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An update in a years-long case against an accused Russian scammer. Evidence of NSO Group spyware turns up on a reporter's phone. And Microsoft makes a deal. This is CyberScoop for Tuesday, June 23.

Around the world with Alexander Vinnik

Authorities in New Zealand said they have taken control of the equivalent of $90 million belonging to Alexander Vinnik, the alleged operator of BTC-e, a currency trading platform shuttered by the U.S. government in 2017. The exchange effectively functioned as a money laundering operation for internet scammers engaged in computer hacking, ransomware attacks, fraud and illicit drug sales, authorities say. Vinnik is currently incarcerated in France, where he was extradited in 2018 after Greek law enforcement arrested him on a U.S. arrest warrant in 2017. Jeff Stone has the story.

A Message From AWS Educate

With over 1,500 institutions and hundreds of thousands of students who use AWS Educate, we wanted to take you on a trip around the world and highlight how students are learning and innovating with the cloud. Learn more.

Signs of NSO spyware against another journalist

Amnesty International found evidence of a surveillance tool on a Moroccan journalist’s phone that researchers tied back to spyware developed by NSO Group. The journalist, Omar Radi, was targeted by software capable of tracking texts, calls, emails and camera functionality. The attack came days after NSO Group, the Israeli spyware firm, said it would stop its products from being used to perpetuate human rights abuses. The scheme shows that NSO Group clients are becoming more brazen in going after their targets. The malicious browser exploit used to target Radi was also used on another Moroccan journalist in a previous attack, Amnesty found. Shannon Vavra offers more context.

Apple promises tighter data protection

Apple executives said during the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference that upcoming versions of iOS, macOS Big Sur and the Safari browser will arrive equipped with tools meant to keep user information more private. The Safari version scheduled for macOS will enable users to control the permissions they will allow browser extensions, and feature a privacy report that explains the ads and tracking that Safari is blocking. Meanwhile, the mobile operating system will force apps to ask explicit permission in order to track iPhone users. Wired went deeper.

Election commission offers free cyber training for state and local officials

Election administrators aren’t cybersecurity experts, but they need to know the basics. With that in mind, the federal Election Assistance Commission says it will offer free training to state and local officials, including advice on securing data and differentiating threats. The video and written courses are online and available at any time. The most advanced of the three courses focuses on having an incident response plan and communicating effectively to build public trust. Here's the news.

Microsoft acquires industrial security firm

Microsoft said its acquired CyberX, an Israeli security startup that specializes in detecting and stopping breaches in connected devices in industrial organizations. Israeli media has burbled with reports since February that the two companies were in discussions, though the announcement from Redmond makes it official. CyberX says it applies behavioral analytics and artificial intelligence tools to monitor network activity, which could fit with Microsoft's own A.I. work. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but prior reports suggested the two sides were in talks for a $165 million acquisition. Here’s the announcement.

Sometimes, the government likes encryption

The General Services Administration has announced plans to require all .gov internet domains to use a standard that always encrypts a user’s connection to federal websites. The added layer of security would reduce the risk of hackers intercepting data sent between users and those websites. It could take multiple years to realize, given the number of federal sites that do not automatically enable the encryption feature. Sean Lyngaas has more.

NYC pulls back the veil on surveillance tools

New York City council members voted overwhelmingly to approve the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology, or POST, Act, the latest in series of steps New York officials have taken to make the city’s police more transparent after weeks of protests inspired by the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. Under the bill, the NYPD will provide the public with a list of all “equipment, software, or systems capable of, or used or designed for, collecting, retaining, processing, or sharing audio, video, location, thermal, biometric, or similar information,” along with explanations of how those tools are used. Benjamin Freed has more at StateScoop.

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