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Instead of weaponizing a software vulnerability, the U.S. National Security Agency prioritized defense. A judge approved a billion dollar Equifax settlement. And state officials prep for election season. This is CyberScoop for Wednesday, January 15.

NSA goes public with a new vulnerability

When the National Security Agency recently uncovered a severe vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows operating system, it decided to publicly raise awareness and help the company issue patches instead of using the flaw for the agency's intelligence operations. It’s the first time the NSA has publicly taken credit for finding such a vulnerability. The flaw, for which Microsoft issued a patch, makes Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016/2019 “fundamentally vulnerable” because it’s a cryptographic vulnerability, according to an NSA advisory on the matter. Anne Neuberger, the director of the NSA’s Cybersecurity Directorate, said the NSA found the flaw during its normal research into software, programs, and systems. While neither Microsoft nor the NSA had seen the vulnerability exploited in the wild, Neuberger said it should be patched immediately. Shannon Vavra has more context.

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A post-Soleimani threat briefing for state election officials

Intelligence officials this week are slated to brief state election officials on the full gamut of threats facing the U.S. electoral process. Asked by CyberScoop on Tuesday if the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general makes Iranian meddling in the 2020 vote more likely, Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community’s top election-security official, said it “is certainly is something that we’re prepared for.” Pierson had just given a speech at an election security conference in which she sought to build bridges with state and local election officials, emphasizing that “the intelligence community hasn’t taken over this topic.” She also warned that Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and even non-state hacktivists could have the capabilities and motives to interfere in the 2020 election. Sean Lyngaas has the story.

Equifax to pay customers $380.5 million as part of $1 billion+ settlement

A court in the Northern District of Georgia on Monday approved an agreement covering the roughly 147 million people whose information was compromised when hackers spent May 2017 through July 2017 lurking in Equifax’s system. Under the terms of the settlement, Equifax will deposit the $380.5 million into a fund where members of the class-action suit can withdraw up to $20,000, if they can prove out-of-pocket losses. Equifax may also be required to add $125 million for additional out-of-pocket claims, and spend at least $1 billion on improving its data protection capabilities. The deadline to apply for a share of the settlement is Jan. 22. To apply, those impacted must follow a series of instructions on EquifaxBreachSettlement.com, where it’s also possible to determine individual eligibility. Jeff Stone explains.


Leaders see cyber transformation as greatest challenge in risk management

Deborah Golden, leader of Deloitte’s U.S. Cyber Practice and principal in Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory, joins us to discuss the findings of a 2019 survey that explores how executives are incorporating cybersecurity more holistically into their enterprises. As malicious cyber activity grows more pervasive, diverse and costly, both the public and private sectors must adapt to a new normal of constantly evolving threats. Listen to more insights on the podcast.

DHS's new cyber hand speaks

Bryan S. Ware, DHS’s new top official focused exclusively on cybersecurity, has pledged to get better analytical tools in the hands of CISA personnel tracking malicious hackers. “One of my top three priorities” will be “modernizing all of our data systems, tools, AI, and analytics,” Ware said Tuesday at a FedScoop event. Ware, a former AI entrepreneur, also reflected on the challenges of improving DHS’s sharing of threat data with the private sector and noted that hackers are increasingly putting up false flags to try to fool analysts. Sean was there.

For states, ransomware tests election defenses

State election officials said Tuesday that they’ve been watching how their state governments have responded to incidents like ransomware attacks as lessons on what they would do if the voter registration databases, vote-total reporting systems and other components of election infrastructure that they manage were targeted. Though the ransomware incidents that have spread through state and local governments across the United States have largely spared election systems from the worst, debilitating effects, the Department of Homeland Security last year said that local officials could be targeted by viruses that lock them out of voter rolls unless they pay a financial demand. Benjamin Freed has more at StateScoop.

Activists urge education on facial recognition

Promoted as a technology to create a safer and more secure world, facial-recognition software, which is capable of identifying a person from a digital image or a video frame, is beginning to pop up at colleges across the country — but digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future hopes to pressure schools to scrap the technology with a new campaign aimed at informing individuals of the potential harm facial recognition can inflict on students, the organization announced on Tuesday. “We see facial recognition as sitting on a short list of technologies, like nuclear or biological weapons, where the harm that it poses, the threat that it poses, to human society and liberty broadly outweighs any of the potential benefits,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. EdScoop's Betsy Foresman has the details.

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