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Facebook and Apple representatives are on Capitol Hill alongside Manhattan's district attorney debating end-to-end encryption. A suspected Russian hacking group expands its list of targets. And a Nigerian man arrives in Tennessee for a BEC trial. This is CyberScoop for Tuesday, December 10.

Isn't this starting to sound familiar?

Facebook is not giving in to Department of Justice demands on weakening encryption, according to a new letter the company sent to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Monday. “Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly proven that when you weaken any part of an encrypted system, you weaken it for everyone, everywhere,” wrote Will Cathcart, vice president and head of WhatsApp, and Stan Chudnovsky, vice president and head of Facebook Messenger. This comes just as the latest congressional hearing on encryption was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning. Don't expect new details on the merits of encryption. But the hearing could serve as a litmus test of whether there is congressional appetite for legislating on how tech firms protect data. Shannon Vavra is on the Hill today.

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Where Republicans and Democrats agree

The Republican National Committee is relying on authentication tools and careful social media behavior in order to avoid a devastating data breach like the kind that derailed its Democratic counterparts in 2016. The RNC, which develops and promotes the party’s platform and supports President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, is banking on Duo Security to keep state-sponsored hackers out of party accounts, according to recent Federal Election Commission filings. So are the DNC and National Republican Congressional Committee. “If you have not started using 2FA you are severely, severely vulnerable,” Mike Gilding, the deputy director of information technology at the RNC, said last week. Shannon sifted through the FEC filings.

Suspected Russian attacks affect journalists

Gamaredon, a hacking group that has been active since 2013 and mostly haunted Ukrainian government targets, has broadened its reach within that country, the threat intelligence company Anomali said in new research. In one case, Anomali researchers received a submission from Detector Media, a media watchdog, which discussed a Ukrainian reporter from the Kyiv Post, an investigative outlet. The note suggested that the journalist, Anna Myroniuk, had received threatening SMS messages from militia fighters based in Luhansk, an area of Eastern Ukraine Russia has sought to absorb. The threatening messages suggested that multiple reporters who had applied to work in combat zones had their contact information leaked, and that fighters in Luhansk were threatening journalists. Jeff Stone has more context.

Tripping up PLCs

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are the computers that send commands to move industrial equipment, which makes securing them crucial for critical infrastructure companies. In research published Monday, Rapid7's Andreas Galauner shows how he came across a flaw in one such PLC that, if exploited, could cause a type of PLCs running a certain protocol to crash.  “I accidentally found a bug which would allow me to halt a lot of devices by just sending out a single frame on a network segment,” Galauner wrote. “The only thing that could’ve prevented me from doing this are proper access controls and network segregation.” Read the details.

Accused BEC scammer extradited to the U.S. to stand trial

Babatunde Martins, a 64-year-old Nigerian citizen, landed in Memphis, Tenn. to stand trial on charges related to a business email compromise scheme that netted some $15 million, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Prosecutors first unsealed the indictment against Martins and seven others in 2018, alleging they led "a barrage of international fraud schemes," most notably a plot to use spoofed email addresses to initiate fraudulent transactions with a variety of U.S. businesses. Several others involved in the scam are still on the lam, the Justice Department said Monday. We've covered the case before.

NSA chief talks 5G and Huawei

NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone again is urging other countries to be wary of using Chinese-based telecommunications company Huawei in its 5G buildouts. “Do you feel comfortable having a nation that doesn’t share your values, that has an Orwellian scoring system for its own people, that has an ability to utilize this for malfeasance based upon the connections they have with their own industry? If that is security for you then you shouldn’t worry about the Chinese in Huawei and the Chinese within your network,” Nakasone warned in remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California Saturday. “We don’t see the mitigation.” Watch his full remarks.

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