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12/20/2019
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State and federal election officials have sparred over the right way to share information about how to protect election infrastructure. We go inside a recent, heated conference call. Twitter removes Saudi-backed accounts. And Wawa discloses a big breach. This is CyberScoop for Friday, December 20.

Tell me how you really feel.

Collaboration on cybersecurity between federal and state and local election officials has grown by leaps and bounds since 2016, when Russian hackers probed IT systems in states across the country, and election officials weren’t notified about that activity for many months. There is now a cyberthreat-sharing center for election infrastructure, and state and local officials have fostered much closer relationships with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. But, as a transcript of a Nov. 8 inter-agency phone call vividly illustrates, state and local officials are still irked by what they see as bureaucratic obstacles to getting actionable threat information. As one official put it, "I’m tired of hearing of stuff through the New York Times, the Mueller report, the Senate Intelligence Report." Sean Lyngaas has the exclusive.


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Editor's Note

CyberScoop will not publish a newsletter from Monday, Dec. 23, through Friday, Jan. 3. We will return to your inbox around lunch time on Monday, Jan. 6. In the meantime, happy holidays. Thank you for reading.


Twitter scrubs 6,000 accounts for spreading Saudi propaganda

In a blog post, Twitter’s Site Integrity team revealed that the accounts removed this week operated as part of a “significant state-backed information operation” originating within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The accounts represent the “core” of a larger network of 88,000 accounts, and primarily were dedicated to liking, retweeting and replying to tweets that were favorable to the Saudi government on issues such as officials’ appearances in Western media and Iranian sanctions. Twitter attributed the activity to Smaat, a Saudi marketing firm co-led by an agent accused of recruiting two Twitter employees to provide data on dissidents. Jeff Stone wraps it all together.


Shorti with a side of PII

Popular East Coast convenience store chain Wawa announced Thursday that it found malware on payment processing servers that affected card information gathered from customers at potentially all of its locations. The company said malware had been running sometime after March 4 and was present on most store systems by approximately April 22. Among the information collected was cardholder names, including credit and debit card numbers and expiration dates. Wawa runs over 800 stores, mostly in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. Greg Otto has the details.


Remember that BEC scam at Facebook and Google?

A Lithuanian man’s scheme to steal more than $120 million from Facebook and Google has earned him 60 months in U.S. federal prison. A federal judge in Manhattan handed down the sentence Thursday to Evaldas Rimasauskas, who pleaded guilty in March to orchestrating a phishing plan that allowed him to pose as a Taiwanese technology manufacturer, then collect money transfers from the U.S. technology giants. Rimasauskas created domains spoofing Quanta — a contractor that actually did build servers and other components for Facebook and Google — then sent fraudulent invoices, directing the companies’ employees to wire the fake Quanta real money. Jeff has the news.


Three more cybercriminals are headed to the slammer, too

Three cybercriminals who orchestrated a multi-million dollar theft against U.S. companies using a banking trojan known as GozNym have been sentenced to prison, the Department of Justice said Friday. The operation employed the GozNym malware to target 41,000 computers at U.S. businesses and their financial institutions between 2015 and 2016. But the operation itself was not U.S.-centric. Two of the men sentenced, the ringleader of the scheme and his assistant, are from Georgia, where they were sentenced to seven and five years. One of the scammers, from Bulgaria, has served 39 months and will serve the remainder of his time in Pennsylvania. The Hague got involved to facilitate evidence-sharing between Georgia and the U.S. Shannon Vavra has the details.


F5 nabs Shape Security for $1 billion

Security giant F5 networks announced this week it will acquire Shape Security for roughly $1 billion. Shape, which promises to fend off credential stuffing attacks, has focused on serving large Fortune 100 clients like Starbucks and major airlines, then building out its services for medium-sized businesses. The plan now is for F5 to incorporate Shape into its existing portfolio, CEO Francois Locoh-Donou said in a letter. Read it here.


Emotet tries to ride Greta Thunberg’s coattails

Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine's Person of the Year for calling on world leaders to address global warming. Now, the operators of Emotet, a banking trojan that has haunted the internet for five years, are trying to trick victims into opening malicious, Thunberg-themed emails. Proofpoint researchers have found Emotet infection attempts against users from Japan to Australia to Europe. Many of the targets use .edu email addresses in what the researchers see as an attempt to exploit university students’ support for Thunberg. “Attackers choose their lures carefully: in many ways their lures are a reliable barometer of public interest and awareness,” the researchers wrote. Find the full details here.


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2019, everybody. See you next year.


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