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Aug 19, 2020

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Democrats use Senate’s Russia report to make their closing argument against Trump


Joseph Marks



With that track record, Democrats warn, voters shouldn’t trust that Trump will stop Russia from interfering in the 2020 election or taking other actions that undermine U.S. democracy.
Despite nearly four years of repeated warnings from America’s national security officials, President Trump has failed to protect America’s elections and even opened the door for Vladimir Putin to again attack our country in the same insidious way,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), one of Trump’s most outspoken critics, warned that “the president’s continued efforts to invite, even coerce, foreign help in his campaign only underscore the danger he poses to our democracy.”
The report marks one of the last major public opportunities before the election for Democrats to highlight Russia’s 2016 hacking and influence operations, which the Senate panel and intelligence agencies say were aimed at helping Trump and hurting his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Democrats pounced at the opportunity during the second night of the Democratic National Convention, which is being held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Donald Trump pretends Russia didn’t attack our elections,” former secretary of state John F. Kerry declared. “He won’t defend our country. … The only person he’s interested in defending is himself.”
In contrast, Joe Biden “will be a champion for free and fair elections,” Georgia politician and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams declared.
“The future of our democracy is at stake,” said former acting attorney general Sally Yates, who was fired during the early days of the Trump administration for refusing to enforce the president’s travel ban.
Rather than standing up to Vladimir Putin, [Trump] fawns over a dictator who is still trying to interfere in our elections,” she said.

Intel officials have warned the Kremlin is already “using a range of measures” to interfere in the 2020 election.

However, Department of Homeland Security officials have said they’ve seen fewer direct efforts to hack into election infrastructure so far this year.
And there may be unreleased information that would make Americans’ even more wary of Trump’s actions in advance of the election, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, warned in an addendum to the report. The addendum complains about excessive and needless redactions.
“That is unfortunate, not only because the counterintelligence concerns that surround Donald Trump constitute an ongoing threat to national security, but because this report includes redacted information that is directly relevant to Russia’s interference in the 2020 election,” Wyden wrote.

Democrats also used the report to make a last-ditch push for legislation aimed at protecting the November contest. 

“Coming less than 100 days until the November election, the report should break the Senate logjam loose and prompt immediate action to protect our elections from foreign interference,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chair of the House Administration Committee.
She urged the Senate to pass Democratic House bills that would deliver a slew of reforms, including making it a crime for candidates to accept foreign help in an election.
Republicans have largely opposed specific security mandates though Congress has sent $1.2 billion in election money to states since 2016.
Democrats say about $3.6 billion more funding is necessary, along with mandates that states use paper ballots, to conduct post-election audits and allow everyone to vote by mail and vote early during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats also held events across the nation this week attacking Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for cost-cutting initiatives that slowed mail delivery and might have prevented millions of mail ballots from being delivered on time. Facing lawsuits from more than 20 states, DeJoy, a Trump megadonor, announced that he will suspend most of those changes until after the election.
Here’s Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who wrote House Democrats’ major election security bill, the For the People Act, which included a number of other Democratic priorities such as reducing money in politics and raising ethics requirements for members of Congress:
And Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.):
“Republicans who ignore this foreign interference just to appease Trump are complicit in efforts to undermine our democracy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted.
The report runs more than 1,400 pages over five volumes and represents the most expansive congressional effort to come to terms with Russia’s election interference.
Yet, Republicans and Democrats are as divided as ever in its wake.
It described how Manafort's "presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign.” Among other Russian contacts, Manafort worked with a Russian intelligence officer to help undermine evidence that the Kremlin interfered in the election, including promoting a false narrative that Ukraine interfered instead, the report states.
But Republican committee members mostly glossed over that finding in their statements, declaring — as acting Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) did — that the report “found no evidence of ‘collusion.’
Republicans focused more on a separate section of the report, which found flaws in the FBI’s investigation into Russian threats and that the bureau gave “unjustified credence” to claims about Trump’s ties with Russia offered by former British spy Christopher Steele.
Here’s more from Rubio:
And from Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho), another member of the Intelligence Committee:
One exception was Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) who chaired the Intelligence Committee for most of the investigation, and focused on the danger of Russian influence in November without mentioning Trump.
“One of the Committee’s most important – and overlooked – findings is that much of Russia’s activities weren’t related to producing a specific electoral outcome, but attempted to undermine our faith in the democratic process itself,” he said. “Their aim is to sow chaos, discord, and distrust. Their efforts are not limited to elections. The threat is ongoing.”
Trump, meanwhile, is continuing to describe Russian interference in the election as a “hoax” — contradicting the unanimous conclusion of senators, U.S. intelligence agencies and the report from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
“It’s all hoax. A big hoax. What was in a report by some politicians, on the other side, like Warner... What was in the report? That I don’t know,” Trump said. “But I know one thing that was in the report, that Donald Trump had absolutely nothing to do with it or with Russia.”

The keys



DeJoy’s step back on postal changes doesn’t go far enough to secure mail voting, Democrats say.

The Postal Service needs to do more to ensure Americans can reliably vote by mail this fall, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.
“This pause only halts a limited number of the Postmaster’s changes, does not reverse damage already done, and alone is not enough to ensure voters will not be disenfranchised by the president this fall,” she said in a statement.
The House plans to move forward with a bill that would give the Postal Service a $25 billion boost to make those changes, she said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pushed for more details about which reforms are being suspended.
DeJoy will testify Friday before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and in front of the House Oversight Committee on Monday.
Meanwhile, Trump is still attacking mail voting. He raised the prospect of having to “redo” the presidential election if mail-balloting becomes universal.
“Universal is going to be a disaster, the likes of which our country has never seen,” Trump said at a White House event. “It will end up being a rigged election or they will never come out with an outcome. They’ll have to do it again, and nobody wants that, and I don’t want that.”

China is firing back against Trump’s latest Huawei ban.

The latest ban will damage global trade and Beijing will “take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, according to the Associated Press.
China has accused the United States of unfairly targeting its companies including Huawei and more recently TikTok and WeChat under the guise of national security. The most recent Commerce Department action banned overseas computer chip firms from selling all chips made with U.S. technologies to Huawei unless they get a special license. Huawei has consistently denied U.S. claims it can't be trusted not to spy on behalf of the Chinese government.

The White House cybersecurity chief is leaving for industry.

Federal Chief Information Security Officer Grant Schneider has been leading efforts to improve the government’s cybersecurity protections since early in the Trump administration, including trying to rid the government of suspect computer parts from Huawei and other Chinese companies. He’s leaving at the end of this month to become senior director of cybersecurity services at the law firm Venable.
Schneider told me in an interview that he was proud that government cybersecurity efforts had remained relatively fixed and nonpartisan between the Obama and Trump administrations.
“I was heartened by that,” he said. “I have always felt there’s a nonpartisan space around IT modernization and cybersecurity and data protection and the fact we were able to continue in that direction speaks to the people working in this space.”
The government has dramatically improved its cybersecurity protections since 2015, when China-linked hackers stole reams of highly personal data about more than 20 million federal employees from the Office of Personnel Management, Schneider told me. But federal agencies still remain vulnerable, he said.
“We’re in a much better place than we were, but we certainly have a lot more work to do,” he said. “There is no such thing as a safe place in cybersecurity. It’s all about doing your due diligence and continuing to ratchet up because that’s what your adversaries are doing.”

Cyber moves


Other major industry players are also making moves.
  • Thomas P. Bossert, who served as the Trump administration's homeland security adviser and led early efforts to impose stronger punishments on U.S. cyberspace adversaries, is taking over as president at Trinity Cyber. 
  • The Biden camp has hired Jackie Singh as a senior cybersecurity staffer, she announced on Twitter. Singh is the founder of Spyglass Security.

Privacy patch



Privacy groups are urging California to adopt guardrails for coronavirus tracing apps.

The groups are calling for a ban on the use of data collected for coronavirus tracing for targeted advertising or other commercial purposes. They also want data collected by the apps to be purged after 30 days.
“Doing so will also help ensure greater success for these contact tracing programs as more Californians will feel safe participating in them knowing the information they provide to help fight the pandemic won’t be used to deport them or build data-rich profiles for data brokers and advertisers,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Media Alliance and Oakland Privacy wrote in a letter to the California governor and state legislators.
More cybersecurity news:

Chat room


If following the USPS saga has you like this:
Here’s a TikTok explainer:

Secure log off


Finally, we leave you with the highlight of last night's convention: the Calamari Comeback.

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