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<em>State and local election officials will get some free help from Microsoft next year. Two guilty pleas in the biggest ad fraud case ever. And Mark Esper talks 5G. This is CyberScoop for Friday, September 20. </em>

Microsoft makes a big exception

Microsoft is set to announce today it will offer state and local election officials free support for Windows 7 operating systems used in voting systems through 2020. Many systems that support voting in the U.S. still rely on Windows 7, which is not nearly as easy to update on those machines as it is on a personal computer. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has said it will not decertify certain voting systems that use Windows 7, highlighting just how difficult it is to keep voting equipment running on up-to-date systems. The move is the latest step by Microsoft and other tech companies to offer free or discounted services in support of election security following Russia's activities in 2016. Sean Lyngaas had the news first.

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Next week's Methbot madness

Two men accused of participating in the multimillion-dollar Methbot digital-advertising fraud scheme are scheduled to plead guilty in the coming days, according to court filings from the Eastern District of New York. Sergey Ovysannikov and Yevgeniy Timchenko, both originally from Kazakhstan, are scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25, respectively, to enter plea agreements before Judge Steven M. Gold. Both men initially pleaded not guilty after they were extradited to the U.S. earlier this year. A third man, Methbot’s alleged ringleader, Aleksandr Zhukov, has promised to fight the charges against him. Jeff Stone had the scoop.

Pentagon boss sticks to the 5G script

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is calling on European allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to bar Chinese companies from developing 5G networks there, reiterating an American argument that largely has failed to convince European countries to blacklist telecoms with ties to Beijing. Esper, in a speech Thursday at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency summit in Maryland, warned NATO allies that using 5G networks developed by Chinese companies “jeopardizes military interoperability and intelligence sharing opportunities,” echoing other U.S. officials’ warnings that using Chinese companies’ 5G could complicate relationships with the U.S. Shannon Vavra heard it all.

Big Voting embraces vulnerability disclosure

The country’s leading voting equipment vendors have taken flak from researchers who being slow to work with ethical hackers. Now, firms are preparing to establish a coordinated vulnerability disclosure (CVD) program. The vendors today released a request for information to security researchers asking for advice on developing a CVD program, said Chris Wlaschin, the top security executive at ES&S, the country’s largest voting vendor. “We all feel that sense of urgency to adopt this sooner than later,” he said. Sean had a preview.

States welcome election security cash but 'it's not enough'

Top election officials in two battleground states the news that the U.S. Senate plans to move forward on another round of funding to help states improve their election security for the first time in more than a year is a welcome sign of progress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Thursday that he now supports distributing $250 million among states to help them overhaul their election infrastructure, including around voter registration databases and other critical systems. The House previously approved legislation containing $600 million in new funds, setting up the possibility of a compromise if the Senate approves its own legislation. “It’s very encouraging,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told StateScoop. “It's welcome. I think it’s not enough," she added later. Benjamin Freed offers more context.

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