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U.S. charges against a nuclear engineer and his wife are the latest proof that espionage is now a digital game. The White House gives DHS some new cyber deadlines. And alleged Iranian hackers target maritime firms and defense contractors. This is CyberScoop for October 12, 2021.

US charges underscore evolution of espionage in digital age

The U.S. Department of Justice on Saturday unsealed charges against a Navy engineer who allegedly tried passing classified information about nuclear submarines in exchange for a payment. The complaint against the couple, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, reads like a modern day spy thriller, complete with details about protected national secrets, cryptocurrency and the use of encrypted email in an attempt to secure sensitive communications. Like the Russian government’s weaponization of social media to influence American voters, and Chinese spies’ reliance on LinkedIn to recruit sources in the U.S., the case is the latest representation of how traditional espionage tactics — dead drops and undercover identities — are upended by innocuous tools that are part of daily life. Jeff Stone has the court documents.

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OMB publishes memo on federal agency endpoint security

The Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to grant CISA access to their defenses of computers, smart phones and servers, a.k.a. endpoints. A recently published memo — the continuation of executive branch security steps ordered under President Joe Biden's May executive order — also tasks CISA and agencies with further responsibilities, such as giving CISA 90 days to figure out how to continuously evaluate agencies' endpoint detection capabilities. Officials have said endpoint detection and response improvements are key to strengthening federal agency cybersecurity, and could help prevent recurrences of incidents like the SolarWinds hack. Tim Starks runs it down.

Iran-linked hackers compromised Office 365 accounts

Hackers likely supporting Iranian national interests attempted to compromise U.S. and Israeli defense technology and global maritime companies, Microsoft researchers shared Monday. The attacks, which began in July, targeted the Office 365 accounts of more than 250 Microsoft users, the company said. Less than 20 of the targeted victims were successfully compromised, according to a security alert. Other targeted industries included defense companies supporting the European Union, geographic information systems and regional ports in the Persian Gulf. Hackers attempted to break into the accounts using a technique called “password spraying” in which hackers rapidly cycle through different passwords in an effort to access an account. Tonya Riley looks closer.

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