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A White House push to enforce accountability in cyberspace means new jobs for the departments of Justice and Homeland Security. The latest spyware details from Amnesty International. And Russian government-backed hackers keep at it. This is CyberScoop for October 7, 2021.

Three big announcements from the administration

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco separately rolled out a trio of cybersecurity initiatives on Thursday. Mayorkas announced plans this year to extend cyber regulations from pipeline operators to air and rail transport operators, such as for mandatory reporting of hacks. Monaco, meanwhile, announced a national cryptocurrency enforcement team to crack down on illicit use of such currencies, and a civil cyber fraud initiative to punish federal contractors who don't live up to government cyber standards. Tim Starks catalogued the plans.

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Spies used Android malware to try hacking Togolese activist

A threat group known for using Android-based malware to target victims in Southeast Asia has been detected in Africa for the first time, according to Amnesty International. Attackers tried to trick a Togolese activist into installing Android spyware via a series of WhatsApp messages and emails. The spyware would have allowed attackers to access a wealth of information including files stored on the device and WhatsApp messages, as well as access to the phone’s camera and microphone. Human rights experts and opposition leaders accused incumbent president Faure Gnassingbé of using police force to silence and brutalize protestors, disrupting election results. Tonya Riley looks closer.

Russian hackers keep hammering away, as others experiment

Fifty-eight percent of all the cyberattacks that Microsoft observed from nation-states last year originated with Russia, the company said in a sweeping report Thursday. Government agencies are the main target, particularly in the U.S., U.K. and Ukraine. A look at the bigger geopolitical picture, though, shows that North Korea, Iran and China are also using digital means to achieve their national goals, ranging from espionage and destructive attacks to raising money. A surprise from the Microsoft discoveries? State-aligned hackers in South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam are upping their game. "Even though we're getting better at calling out Russia and China for the vast number of attacks that we're seeing from them, it does not seem to be a deterrent," said Cristin Goodwin, assistant general counsel and general manager of Microsoft's digital security unit. Read more here.

Ransomware scammers start contacting parents

Hackers behind a ransomware attack against a Texas school district attempted to extract payment this week with what one analyst said appears to be an entirely new tactic: emailing parents of students with a threat that if school officials do not pay up, their kids’ personal information may be published online. Allen ISD, which serves nearly 22,000 students about 30 miles north of Dallas, acknowledged it had been the victim of a ransomware breach that disrupted a handful of systems — including the GPS routing software that guides school buses — and brought an extortion attempt threatening the release of staff and students’ personal information. From there, hackers directly contacted students' parents in what what analyst described as a chilling twist to the extortion. StateScoop's Benjamin Freed is on it.

The race for reporting requirements is on

Legislation requiring critical infrastructure owners and operators to report cyberattacks to the Department of Homeland Security's cyber unit within 72 hours advanced out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday. The bill from Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also requires businesses, nonprofits and state and local governments to notify the federal government if they make a ransom payment on an attack. Tonya delves in.

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