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A Government Accountability Office report faults the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency over its election planning. DOJ brass teases more indictments tied to China. And Forescout has a new parent. This is CyberScoop for Friday, February 7.

Time is tickin'

The cybersecurity wing of the Department of Homeland Security must “urgently finalize” its plans to protect the 2020 presidential election, a government watchdog agency said in a new report released Thursday. CISA provides state and local election officials with federal assistance, education and information sharing about how to safeguard U.S. voting infrastructure from possible interference. Despite three years of work meant to improve security, CISA still is “not well-positioned to execute a nationwide strategy for securing election infrastructure prior to the start of the 2020 election cycle,” according to a new GAO report. Most notably, CISA has not created clear plans to respond to a possible Election Day security incident in which state and local response capabilities were exhausted. Jeff Stone has the full report.

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More China hacking charges to come

Department of Justice officials are preparing new charges against Chinese nationals related to alleged hacking and insider threats at U.S. organizations. “Chinese theft by hacking has been prominent,” Attorney General William Barr said in a speech Thursday. “Those actions by China are continuing, and you should expect more indictments and prosecutions in the future.” New charges would mark the latest effort by U.S. prosecutors to curb alleged Chinese economic espionage through by trying to bring accused hackers to American courtrooms. Barr also floated an idea suggesting the U.S. would invest in telecommunication companies like Nokia and Ericsson to counter the influence of China’s Huawei in 5G markets. Sean Lyngaas heard it all.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia…

A hacking group that private researchers have linked with Chinese interests has successfully targeted Malaysian government officials in an apparent espionage campaign, cybersecurity officials in the Southeast Asian nation said this week. The hackers have tended to target government-backed projects in an effort to steal reams of data on proposal and shipping information, the Malaysian Computer Emergency Response Team said. To do that, the attackers have exploited a pair of old vulnerabilities, one dating back to 2014, in Microsoft products to compromise their targets. The advisory did not explicitly name the hacking group responsible. But the data it cited, including private sector reports, point to a state-sponsored group known as APT40 or Leviathan. Sean has more details.

Private equity firm nabs Forescout acquisition

It’s an all-cash deal worth $1.9 billion, meaning Advent International will pay $33 per Forescout share, a rate that’s about 18% above Forescout’s closing price of $27.98 on Thursday. The company first went public in October 2017 at $22 a share. Its shares have fallen by some 12% over the past year, while the overall S&P 500 index has climbed by 22%. Boston-based Advent International specializes in corporate buyouts and restructuring with an eye on increasing the bottom line. The private equity firm had expressed interest in taking over part of Symantec, the Wall Street Journal reported in September, before that security company was split up between deals separate deals involving Accenture and Broadcom. Jeff has more.

Not a bad deal for Netskope, either

Cloud security provider Netskope has announced a $340 million investment from a handful of venture capital firms that brings the company’s valuation to nearly $3 billion, it says. The company has experienced 80% year-over-year growth among enterprise customers, Beri said in the blog, and counts 25 companies from the Fortune 100 among its clients. It’s opened 26 data centers in the past nine months to “provide a globally distributed set of network, compute and storage for all customers who use Netskope products.” It’s also hired some 300 employees over the past year. (The company declined to share the exact valuation.) Jeff is on it.

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