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InfoSec News Nuggets 7/31/2020

US provides new expanded set of espionage charges against former Twitter employees

The two former Twitter employees, Ahmad Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah, and the third person named Ahmed Almutairi were originally charged with fraudulently accessing private information and acting as illegal agents of a foreign government for allegedly spying on Twitter users critical of the Saudi royal family. This time around, the individuals have been charged with seven offences instead of two. The charges include acting as an agent for a foreign government without notice to the attorney general; conspiracy to commit wire fraud; wire fraud; money laundering; destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations; aiding and abetting; and criminal forfeiture. 


Lawmakers accuse tech giants of using privacy as a weapon to hurt competition

The CEOs of tech giants Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google faced a five-hour series of questions from the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust, specifically on whether or not they engaged in anti-competitive behavior.  Members of Congress gave several examples of times tech giants took actions that would directly benefit themselves while harming their competitors, like Google announcing it would phase out third-party tracking cookies by 2022 or Apple removing parental control apps shortly after it launched its own “screen time” feature. In both of those cases, the companies said the actions were taken to protect the privacy and security of their users, but House members argue that it was specifically to boost their own profits. 


Tens of millions of new players dove into EA games during the pandemic

That’s a rare one-time change caused by the global health emergency that has left many in isolation at home, but the company believes that many of the new fans will be lasting players. With other forms of entertainment and live physical events shut down, video games have seen a surge and EA is no different, even though the company only launched two games (Command & Conquer Remastered Collection and Burnout Paradise Remastered) during its most recent first fiscal quarter ended June 30. 


Twitter says spear-phishing attack on employees led to breach

Twitter said a large hack two weeks ago targeted a small number of employees through a phone “spear-phishing” attack. The social media platform said the hackers targeted about 130 accounts, tweeted from 45, accessed the inboxes of 36, and were able to download Twitter data from seven. Attackers also targeted specific employees who had access to account support tools, Twitter said. The company added it has since restricted access to its internal tools and systems. Twitter suffered a major security breach on 15 July that saw hackers take control of the accounts of major public figures and corporations, including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Apple.


Volunteer hacker army boosts U.S. election cybersecurity

As election officials across the country prepare for November without knowing if they’ll receive additional federal funds, a new volunteer group hopes to ease their cybersecurity concerns for free. Some states pay private companies for cybersecurity, while others rely on in-house staff or federal assistance. But nearly all have had to drastically rearrange their budgets this year to focus on holding an election during a pandemic, such as covering an influx of mailed ballots and buying cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment. Now, a University of Chicago initiative called the Election Cyber Surge aims to act as matchmaker between local election officials who may not have access to cybersecurity services and qualified experts who want to help. Officials will be able to choose an area of concern, then pick from a list of professionals willing to help via phone or video chat, a necessity during the pandemic.


US prosecutors seek years in prison for Uber self-driving exec who stole Google trade secrets

US prosecutors are seeking a total of 27 months behind bars for Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Uber’s self-driving arm who pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from Google. Levandowski was indicted by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) on 33 counts of theft and attempted theft in 2019 for stealing intellectual property belonging to his former employer. The ex-Google engineer worked on the tech giant’s self-driving technologies from 2009 to 2016 before abruptly resigning to found his own company. Prosecutors claimed that before he left his post, Levandowski downloaded a treasure trove of 14,000 internal documents relating to engineering, manufacturing, and business, specifically linked to Google’s LiDAR and self-driving car research. 

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