Friday Five: The Approaching Government Shutdown, Protecting Americans' Security and Privacy, & More
The approaching government shutdown brings major cybersecurity concerns, exacerbated by China-based hackers, and meanwhile, efforts to protect Americans’ data privacy and security are underway. Catch up on the latest in this week’s Friday Five!
DEMOCRATS FEAR CYBERATTACKS AS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN LOOMS BY CHRIS RIOTTA
Democrats are cautioning against a possible government shutdown, emphasizing the severe consequences it could have on federal cyber programs and the government's ability to respond to cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. They argue that a shutdown could hinder the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) from conducting essential operations and distributing nearly $1 billion in cybersecurity grants to state and local governments as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Approximately 80% of CISA employees may be furloughed during a shutdown, potentially disrupting the government's role in protecting against cyberattacks. While some Republicans suggest that exceptions can be made for CISA employees, bipartisan concerns exist about the shutdown's impact on government operations and cybersecurity efforts, particularly as cyber threats evolve.
US, JAPAN WARN OF CHINA-BACKED HACKERS LURKING IN NETWORKING GEAR BY ADAM MAZMANIAN
U.S. cybersecurity agencies, in collaboration with Japanese law enforcement, have issued a warning about the activities of the China-backed threat group BlackTech. This group has been exploiting vulnerabilities in everyday networking equipment, particularly routers, to gain access to entire networks, and their targets are said to include government agencies, defense companies, and telecommunications firms in the U.S. and East Asia. The warning comes as part of increased cooperation between the U.S. and Japan in addressing cybersecurity threats, as highlighted by their agreement signed in January 2023 to enhance the security of industrial control systems and bolster operational collaboration on cybersecurity issues.
PRIVACY WATCHDOG RECOMMENDS COURT APPROVAL FOR FBI SEARCHES OF SPY DATA BY TONYA RILEY
The Democratic majority of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) has recommended Congress amend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Section 702 currently allows intelligence agencies to collect foreign communications transiting U.S. systems, but the proposed amendment would require court approval for searches of data belonging to U.S. persons. The PCLOB suggests the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approve FBI requests before searching Section 702 data for U.S. persons, potentially reducing data access. However, this proposal faces opposition, including from the White House and intelligence officials who argue it could hinder national security efforts. The report is part of ongoing debates over renewing Section 702, which is set to expire soon.
NEW ATLASCROSS HACKERS USE AMERICAN RED CROSS AS PHISHING LURE BY BILL TOULAS
Two previously unknown trojans, DangerAds and AtlasAgent, were recently discovered and are said to be associated with AtlasCross attacks. The new ATP hacking group is reportedly using phishing emails posing as the American Red Cross to target organizations in which recipients are invited to participate in a "September 2023 Blood Drive" and are tricked into opening malicious macro-enabled Word documents. Opening the document triggers the installation of DangerAds and AtlasAgent malware. AtlasAgent, a custom C++ trojan, carries out various functions, including extracting host details and executing commands from the attacker's servers. AtlasCross operates discreetly with selective targeting, allowing them to evade detection for an undisclosed period.
CISA LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO TEACH AMERICANS TO BE SAFE ONLINE BY CHRISTIAN VASQUEZ
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has launched a public awareness campaign, including a 60-second PSA, to promote basic cybersecurity habits among Americans. The campaign, part of CISA's Cybersecurity Awareness Program, aims to encourage behaviors like using strong passwords, employing password managers, enabling multi-factor authentication, recognizing and reporting phishing attempts, and keeping software up to date. CISA Director Jen Easterly emphasized the importance of personal responsibility for online safety. This initiative comes in response to a series of high-profile cyberattacks, with the administration seeking to reform U.S. cybersecurity policy. The PSA directs viewers to a new website offering resources on cyber hygiene, and CISA has also released tip sheets and infographics for families, businesses, and vendors.