NTSC Technology Security Roundup

Weekly News Roundup: July 24, 2017

House Appropriations Committee Votes to Fund NPPD with $1.8 Billion

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted 30-22 to fund the new National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) with $1.8 billion. As part of the Department of Homeland Security, the NPPD is, according to The Hill, “tasked with securing critical infrastructure from cyber threats.” The Hill goes on to say that the funding will “help [the NPPD] secure civilian networks, prevent cyberattacks and espionage, and help modernize emergency communications infrastructure. However, the bill would cut funds to the DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate by more than $100 million, reducing its budget to $638 million and putting it in line with President Trump’s budget request.”

Cybersecurity Highlights from the National Defense Authorization Act

On Friday, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act after heavy debating—especially concerning the many proposed amendments by various lawmakers. NextGov summarized the cybersecurity aspects of the National Defense Authorization Act, and we’ve provided a few highlights:

  • “The House bill included a 16 percent funding hike for U.S. Cyber Command and mandated a new Pentagon and State Department plan to combat and deter adversary cyberattacks.”
  • The bill “directed the Pentagon to study ways to give clearer cybersecurity guidance to contractors and to ease the training pipeline for DOD cyber operators.”
  • An amendment to the bill “[requires] the Pentagon to update its cyber strategy to include more details about offensive cyber operations.”

Cybersecurity Compact Receives Support of 38 Governors

As a part of the most recent National Governors Association Summer Meeting, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that 38 governors across the country had signed on to a compact to improve state cybersecurity. By signing on to this compact, they pledged to enhance cybersecurity governance, prepare and defend their states from cybersecurity events, and help grow the nation’s cyber workforce. Over the last year, Gov. McAuliffe has spearheaded an effort to strengthen state cybersecurity through Meet the Threat: States Confront the Cyber Challenge, his NGA chair’s initiative. According to the website, “A primary goal of the initiative is for states to develop strategies for strengthening cybersecurity practices as they relate to state IT networks, health care, education, safety, energy, transportation, critical infrastructure, economic development and workforce.”

Two Major Dark Web Trading Websites Taken Down by International Law Enforcement

According to a press release, two major law enforcement operations led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police, with the support of Europol, have shut down the infrastructure of an underground criminal economy responsible for the trading of over 350,000 illicit commodities including drugs, firearms, and cybercrime malware. AlphaBay was the largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, utilizing a hidden service on the Tor network to effectively mask user identities and server locations. Hansa was the third largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, trading similarly high volumes in illicit drugs and other commodities.

Microsoft Uses the Legal System to Attack Fancy Bear

Microsoft has relentlessly used the legal system to seize Fancy Bear’s command-and-control servers by acquiring its Internet domain names associated with these servers. According to The Daily Beast, “Once under Microsoft’s control, the domains get redirected from Russia’s servers to the company’s, cutting off the hackers from their victims, and giving Microsoft a omniscient view of that servers’ network of automated spies.” The Daily Beast goes on to say that this is “the first time a technology company has tried to directly disrupt a foreign intelligence operation on a large scale.” Fancy Bear is most likely “associated with Russian military intelligence agency GRU” (Wikipedia).

Senator Maria Cantwell Wants Critical Infrastructure Review by GAO and TSA

As the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, Senator Maria Cantwell wants, according to Cyberscoop, for the GAO and TSA to “review current policies that guide how America’s power grids and pipelines defend against cyberattacks.” Critical infrastructure cybersecurity has grown into a larger concern this year after several high-profile threats have accompanied ongoing vulnerabilities and uncertainty. Cyberscoop reports that “Cantwell noted during Tuesday’s hearing that the second installment of the federal government’s Quadrennial Energy Review, conducted in January, raised questions about the cybersecurity of America’s pipelines, furthering the need for a comprehensive review of such infrastructure.”