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Researchers uncovered 12 malicious apps designed to look like official contact tracing programs. A new kind of ransomware looks a lot like a security testing tool. And CISA has high hopes for the utility sector. This is CyberScoop for Wednesday, June 10.

Make sure that 'contact tracing' app isn't malware

Apps meant to impersonate official government tracing apps from countries including Italy, Russia and Singapore trigger malicious software capable of collecting a range of data from users' devices, the threat intelligence firm Anomali found in research shared with CyberScoop prior to its publication. It’s the latest example of hackers and scammers exploiting global events to try stealing from anxious smartphone users who, in this case, would have believed they were downloading an app designed to measure the prevalence of COVID-19 in their community. Jeff Stone has the story first.

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If ransomware hackers weren't already villains...

Hackers have converted software initially created as a testing tool into a destructive strain of ransomware, weaponizing inside knowledge about digital fortifications at a time when internet extortion only is accelerating. Cybercriminal forums are marketing the new strain, dubbed “Thanos,” to other attackers aiming to infiltrate computers running Microsoft Windows, according to Recorded Future. Thanos operates much like similar hacking tools, except that it’s the first ransomware built, in part, based on a proof-of-concept from security researchers who previously marketed their computer code as a way to bypass Windows 10 security protocols as part of otherwise legitimate tests. Jeff offers some context.

Lawmakers send letter on protest surveillance

A large group of Democratic lawmakers has told federal agencies to stop any surveillance of the ongoing U.S. protests of systemic racism. In a letter published Tuesday, the 35 House members expressed concern with National Guard, FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration tactics reportedly used to conduct surveillance of and share intelligence about the protests. "Government surveillance has a chilling effect,” reads the letter. “Downloads for encrypted messaging apps have spiked during recent demonstrations, showing a broad concern of surveillance among protesters.” Dave Nyczepir has the story at FedScoop.

CISA doubles down on industrial control systems

“We’re going to ask more of the ICS community, but we’re also going to deliver more to you,” CISA Director Chris Krebs told industry executives Tuesday. The head of the Department of Homeland Security's cyber outfit has detailed a plan to make officials more effective in providing cybersecurity advice for utilities, transport companies, and other critical infrastructure operators. It includes furnishing the private sector with better data from hacking incidents and conducting more training. There is plenty of incentive: Multiple foreign hacking groups have probed U.S. infrastructure operators in recent years. Sean Lyngaas digs in.

'Team Telecom' is rebuked

For decades, the U.S. government body responsible for reviewing cybersecurity risks of Chinese telecommunications firms, known as Team Telecom, has been so haphazardly organized that it has “endangered our national security,” a bipartisan Senate review found. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations criticized Team Telecom for taking too long to investigate companies, not following up frequently enough on security concerns, and, at times, outright ignoring responsibilities. The Senate panel also issued several recommendations to prevent Chinese state-owned telecommunications firms from continuing to operate without more oversight. Shannon Vavra breaks it down.

Election agency approves cyber-minded executive director

The Election Assistance Commission, a tiny federal agency with an outsize role in election security, says it has approved its executive director to remind onboard in a permanent role, rather than an acting one. Mona Harrington was most recently the EAC’s chief information security officer. Her full-time duties will provide some stability to the executive director position as the agency continues to work with state and local officials to try to secure their systems. It’s the latest personnel move from EAC; the agency has hired two technical specialists to help with election security since the start of the year. Here's the news.

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