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07/29/2020
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New details on a pro-Russian plot to undercut America's presence abroad. A top U.S. military commander discusses plans to strike back against foreign information operations. And correcting the record about those Twitter charges. This is CyberScoop for Wednesday, July 29.

Fake letters, hacked media tried spreading anti-US sentiment

A propaganda campaign is using the coronavirus pandemic to inflame anxieties about NATO troops throughout Eastern Europe. The group, dubbed Ghostwriter, has been focused on amplifying anti-Western narratives in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania since 2017. Operatives have planted fabricated diplomatic documents, tried spreading the false narrative that Canadian soldiers had been spreading COVID-19 through Latvia and leveraged news sites to spread bogus information that appeared to be legitimate, according to FireEye. Jeff Stone has more context.


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US Army plans a cyber makeover, but be patient

Amid Russian, Chinese, and Iranian influence operations aimed at manipulating U.S. politics, the Army’s top cybersecurity official released a 10-year plan to reform his command into a more capable information warfare unit. Under the initiative, Army Cyber Command will reorganize into units that can counter efforts to destabilize the U.S. The plan involves trying to influence adversaries' behaviors by jamming up their signals, or by running social media information operations to control the narrative. Shannon Vavra has more details.


US tweaks charges against alleged Saudi spies

U.S. prosecutors have filed a superseding indictment against two former Twitter employees for allegedly spying on dissidents on behalf of Saudi Arabia. DOJ alleged last year that a Saudi national with ties to the royal family had convinced two former Twitter employees to abuse their access to Twitter to collect sensitive information about Saudi critics, including location data, email addresses, and phone numbers. The U.S. is not seeking to dismiss charges against the three men, despite recent media reports suggesting otherwise. Shannon has the facts.


Goodbye to an infosec networking site

Security professionals this week lamented the loss of Peerlyst, a social networking site where they could trade tips, hunt for jobs and plan meetups. Peerlyst founder Limor Elbaz said the site would shut down Aug. 27, citing financial pressure. “I took the news hard,” said Duo Security’s J. Wolfgang Goerlich, who has posted nearly 700 times on Peerlyst. “We’re losing a central watering hole.” Sean and Greg Otto have more.


More VPN headaches for critical infrastructure operators

A week after the NSA and DHS told U.S. industrial companies to secure their VPN traffic, researchers from Claroty have details on vulnerabilities that, if exploited as part of a larger attack, could be a pathway to access industrial computers. Researchers haven’t noticed any exploits, but they did report a lot of vulnerable VPN servers connected to the internet. Multiple state-backed hacking groups, from Iran to Russia, are fond of abusing remote-access software. Sean Lyngaas breaks it down.


Islamic State group can't get back online

The Islamic State terrorist group is reportedly struggling to regain a foothold on mainstream social networks amid tighter controls from technology firms and ongoing attention from the U.S. military. As major networks have stifled the group, it has tried to build a presence on a number of marginal social media platforms, only to be met “by increasing efforts by these companies to bring down content,” the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, said. U.S. Cyber Command, a military outfit, has previously taken action against the Islamic State, using digital means in 2016 and 2017 to try to knock out recruitment channels and mitigate the group’s spread online. Jeff has the latest.


More disruption for a Pentagon cyber initiative

The U.S. military wants to certify the cybersecurity of every company in its supply chain, but getting the process off the ground hasn't been easy. The third-party board that the Department of Defense tapped to implement the program is facing its most intense internal turmoil yet, Jackson Barnett reports at FedScoop. Board members are questioning their own leaders as well as the program's relationship with the Pentagon, at a time when the process — known as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification — is supposed to be ramping up to hire security assessors and send them out to companies. The cause of the tension centers on a new contractual relationship that the DOD wants the board to approve. Up to this point, the two sides had been operating under a less-structured memorandum of understanding. Read the scoop.


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