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A deep dive into Operation Warp Speed, a big effort to safeguard pandemic research from hackers. China suggests a plan to protect its tech firms. And two government-run organizations in the Middle East and North Africa were hit with ransomware. This is CyberScoop for Tuesday, September 8.

Inside Washington's work to safeguard a vaccine

Six months ago people at the highest levels of the U.S. government became laser-focused on one idea: Coronavirus vaccine research needed to be defended from hacking attempts. To counter foreign government hacking attempts, the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service, the National Security Agency, the FBI, DHS’s CISA, and HHS forged an operation meant to protect the government entities and companies working on developing, manufacturing, and distributing an eventual coronavirus vaccine. The task is one of the most sweeping, high-profile cybersecurity supply chain issues the U.S. government has ever attempted to solve, and if they fudge it, could cost lives. Shannon Vavra has the exclusive story.

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China suggests a plan to stop American 'bullying'

If Chinese technology companies are going to lose global market share amid concerns about their ties to the Communist government, Beijing isn’t going to let that happen quietly. In a speech, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi proposed a set of international rules intended to increase trust and refute the Trump administration’s strategy to limit the reach of Chinese-made technologies. Wang said the “Global Initiative on Data Security” is a recognition that data protection techniques are increasingly politicized at a moment when “individual countries” are “bullying” others, sometimes “hunting” foreign-based companies. Jeff Stone has the latest.

A mysterious ransomware case

A hacker interested in getting paid typically doesn’t damage a computer to make it harder for a victim to fetch a ransom. But the perpetrators of July ransomware attacks on two unnamed organizations in the Middle East and North Africa tried to do just that by overwriting a computer’s master boot record, according to new research from Palo Alto Networks. The MBR overwrite didn’t end up working because of a coding error. But using destructive code in ransomware attacks can blur the lines over responsibility, not to mention motive. Sean Lyngaas has more details.

Now, more Americans can track their ballots online

The number of states and counties offering voters the ability to track absentee ballots as they’re on their way to be processed and counted has grown substantially this year as more states expand their use of mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most states now offer at least websites where people can look up the status of their ballots, while some have even introduced automated emails and text messages telling voters when their ballots have been mailed, returned and counted, akin to updates one might get on a package ordered from Amazon. “It gives voters accountability to see where their ballot is,” said Amber McReynolds, who runs the National Vote at Home Institute. Benjamin Freed is tracking it at StateScoop.

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