminals as long as they’re also doing work on behalf of the state,” John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, alleged in an interview for CyberTalks, the annual summit produced by Scoop News Group. “That’s very worrisome…because now you’ve got a country that’s giving free rein to criminal hackers.” It’s an accusation that U.S. government officials and security researchers have frequently leveled against Russia, as well. The blend, though, of criminal and state-sponsored activity in China will make it even more difficult for U.S. companies to defend themselves, Demers said. A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., called the allegations “groundless,” adding: “China is a […]

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