Overnight Cybersecurity: Hacker behind Clinton email revelations to plead guilty

June 2, 2016
In The News


--IT WAS ME: A Romanian hacker who claimed to have broken into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server is expected to plead guilty to U.S. criminal charges in a federal court this week. Court records show that Marcel Lehel Lazar, who goes by the alias “Guccifer,” will change his plea during a hearing in Alexandria, Va. on Wednesday morning. A spokesman with the U.S. attorney’s office prosecuting Lazar confirmed that he would plead guilty. However, it is unclear which charges the 42-year-old will plead guilty to, or whether the move is part of a deal to cooperate with federal officials on other cases. The hacker has been indicted on nine felony counts related to his hacking into accounts of senior U.S. officials, including former President George W. Bush and ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Lazar’s hacking into Bush’s email account exposed self-portraits and other paintings that the former president had after leaving office. His access to longtime Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal’s email account first exposed Clinton’s use of a private email account during her time in office. The revelation opened the door to what has been a protracted controversy over the likely Democratic presidential nominee’s personal setup, which has dogged her presidential campaign.  This month, Lazar claimed to have also broken into Clinton's “completely unsecured” server, which he compared to “an open orchid on the internet.” Clinton’s campaign has dismissed the claim, and the State Department has said it has no reason to believe the hacker. To read our full piece, click here.

--A MAN OF INFLUENCE: Rep. Joe Barton wants another shot at the House Energy and Commerce Committee's gavel, potentially putting him in a position of influence in the ongoing debate over encryption technology. “I believe I could be chairman for two more terms,” the Texas Republican told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an interview published on Saturday. “I’m certainly not the leading candidate, but I was chairman for one term and ranking member for two terms. Under the right set of circumstances, I’d have a very good opportunity to be chairman. I’d be an activist, can-do chairman.” Barton served as chairman of the panel from 2004 until Democrats took the majority in the House in the 2006 midterms. He then served another two terms as the committee’s ranking member. When Barton again sought the gavel in 2010, he was unable to get a waiver exempting him from a rule limiting lawmakers' terms at the helm of a committee. Michigan Rep. Fred Upton (R) instead won the chairmanship and has presided over the panel since then. The committee’s jurisdiction is famously broad, crafting policies that touch on the environment, technology and healthcare — and encryption. The committee is currently at the heart of a jurisdictional dispute over who will bear responsibility for the future of the technology. Energy and Commerce has primary jurisdiction over a bill from Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) establishing a commission to study encryption — and meanwhile, the committee has formed its own competing working group. To read our full piece, click here.


--HUGE FANS. The financial services industry is ratcheting up its support of legislation that would set nationwide data security standards and require businesses to notify customers following a breach.

The push coincides with an annual advocacy gathering of retailers, who oppose the bill. The National Retail Federation is hosting its annual Retail Advocates Summit in Washington, D.C., this week.

The bill, from Reps. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) and John Carney (D-Del.), would set requirements modeled after those governing the financial sector.

“Financial institutions have had this obligation for 15 years, and it’s long overdue for Congress to pass legislation ensuring that everyone has a similar mandate to keep customer data safe,” Jason Kratovil, vice president of government affairs for payments at the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR), said Monday.

The FSR, along with six other financial services trade associations, are making a “significant” ad buy targeting Capitol Hill this week.


--LUNACY. Aaron Caroll wants you to know there’s nothing magical about breakfast. Let us be the first to say, science be damned. Breakfast is king.



--The House Homeland Security Committee's cybersecurity subcommittee at 10 a.m. will examine how the Department of Homeland Security is assisting states in preparing for and responding to cyberattacks.

--Join The Hill at 8 a.m. for State of the Sharing Economy: A Discussion on the Future of Cross-Border Commerce, featuring conversations with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Navdeep Bains, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development. Topics of discussion include: New markets created by technological innovation, the global sharing economy, and policy & regulatory reforms to protect personal and proprietary data. Register here.


--The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee will question a State Department official on international cyber strategy, also at 10 a.m.

--The House Oversight Committee will examine federal agencies’ reliance on outdated technology, at 9 a.m.

--The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity responsibilities at the Department of Health and Human Services at 10 a.m.


--PROS AND CONS. The Wall Street Journal presents a pair of dueling arguments for and against a data breach mandate, from Denise Zheng, deputy director and senior fellow in the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Andrea Castillo, program manager in the Technology Policy Program at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

The issue is widely seen by many as the next frontier in cybersecurity legislation.


--ENCRYPTION. (AGAIN.) (SORRY.) A bipartisan pair of lawmakers are encouraging their colleagues to use end-to-end encryption to communicate.

“There are a number of easy-to-use applications that have end-to-end encryption for mobile communications. While this method is not foolproof, the use of these apps constructs a huge barrier to your communications being deciphered,” Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter sent Monday.

The missive comes amid a bitter debate that has seen Congress divided over how much access law enforcement should have to encrypted communications. Some lawmakers have condemned firms like Facebook’s WhatsApp for rolling out end-to-end encryption, which prevents even the manufacturer from reading the content of users’ messages.

Lieu has been an outspoken proponent of strong encryption, which technologists insist is critical to protecting the security and privacy everyday users of the Internet.

The California Democrat has said previously that he texts “to the extent possible” on WhatsApp and encourages his colleagues to do the same.