LW’s NEWS WRAP: Russian bots conduct social media blitz to discredit Trump-Russia probe

By Byron V. Acohido

Last Watchdog’s News Wrap, Vol. 1, No. 3. The use of Russian bots and trolls in social media  propaganda blitzes continues. Counter terrorism expert Malcolm Nance minced no words in lambasting the latest deployment of Russian botnets to influence American politics.

Related article: Trump is top bait used in spam campaigns

Nance appeared on the Stephanie Miller radio show to decry as ‘treasonous’ the bold move by House Republicans to spread word of — but no details from —  a top secret memo purportedly discrediting the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.


This move was accompanied by the unleashing of Russian bots and trolls to hype the #Releasethememo campaign on Twitter and other social media platform. This appeared to be an attempt to add validity to the memo in question — by suggesting a cover-up.

Lest we forget, Russian botnets fueled wildly conflicting polling results during the 2016 presidential race, and fabricated 6.1 million Twitter followers for then-candidate Trump. This week’s blitz represents another level of finesse.

Insurance halo effect

Here’s more evidence that the insurance industry is aggressively seeking to nurture the anticipated $20 billion-plus market for cyber liability insurance policies. Insurance carriers and underwriters need to figure out how to triangulate complex cyber risks —  not as easy as setting actuarial tables for fires or earthquakes.

So the Barbican Insurance Group announced it has partnered with software analytics provider FICO to offer a cyber threat monitoring and vulnerability assessment solution.

Barbican will now provide all its cyber insurance clients with a free subscription to something called FICO ESS Portrait.

The service  produces a ‘cyber rating,’ reflecting the likelihood of a material network breach. This is the halo effect I’ve written about: as insurance carriers promote new tools and best practices — the better to identify low-risk policy purchasers —  the general state of security should incrementally improve.

Amazon, Google enter infosec game

Amazon and Google each quietly took big steps toward, perhaps, introducing a radical new  paradigm on how to make the Internet as safe as it needs to be. Amazon Web Services has purchased Sqrrl, a Cambridge, Mass. security startup with roots in the NSA. The company helps analyze a variety of sources to track and understand security threats quickly using machine learning.

Meanwhile, Alphabet Inc., the conglomerate formed in 2015 to serve as parent to Google and its portfolio of subsidiaries, officially launched something called Chronicle, a system to collect and analyze threat data from myriad organizations.


“Both of these technologies will likely serve as analytic platforms for threat detection, which isn’t necessarily a new idea,” says Terry Ray, chief technology officer at Imperva, “Their pitch seems to point toward the idea of forwarding all types of collected security logs to these new systems, similar to analytic platforms already on the market.  Then letting them churn through the data to find the needle in the needle stack.”

There’s clearly a long way to go. One big obstacle is the intense competitive nature of security vendors, which can make sharing findings problematic. Even so, this could be a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. These two tech giants have a lot to gain by making Internet-centric commerce much safer. They are both highly motivated and the both have access to endless resources. It is terrific to see them putting some serious skin into the security game.

Protecting students’ privacy

It may seem like all federal agencies are ineffectual and crumbling, given the current state of partisan politics. That’s why it was encouraging to see the  The U.S. Department of Education dusting off an obscure privacy law to protect students’ privacy.

The DoE recently found that the Pennsylvania-based Agora Cyber Charter School violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) when it made the use of third-party services that shared students’ data with unauthorized parties – doing so as requirement for enrollment.

A company called K12 Inc. illegally imposed ‘terms-of-use’ stating that K12 Inc. and its affiliates had “the right to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, distribute, have distributed, and promote” identifiable information students were required to provide “in any form, anywhere and for any purpose.”

(Editor’s note: LW’s NEWS WRAP is an aggregation of published articles, postings and releases supplemented by additional reporting.)

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