Early Edition: January 14, 2022 | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack | #education | #technology | #infosec



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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

RUSSIA, UKRAINE

The U.S. and its European allies have hit a stalemate in negotiations with Russia on the military buildup near Ukraine’s eastern border, following yesterday’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting. Western officials rejected Moscow’s demands for a commitment that NATO would not expand further east, while Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in a television interview said negotiations had reached a “dead end.” Robyn Dixon and Paul Sonne report for the Washington Post.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has told reporters that the U.S. is ready to talk further, especially about missile deployments and military exercises in Europe, but is also preparing to respond “to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.”  Sullivan also noted that American intelligence agencies have not yet determined whether Russia has decided on a military course of action in Ukraine. Anton Troianovski and David E. Sanger report for the New York Times.

Russia has refused to rule out military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela if it is unable to get its security demands. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian television that he could neither confirm nor exclude sending military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if talks fail, saying that “it all depends on the actions by our U.S. counterparts.” Another senior Russian diplomat has also threatened unspecified “necessary measures.” Jennifer Rankin, Luke Harding and Julian Borger report for the Guardian.

Sullivan refused to comment on a potential Russian deployment in Latin America, stating only that “if Russia were to move in that direction, we would deal with it decisively.” Ann M. Simmons, Courtney McBride and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal.

Ukraine has been hit by a “massive cyber-attack,” with the websites of several Ukrainian government departments, including the ministry of foreign affairs and the state treasury, having been taken down. The hackers left threatening messages on the websites, including a message telling Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect worse.” Ukrainian officials have pointed to a “long record” of Russian cyber assaults against Ukraine, with the latest attack coming after security talks between Russia and the U.S. and its European allies coming to a stalemate. Luke Harding reports for the Guardian.

Senate Democrats have blocked an effort led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to impose sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. The vote came after an aggressive effort from the White House to pressure Senate Democrats to oppose Cruz’s bill. Democrats argued that it was a poorly timed and politically motivated measure that would break the U.S. from its European partners and risk undermining President Biden’s negotiating position with Russia. Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.

Following yesterday’s OSCE meeting, U.S. Ambassador to OSCE Michael Carpenter told reporters that the “drumbeat of war is sounding loud and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill.” Jeremy Herb, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Marquardt and Kylie Atwood report for CNN.

Russia has released pictures of further military forces being deployed in a drill near Ukraine’s border, considered to be cover for moving additional military forces towards Ukraine. “Russian Defense Ministry footage released by RIA news agency showed armoured vehicles and other military hardware being loaded onto trains in Russia’s far east, in what Moscow called an inspection drill to practice deploying over a long distance,” Pavel Polityuk and Tom Balmforth report for Reuters.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea has fired at least two possible ballistic missiles today. Japan’s Coast Guard reported that North Korea fired what could be a ballistic missile, and South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected what it presumed were two short-range ballistic missiles launched into the sea off its east coast. The launch will be North Korea’s third such launch in two weeks. Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin report for Reuters.

Further reporting on the latest missile launches by North Korea is provided by Choe Sang-Hun for the New York Times.

North Korea has berated the U.S. for imposing new sanctions over the country’s latest missile tests and has warned of stronger action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance.” In a statement broadcast on state media, a foreign ministry spokesperson defended the recent launches of purported hypersonic missiles as a righteous exercise of self-defense, and said that the new sanctions underscored hostile U.S. intent aimed at “isolating and stifling” North Korea. The Guardian staff and agencies report.

North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms last year, extracting nearly $400m worth of digital assets, according to new analysis from blockchain experts Chainalysis. “From 2020 to 2021, the number of North Korean-linked hacks jumped from four to seven, and the value extracted from these hacks grew by 40%,” said the report. “Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out,” the report explained. Reuters reports.

The U.S.’s early warning systems initially suggested that North Korea’s missile test on Tuesday could hit the U.S. mainland. “Initial telemetry readings — which can be inaccurate and are often discarded as more data becomes available — suggested that the missile could pose a threat as far away as the Aleutian Islands off Alaska or the California coast, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Within minutes, U.S. Northern Command and the Northern American Aerospace Defense Command dismissed those initial readings and assessed that the missile posed no direct threat to the mainland of the United States,” Katie Bo Lillis, Barbara Starr and Oren Liebermann report for CNN.

OTHER U.S. RELATIONS

U.S. diplomats in Geneva and Paris are the latest to have been afflicted with the neurological ailment suspected to be the ‘Havana Syndrome.’ At least one official has been evacuated back to the U.S. for treatment. The suspected attacks were reported internally last summer to officials in Geneva and Paris, and subsequently to the State Department in Washington. Vivian Salama reports for the Wall Street Journal.

IRAN

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met his Chinese counterpart today. The two ministers discussed a wide-ranging economic and security cooperation agreement signed between the two countries in Tehran early last year, among other issues, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Benoit Faucon reports for the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. sanctions combined with Iranian censorship are making it difficult for Iranians to access information and fast-changing technologies on the internet, analysts have said. Miriam Berger reports for the Washington Post.

Iranian shipping companies have forced large numbers of Indian seafarers to work in dangerous conditions, often with little or no pay, according to men who say they were tricked by international recruiting firms into taking the employment. Katie McQue reports for the Washington Post.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

The U.K. intelligence service MI5 has issued a warning that an alleged Chinese agent is seeking to interfere with U.K. politics by infiltrating parliament and giving donations to politicians. An alert from the security service said Christine Ching Kui Lee “established links” for the Chinese Communist Party with current and aspiring lawmakers. She then gave donations to politicians, with funding coming from foreign nationals in China and Hong Kong. Gordon Corera and Jennifer Scott report for BBC News.

Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and deposed President Win Myint will face five additional charges of corruption, each carrying a maximum of 15 years in prison, a source has said. The charges relate to the hiring a helicopter while in office. Reuters reports.

Egyptian media tycoon Mohamed al-Amin, who has close ties to the Egyptian government, has been detained pending an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. Egyptian public prosecution service has said it is investigating reports that the businessman sexually abused girls living in an orphanage that he owned and took them on trips to his holiday villa. Edmund Bower reports for the Guardian.

JAN. 6 ATTACK

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has issued subpoenas to Twitter, Reddit, and the parent companies of Facebook (Meta) and YouTube (Alphabet) for their internal data and records. The committee accused the tech firms of failing to provide complete information on how their platforms spread falsehoods that contributed to the Jan. 6 attack. Spokespeople for YouTube and Facebook disputed the characterization of their companies as not cooperating, while spokespeople for Twitter and Reddit acknowledged that the company had received the subpoena, but declined any other comment. Craig Timberg and Tom Hamburger report for the Washington Post.

“We cannot allow our work to be delayed any longer,” chair of the Jan. 6 committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement. “Two key questions for the select committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds to radicalizing people to violence. It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions,” Thomspon said. Musadiq Bidar reports for CBS News.

The leader of the Oath Keepers group and 10 others have been charged with “seditious conspiracy” in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. This is the first time that a sedition charge has been brought in the Justice Department’s prosecutions relating to the attack. Hannah Rabinowitz, Katelyn Polantz, Tierney Sneed and Holmes Lybrand report for CNN.

Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner and ally of former President Trump, met voluntarily with the Jan. 6 committee for eight hours yesterday. A source familiar with the interview told CNN that Kerik was asked about the so-called Willard War Room and about lawyer Rudy Giuliani, whom he defended as legitimately believing there was at least “probable cause” of voter fraud that should be investigated. Paula Reid and Annie Grayer report for CNN.

Violent online messages before the Jan. 6 attack were not shared by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), internal DHS emails have shown. The department’s intelligence office saw “significant chatter” in the 48 hours leading up to the attack and concluded it was just hyperbole  according to a batch of emails sent from 2:12 p.m. through 3:12 p.m on Jan. 6, 2021. Officials therefore limited what was shared with law enforcement, in part because of concerns that reporting violent messages found online could infringe on Americans’ civil liberties. Betsy Woodruff Swan and Rachael Levy report for POLITICO.

The Jan. 6 committee is weighing the possibility of subpoenaing House members – a major escalation that would raise difficult legal and political issues. House minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently refused to be interviewed voluntarily by the committee, and committee and staff members have been researching whether it would be possible to issue subpoenas to House lawmakers. Luke Broadwater and Charlie Savage report for the New York Times.

McCarthy has said that there is no information he could provide the Jan. 6 select committee about what Trump did on Jan. 6, 2021 to stop the attack, despite the fact that the two men spoke privately. In a news conference McCarthy also repeatedly evaded questions about whether he would defy a subpoena from the committee and he accused the investigation of being “pure politics.” Mariana Alfaro and Amy B Wang report for the Washington Post.

OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

Two democratic senators have announced that they would not support changing Senate filibuster rules, putting into jeopardy Democrats’ hopes of pushing through voting rights legislation. The latest statements from Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) came as President Biden traveled to Capitol Hill to deliver a final, forceful appeal for action to counter restrictive Republican-passed state voting laws. Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim report for the Washington Post.

A woman from Michigan was arrested on Wednesday outside the U.S. Capitol complex after authorities said they found two rifles and a shotgun in her vehicle parked near the Capitol building. The woman told officers that she “wanted to talk about information she had about Jan. 6, 2021.” The details of the conversation have not been revealed, but in a statement the authorities said that there is no evidence the woman planned to do anything “except speak with our officers.” Peter Hermann and Paul Duggan report for the Washington Post.

COVID-19

The Marine Corps has granted two religious exemptions to the military’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, making it the first and only military branch to do so. No additional information was provided by the Marine Corps as to why the specific requests had been granted. Oren Liebermann reports for CNN.

The Supreme Court has blocked President Biden’s administration’s Covid-19 vaccine-or-testing rules for large private employers. The Supreme Court did however “give the administration more latitude in the healthcare industry, allowing it to impose a vaccine mandate for more than 10 million healthcare workers whose facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid,” Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin report for the Wall Street Journal.

COVID-19 has infected over 64.08 million people and has now killed over 846,400 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 320.30 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.52 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.



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