Aug 3, 2020

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: White House backpedals after Trump’s suggested election delay crossed GOP red line

Joseph Marks

“If we try to…start mailing in ballots all across the country, all 50 states, what we will see is a delay because they’re just not equipped to handle it,” Meadows said.
The reframing marked a rare step back for the president’s team after Trump’s attacks on mail ballots evidently hit a red line for many Republicans.
Trump's tweet warned without evidence that “2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” That's a common line of attack for the president. Mail in balloting is expected to substantially increase this November as it may not be safe to physically go to polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
But it ended by asking, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” That broke new ground and prompted quick pushback from top Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
The blowback was still coming through the weekend. 
“It’s not helpful for the president to think out loud in a public fashion,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The rebukes mark a shift for Republicans who have shared few of the president’s outsized concerns about mail voting but have generally explained those concerns away rather than directly contradicting them.
The moment is reminiscent of just a handful of earlier breaks between Trump and his party such as when the president suggested in 2017 an equivalency between Russia’s 2016 interference in the U.S. election and U.S. covert actions in Latin America and elsewhere.

The attack also signaled a shift for Trump himself. 

The president has repeatedly claimed without evidence that voting by mail will lead to widespread fraud. But more recently, he’s begun pairing that with warning that counting a surge in mail-in ballots could delay the election results by weeks or months and insinuating those results can’t be trusted.
“I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to wait for three months and find out that all the ballots are all missing and the election won’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen, and everyone knows it,” Trump said during a Thursday news conference.
He also tweeted, “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!”
That leaves a broad window for the president to sow doubts about results that are tallied after Election Day. And it’s stoking anxiety among Democrats.
“This guy never had an idea about wanting a peaceful transfer of power,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a member of the House leadership team, said on “State of the Union.” “I don’t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn’t plan to have fair and unfettered elections. I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold on to office.”
Georgia politician Stacey Abrams, a contender to be Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick, said Trump “is doing his best to undermine our confidence in the process.”

Election officials and lawmakers are genuinely concerned it could take weeks or longer to tally results. 

But that isn’t turning them against mail voting, which most officials say will be vital to ensure people can cast their ballots safely during the pandemic. They’ve begun trying to educate the public to be patient for results that will be much slower to arrive than usual.
The process could be sped up with help from the federal government, which committed $400 million to help run elections during the early days of the pandemic but hasn’t done anything since. Democrats are seeking up to $3.6 billion for elections but Republicans’ most recent coronavirus relief proposal didn’t include any election money.

Beyond funding, Republicans and Democrats are as far apart as ever on how to secure the election. 

Trump has repeatedly declined to pledge he won’t accept dirt on his opponents from foreign governments, raising the specter of the sort of Russian hacking and leaking operation that upended Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller declined to make such a commitment again on “Fox News Sunday” but said  “there is no foreign assistance that’s happening in this campaign.”
Joe Biden, meanwhile, has sought to project strength against Russian interference, saying he will “leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators” of election interference if he wins the White House.
Democrats are sounding alarms about election threats and accusing the Trump administration of sharing too little information with Congress and the American public.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) left a classified election security briefing Friday saying she thought the administration was “withholding” evidence of foreign election interference, Politico reported.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders earlier criticized an intelligence community warning about election threats from Russia, China and Iran, which they called so vague as to be “almost meaningless.”
An intelligence official pushed back on the criticisms, telling Politico officials had shared “the most sensitive information in the U.S. government’s hands on foreign threats to the election” and accusing the lawmakers of failing to protect classified information and using it for partisan gain.
“Our adversaries only benefit from such partisan divisions and they are all too happy to exploit them to harm our country,” the official said.

The keys

Trump is planning a crackdown on Chinese tech that could reach far beyond TikTok. 

The president will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News yesterday. He cited TikTok, WeChat, and countless other Chinese-owned apps, which he said are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party."
Trump has threatened to ban TikTok outright, but Microsoft is pushing to acquire the app's U.S. operations from Chinese parent company ByteDance. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke with Trump about those plans over the weekend and pledged to address his concerns about the company, Rachel Lerman reports. Trump plans to give Microsoft 45 days to close the deal, Reuters’s Greg Roumeliotis, Echo Wang and Matt Spetalnick report.
Some Republican lawmakers who have raised red flags about TikTok also support a sale over a full ban.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who first asked for a Treasury Department-led review of TikTok's potential threat to national security, called a sale "an acceptable outcome."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.):
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.):

A Florida teen accused of masterminding a massive Twitter hack is facing $725,000 in bail.  

That is more than six times as much as Graham Ivan Clark, a 17-year-old from Tampa, Fla. swindled in bitcoin from Twitter users last month. Clark and two other accomplices are facing felony charges for the scam, which compromised the accounts of Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Gates and dozens of other high-profile users.
Prosecutors argued Saturday that Clark must prove the money used to post bail wasn't also stolen. Clark has more than $3 million in bitcoin that was temporarily seized from him during a criminal investigation last year into a separate scam he was ultimately not charged for, the Tampa Bay Times reports
Clark and his accomplices were able to gain access to Twitter's internal tools by tricking employees into sharing their credentials over the phone. Hackers managed to tweet from 45 accounts before Twitter regained control.
The Justice Department also charged Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, and Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, England, according to a release from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of California.

Hackers posing as Facebook are trying to steal campaign emails, the DNC warns.

The hackers have sent emails posing as Facebook telling users that their Facebook pages have been unpublished, according to a Democratic National Committee security alert obtained by Donie O'Sullivan at CNN. The email then links to a fake login page asking for the user’s password and other personal information. 
Russian hackers used a similar phishing attack to access the gmail account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in 2016. The DNC has offered campaigns a number of security recommendations to avoid a repeat scenario in 2020.
 Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, told CNN he was not familiar with the attack flagged by the DNC but that it was similar to other phishing attacks hackers launch on the app. 

Securing the ballot

Facebook is considering new rules about “premature” election results claims.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg did not specify what the rules might look like, but he told the New York Times's Ben Smith the site was planning to educate users that "there’s a high likelihood that it takes days or weeks to count this — and there’s nothing wrong or illegitimate about that.”
The company recently decided to start labeling posts about voting with a link to more information. Critics say the company hasn't gone far enough to address Trump's unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting leads to rampant fraud.
More voting news:

Global cyberspace

Russia says it will retaliate against E.U. sanctions for alleged cyberattacks. 

Russia's Foreign Ministry called the European Union travel and financial sanctions on its military intelligence service politically motivated, Reuters reports. The government did not specify how it would respond. 
The sanctions are the first brought by the European Union for cyberattacks. The sanctions against Russian firms center around a wave of 2017 cyberattacks known as NotPetya and attacks on Ukraine's power grid in 2015 and 2016. The sanctions also targeted entities in China and North Korea.
More cybersecurity news:

Chat room

Reuters's Jack Stubbs provides a rare look into a negotiations between a ransomware victim and hackers:
Hackers even offered up some “free” advice:


  • Black Hat will take place virtually through Thursday.
  • The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing “Secure, Safe, and Auditable: Protecting the Integrity of the 2020 Elections Tuesday at noon.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing to examine the findings of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine federal and industry efforts to improve cybersecurity in the energy section Wednesday at 10 a.m.
  • DEF CON will take place virtually August 5-8.

Secure log off

Teaching Gen Z about national security one TikTok at a time.

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