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DOJ signals more CFAA leeway for "good-faith" security research. The FTC warns ed tech companies on children's data. And FinCEN is paying close attention to DeFi products. This is CyberScoop for May 20.

DOJ revises computer fraud prosecution standards to ease off 'good-faith' research

DOJ said Thursday that it would ease up on prosecutions of "good-faith" security research under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the nation's primary federal cybercrime law that has long worried "white-hat" or ethical hackers. "The department has never been interested in prosecuting good-faith computer research as a crime, and today's announcement promotes cybersecurity by providing clarity for good-faith security researchers who root out vulnerabilities for the common good," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. The statement comes after last summer's Supreme Court ruling that placed limits on the application of CFAA, with some experts cautioning Thursday that the DOJ policy might not be as broad as it sounds. AJ Vicens lays it out.

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FTC warns it will go after ed tech companies misusing children's data

The FTC approved a policy statement by a 5-0 vote Thursday, cautioning education tech companies against using data collected from children via education services for additional commercial purposes, including marketing and advertising. The policy statement also clarifies that ed tech companies can’t hold onto children’s data indefinitely, and makes clear that they have to have security procedures in place to protect children's data. The policy statement is a  clarification on how companies should follow guidelines set forth in the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and declares that the FTC will seek to “vigilantly enforce the law” with Thursday’s changes in mind. Tonya Riley explains.

FinCEN associate director says his agency has its eyes on DeFi projects

A top official at the Treasury Department's FinCEN says that the agency is scrutinizing decentralized finance products amid its ongoing crackdown on the illicit use of cryptocurrency.While the aim of DeFi projects is to eliminate the middle man in consumer transactions, allowing customers to send cryptocurrency directly to one another across the blockchain, FinCEN has found that many products and protocols aren’t as hands-off as they allege. “If they’re not decentralized there are obligations,” Alessio Evangelista, FinCEN associate director, said Thursday at a New York City conference hosted by Chainalysis. “They have to comply with the law.” Tonya has this one, too.

CISA directs civilian agencies to patch ‘critical’ VMware vulnerabilities

CISA issued an emergency directive this week requiring federal civilian agencies to patch vulnerable VMware products that could be chained together for full system control. If agencies aren’t able to deploy necessary updates within five days by May 23 to the affected VMware services, they must take them off agency networks immediately until an update is possible, per the directive. “These vulnerabilities pose an unacceptable risk to federal network security,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly in a press release. “CISA has issued this Emergency Directive to ensure that federal civilian agencies take urgent action to protect their networks. We also strongly urge every organization – large and small – to follow the federal government’s lead and take similar steps to safeguard their networks.” Billy Mitchell has more at FedScoop.

FCC's E-Rate program needs to cover cybersecurity, senators told

E-Rate, the Federal Communications Commission program that gives school districts discounts on network devices, needs to be revised to cover purchases of cybersecurity products, a leading K-12 cybersecurity expert told U.S. senators were Wednesday. During a hearing on cybersecurity in the education and health sectors, members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee asked what additional resources organizations in those industries need to better protect themselves from ransomware, phishing schemes, denial-of-service attacks and other breaches, especially as both education and health services have became more tech-dependent than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amy McLaughlin, the cybersecurity program director for the Consortium for School Networking, which represents IT professionals in the K-12 sector, said one of the best steps the federal government could take is if the FCC updated what it allows schools to purchase using E-Rate discounts beyond the 20-year-old menu of internet subscriptions and internal networking devices. StateScoop's Benjamin Freed has the rundown.

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