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06/02/2022
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State gets a cyber ambassador pick. Evil Corp freshens its tactics. And the U.S. ambassador to NATO talks cyber. This is CyberScoop for June 2.

Admin picks former cyber exec, Marine as State's sfirst cyber ambassador

A longtime cyber executive who served two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later ran the esteemed Washington think tank the Center for a New American Security has been selected as the State Department's inaugural ambassador-at-large for its new Cybersecurity and Digital Policy Bureau, three sources told CyberScoop Wednesday. If President Joe Biden signs off on the pick and the Senate confirms him, Nathaniel "Nate" Fick would arrive at a State Department focused on enhancing its capacity to manage cyber threats and lead on setting global cybersecurity norms. Fick delivered a keynote speech for then President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and is politically connected with strong military roots. Fick currently serves as general manager of information security for the Internet search company Elastic, which builds self-managed and Software as a Service offerings. Suzanne Smalley has the scoop.


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Evil Corp finds a new disguise

Hackers likely affiliated with the notorious Russian cybercrime group Evil Corp are using off-the-shelf ransomware to evade U.S. sanctions, researchers at security firm Mandiant have found. Affiliates whom researchers group as “UNC2165” have since taken cover with LOCKBIT, a ransomware-as-a-service with ties to a number of different threat actors. The researchers’ observations, released Thursday, are just the latest example of how cybercriminals affiliated with Evil Corp have shifted tactics after U.S. sanctions in 2019 increased scrutiny over transactions with the group. Tonya Riley writes.


NATO ambassador discusses disinformation, Article 5

NATO officials have benefited from the support of Asia-Pacific countries as they grapple with how to combat disinformation and cyber attacks from Russia, U.S. ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told reporters gathered at a Defense Writers Group roundtable in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. "It has been interesting for me to watch countries in the Asia Pacific, talk about hybrid threats on their side of the Pacific, how are they grappling with disinformation, cyberattacks, the aggressive tactics that they're seeing, acts of intimidation from China, and then you pair that with an Estonian or Lithuanian, and they talk about some of the challenges that they're seeing from Russia," Smith said. "And what we've talked about is the learning that's going on, how China will parrot the disinformation coming out of Russia, they'll look very carefully at how they use these hybrid tactics." In an interview with CyberScoop after the meeting adjourned, Smith said that while she could not offer specifics on which Russian cyber actions might trigger a NATO Article 5 response, she emphasized that "cyber is a new domain and that's a big deal for NATO." Under Article 5, if one NATO country is the victim of an armed attack, the alliance considers all member states a victim of the attack. Here's some recent CyberScoop reporting on NATO.


FBI takes down leak service

The FBI and Justice Department said Tuesday they had seized the site weleakinfo.to, which offered a subscription service where customers could access billions of records of personal information leaked in data breaches, including names, email addresses, usernames, phone numbers and passwords for online accounts. Such information is valuable to cybercriminals looking to commit identity fraud and financial crimes. Agents also seized two domains, ipstress.in and ovh-booter.com, that offered DDoS-for-hire services. Tonya has this one, too.


Europol disables botnet infecting massive number of devices

Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, announced Wednesday that 11 countries worked together with Europol to disable an extremely prolific mobile malware dubbed FluBot. Europol said the malware rapidly multiplied by leveraging victims' text messages and stealing their contacts to further spread. The Android-based botnet was used to steal victims' passwords and online banking credentials. The Dutch Police deactivated the malware's infrastructure last month, but it is unclear if the botnet will be permanently eradicated. Many botnets have proven to be hard to permanently disrupt, a fact underscored by the resurgence of Trickbot after Microsoft led a campaign to disable it in 2020. The FluBot malware infected a "huge" number of devices, Europol said, calling the botnet's ability to spread rapidly by seizing victims' contacts a "destructive spiral." Suzanne reports.


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WATCH: State Department’s CISO on treating data as a strategic asset to shape diplomacy

Donna Bennett, chief information security officer for the U.S. State Department, shares why data and security go hand in hand when shaping strategies around zero trust. The agency is using data to improve how employees meet their diplomatic mission by ensuring secure and protected access to sensitive information, no matter which device an employee uses to access the network, she says. Watch Bennett’s full interview here.


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