MeriTalk News Briefs: Russians Indicted, GSA Hunts For Bugs, Smart TVs Under the Microscope

Welcome to MeriTalk News Briefs, where we bring you all the day’s action that didn’t quite make the headlines. No need to shout about ‘em, but we do feel that they merit talk.

DoJ: 12 Russians Indicted For U.S. Election Interference

The Department of Justice today announced that a Federal grand jury has returned indictments charging 12 Russian nationals with violations of U.S. law in connection with “a sustained effort” in 2016 to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, and to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. According to the indictments presented by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the 12 Russians are members of the GRU, which is a Russian Federation intelligence agency within the Russian military’s Main Intelligence Directorate. The alleged hackers, DoJ said, were able to hack into the networks through spearphishing techniques and once access to the networks had been achieved, were able to steal emails and documents, implant malware, and monitor the computer activity of dozens of persons. “Together with our law enforcement partners, the Department of Justice is resolute in its commitment to locate, identify and seek to bring to justice anyone who interferes with American elections,” said Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, in a statement. “Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious, and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide, and conquer us. So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed,” he said.

GSA Adds Login.gov To Bug Bounty Program

The General Services Administration (GSA) added login.gov, GSA’s single sign-on platform, to its bug bounty program. The program, run by GSA’s Technology Transformation Service team, asks friendly hackers to test the security of Federal government websites. While bug bounty programs are popular in the private sector and with military agencies, GSA is the first civilian agency to begin such a program. Launched in August of 2017, the program will award bounties of $150 to $5,000 for vulnerabilities found and disclosed in login.gov code.

Senators Call for Probe Of Smart TV Makers’ Privacy Policies

Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said today they want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the privacy policies and practices of makers of smart TV makers. “Smart TVs can track the content users are watching, but manufacturers may not provide sufficient information about their privacy practices, leaving many smart TV users unaware of the extent to which their televisions are collecting sensitive information about their viewing habits,” according to a statement from the senators, who also cited research they said supports the notion that smart TVs can identify users’ political affiliations based on the programs they watch.

Bloomberg Government Releases Ranking of Top 200 Federal Contractors

Bloomberg government released its seventh annual BGOV200, an annual ranking of the top 200 Federal contractors based on prime contracts awarded in FY2017. While the top six Federal contracts remained the same from last year’s ranking, 92 contractors improved their place on the list and 92 fell in the rankings. “The share of total government obligations won by the top 200 was 64 percent, or $327 billion of $512 billion, which is about the same share of spending obligations won by BGOV200 companies in fiscal 2016,” Bloomberg government explained.

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