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A top Justice Department official says China is harboring cybercriminals. An FBI cyber official explains how it tracks threats against COVID-19 research. And CyberTalks keeps rolling in day three. This is CyberScoop for Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

DOJ official accuses China of being cybercriminal ‘safe haven’

China is increasingly tolerant of criminal hackers on its soil if they are willing to hack on behalf of the government, assistant attorney general John Demers alleged Wednesday during CyberTalks. He pointed to a recent indictment accusing Chinese nationals of hacking for profit while also spying for Beijing. It’s an accusation that U.S. government officials and security researchers have frequently leveled against Russia, as well. China called the accusation “groundless.” Sean Lyngaas has more.

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The FBI's evidence trail for COVID-19 research hackers

During CyberTalks on Tuesday, a top FBI official detailed how the bureau has tackled foreign hacking threats to U.S. COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research. Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director in the bureau’s cyber division, said it begins with reaching out to known or potential victims, then using the uncovered evidence to locate other actual or would-be victims. From there, the bureau moves to sharing information with intelligence agencies, affected industries and international allies. Beyond that, the FBI, National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency have taken steps to coordinate threat information sharing, Ugoretz said. Tim Starks reports.

Rep. Ro Khanna, and more, at CyberTalks

In addition to the conversation with John Demers, the CyberTalks agenda for Wednesday includes Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Manny Coto, the executive producer and showrunner of the Fox series "NEXT." Also appearing: experts from NIST, Cybereason, Fortinet, Okta, Microsoft, Dell and Accenture. The schedule for Thursday and Friday is equally packed. If you were unable to catch some of this week's videos, we have a full archive of the 2020 event. Dive in to the CyberTalks site.

On the TrickBot takedown rollercoaster

Microsoft said 94% of TrickBot's command-and-control servers were disabled following a takedown that the company led with the goal of hamstringing the botnet's ability to disrupt the 2020 elections. U.S. Cyber Command, too, had struck a blow against TrickBot's infrastructure. Initial analyses about the separate takedown initiatives concluded they hadn't done major harm to TrickBot, but Microsoft got more court orders after seeing those behind TrickBot replenish the botnet's servers. Collectively, Microsoft said 120 of 128 were down as of the start of this week. Tim has numbers on the offensive against one of the world's biggest botnets.

The latest on Chinese government hacking in the defense sector

U.S. defense contractors should be wary of Chinese government-backed hackers who are actively exploiting a multitude of known vulnerabilities to target — and successfully breach — victim networks, the NSA said in an advisory Tuesday. The list of 25 known vulnerabilities includes bugs in Pulse Secure VPNs, F5 Networks’ Big-IP Traffic Management User Interface and Citrix's ADC and Gateway devices. The NSA hopes that by explicitly linking the flaws with Chinese hacking operations, system administrators in the defense industrial base will pay more attention to patching them for fear of becoming collateral damage in espionage campaigns. Shannon Vavra explains the alert.

MuddyWater keeps up its prolific pace

A set of hackers believed to be based in Iran has been targeting government organizations and telecom operators in places like Iraq, Turkey and Kuwait, according to new research from Symantec. The dozens of attacks in recent months have aimed at extracting sensitive data from networks. It’s a reminder that while other hacking teams associated with Tehran have gained notoriety for data-wiping attacks, this group — known as MuddyWater — has been relentless in its spying. Sean has more.

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