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The long-term outlook for three big blows against ransomware. More changes at NSA. And the GAO weighs in on the State Department's cyber office. This is CyberScoop for Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

Assessing the impact of the Emotet, NetWalker and TrickBot disruptions

Law enforcement put a couple big dents in the Emotet botnet and NetWalker ransomware outfits this week, and the damage could be lasting — even if no one expects it to be fatal. The arrests and seizures follow separate U.S. Cyber Command and Microsoft-led operations against the TrickBot botnet last fall, but in that case Menlo Security saw more signs that it was convalescing with a "trickle" of attacks. The Emotet and NetWalker operations might be more effective than the one against TrickBot, cyber experts say, because they involve arrests and seizures. Tim Starks has the story.

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NSA has a new interim cyber chief

Dave Luber is serving as the NSA’s cybersecurity director in an interim manner as the agency brings in new leadership in the Biden administration, CyberScoop has learned. The president this month tapped the most recent director, Anne Neuberger, to join the White House National Security Council. And while the NSA Cybersecurity Directorate recently selected Rob Joyce, the NSA’s top intelligence liaison in the U.K., to take on the role as NSA cybersecurity director, he has not yet taken up the reins. Luber, a longtime NSA and Cyber Command employee, previously served as the executive director of Cyber Command, the Department of Defense’s offensive and defensive cyber-operations arm. Read it first with Shannon Vavra.

Try using 'evidence' to justify cyber bureau, GAO advises Foggy Bottom

The State Department didn't use "data and evidence" to explain why it was creating a new cybersecurity bureau a few weeks ago as the Trump administration was wrapping up, government auditors said. The Government Accountability Office dinged State for only providing slides and a memo to explain its decision. Congress and the department have been at odds over the structure of a cyber bureau at State ever since then-Secretary Rex Tillerson downgraded the existing cybersecurity coordination office, but with a switch in administrations its future is up in the air. Tim has this one, too.

Microsoft has more details on that bogus research blog

Microsoft has chimed in on a discovery that rattled cybersecurity researchers earlier this month. The company says it concurs with findings from Google's Threat Analysis Group that a North Korea-linked hacking campaign was serving up malware to cybersecurity experts through a fake blog and other social engineering efforts. Microsoft attributes the attacks directly to a group it calls ZINC, also known as Lazarus Group. "Observed targeting includes pen testers, private offensive security researchers, and employees at security and tech companies," Microsoft says in a blog post dated Thursday. Previous coverage.

Senators want expanded probe of HHS data sharing

Two Republican senators are asking the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general to expand existing oversight of potential Chinese government access to U.S. genomic data, particularly because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Chuck Grassley of Iowa point to concerns about the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), citing "troubling reports have surfaced that note BGI’s efforts to exploit the pandemic to expand their reach within the United States," including Chinese-made test kits. The senators also point to BGI's links to telecommunications giant Huawei. The senators originally had requested action by the inspector general in 2019, before the pandemic began. Read the letter.

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