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Welcome to OVERNIGHT CYBERSECURITY, your daily rundown of the biggest news in the world of hacking and data privacy. We’re here to connect the dots as leaders in government, policy and industry try to counter the rise in cyber threats. What lies ahead for Congress, the administration and the latest company under siege? Whether you’re a consumer, a techie or a D.C. lifer, we’re here to give you …
The Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s involvement in the U.S. presidential election.

Mueller, a former prosecutor who served a 12-year term at the helm of the bureau, has accepted the position, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for the matter,” Rosenstein said in a statement.

“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

Democrats have clamored for Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor in the wake of reports that fired FBI Director James Comey penned a memo documenting a request from President Trump that he “let go” of the investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.


And keep checking tonight for updates on this breaking story.

IT MODERNIZATION CLEARS HOUSE: A bill to fund agency efforts to modernize IT equipment has passed the House.

The Modernizing Government Technology Act, headed by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and backed by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Robyn Kelly (D-Ill.), passed via voice vote Wednesday afternoon.

It provides two channels of funding that agencies can use to upgrade aging technology, which is generally considered to be less secure and more expensive to run than new technology.

“Bad actors repeatedly target the federal government,” said Connolly from the floor. “Those attacks often succeed because federal computer systems are so outdated that they cannot implement network defenses as basic as encryption.”

The legislation is the amalgam of two bills from 2016 — Hurd’s MoveIT bill that allowed agencies to keep any money they saved by buying more cost efficient technology and an Obama administration-backed modernization fund to loan money for upgrades. Agencies would repay those funds using the savings from new technology. Both ideas are present in the resulting bill.

“As we look at the acceleration of attacks, especially over this weekend, making sure the government has appropriate IT is critical,” said Candace Worley, chief technical strategist for McAfee.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

HURD’S NEXT HURDLE: The GOP chairman of the House’s information technology subcommittee is looking to bring new leadership to the creation of a “cyber national guard” that would help recruit stronger talent to fill cybersecurity roles in the federal government.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said the program would allow industry professionals to bring innovative ideas back into the federal government without the government having to keep up with the salaries available in the technology community.

“We have to stop thinking that the federal government is going to be able to be competitive when it comes to salaries with the private sector,” Hurd said Wednesday at a cybersecurity conference hosted by Fedscoop and software company VMware. “It’s not going to happen.”

The congressman said that the issue will be his next “big initiative” following his push for a bill to modernize the federal government’s IT infrastructure that passed the House in a vote Wednesday afternoon.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

NOW THEY CAN FLY PLANES: DARPA designed a robot copilot. 
THE NSA: The National Security Agency warned Microsoft about a vulnerability in Windows after a hacker group began to leak hacking tools used by the agency online, the Washington Post reported late Tuesday.

The vulnerability has been the center of attention in recent days, following the outbreak of the global “Wanna Cry” ransomware attack that crippled Britain’s hospital system and has spread to at least 150 countries.

The ransomware is widely believed to be based on an alleged NSA hacking tool leaked by the group Shadow Brokers earlier this year. The government has not publicly acknowledged that the NSA developed the tool.

However, the Post report, which cites former NSA employees, confirms that the agency warned Microsoft of the vulnerability after Shadow Brokers began leaking alleged hacking tools online last August.

“NSA identified a risk and communicated it to Microsoft, who put out an immediate patch,” Mike McNerney, a former Defense Department cybersecurity official, told the Post. McNerney said, however, that no top government official emphasized the seriousness of the vulnerability.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

Links from our blog, The Hill, and around the Web.

Alice Fisher, a former assistant attorney general, withdrew her name from the shortlist for FBI director. (The Hill)

Following jarring reports that President Trump asked then FBI Director Comey to lay off an investigation into Michael Flynn, Comey has been invited to testify before Congress by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). (The Hill)

…And by a Judiciary subcommittee investigating Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

…And by the Senate Intelligence Committee. (The Hill)

A NIST workshop mulled a new version of the cybersecurity framework. (The Hill)

Terry McAuliffe dinged Congress on cybersecurity: “Get your act together.” (The Hill)

The ransomware purportedly more dangerous than Wanna Cry isn’t. (The Hill)

The Senate approved encrypted app Signal for staff use. (The Hill)Trump will nominate a new top telecom policy adviser. (The Hill)

Dems are rallying net neutrality supporters ahead of a key FCC vote. (The Hill)


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