Hillicon Valley: Agencies on alert for ransomware attacks ahead of Labor Day weekend

Hillicon Valley: Agencies on alert for ransomware attacks ahead of Labor Day weekend

Today is Tuesday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Headed into the upcoming Labor Day weekend, two key federal agencies warned Tuesday that hackers may use the extended weekend to go after U.S. companies, in particular following earlier major attacks this year during previous holidays. 

Facebook is expanding on its tests to reduce political content in users’ News Feeds by using new signals that will weigh negative feedback. 

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Follow The Hill’s cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

Let’s jump in.

Labor Day ransomware attack warning 

Federal agencies are warning of potential ransomware attacks targeted at U.S. organizations ahead of Labor Day weekend in the wake of recent cyberattacks during previous holidays this year. 

Agencies behind the alert: The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Tuesday issued an alert outlining their concerns, noting that while there was no intelligence around specific threats, other holiday weekends had given cybercriminals opportunities for attacks. 

“Cyber actors have conducted increasingly impactful attacks against U.S. entities on or around holiday weekends over the last several months,” the agencies wrote in the alert. “The FBI and CISA do not currently have specific information regarding cyber threats coinciding with upcoming holidays and weekends.”

Previous attacks: The alert was issued in the wake of multiple high-profile ransomware attacks in recent months, including the ransomware attack by Russian-based cybercriminal group DarkSide on Colonial Pipeline just prior to Mother’s Day weekend in May. The attack led to gas shortages in multiple states, disrupting a key supply chain for the East Coast. 


Weeks later, meat producer JBS USA was the target of a ransomware attack carried out by Russian-based group REvil during Memorial Day weekend. An attack by the same group was carried out against software company Kaseya during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. 

Read more about the alert here.

Facebook to feed off feedback 

Facebook will weigh negative user feedback to reduce political content in the platform’s News Feed, the company said Tuesday. 

The announcement is part of Facebook’s updates to its previously announced plan to cut down on political content. 

Since initiating the effort in February, Facebook has learned that “some engagement signals” are better at indicating what posts users find valuable, according to the Tuesday update. 

Based on what the platform has learned, Facebook will be “putting more emphasis” on signals such as how likely users are to provide negative feedback on posts about political topics and current events when ranking those types of posts in their News Feed, the company said. 

Read more here. 


South Korea’s parliament on Tuesday approved a first-of-its-kind law aimed at decreasing the dominance of the major app stores operators.

The bill, expected to be signed by President Moon Jae-in, would ban Apple and Google from forcing developers to use their proprietary payment systems.

That would allow developers to dodge the up to 30 percent commissions that the app stores charge on in-app payments.

The bill also reportedly seeks to protect developers from retribution by banning operators from unreasonably delaying the approval of or deleting apps from stores.

Read more about the legislation here.


Google announced Tuesday that it is pushing back its mandatory return to office date until Jan. 10 amid a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the delta variant.

Employees are allowed to return to offices voluntarily now if they are vaccinated. 

“First, as offices continue to reopen, we hope to see more teams coming together where possible, whether it be for regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions around a whiteboard, or outdoor socials,” Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an all-staff email later posted as a blog.

The Silicon Valley giant had previously targeted Oct. 18 as the return date.

Read more here.



An op-ed to chew on: Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos wages lawfare on NASA and SpaceX

Lighter click: Is there a Cars Jesus?

Notable links from around the web: 

Does Banning the Taliban From Social Media Actually Help Afghans? (MotherJones / Ali Breland)

A U.S.-built biometric system sparks concerns for Afghans (NBC News / April Glaser)

Millions of Prequalified Households Are Missing Out on a Crucial Internet Benefit (The Markup / Maddy Varner and Colin Lecher) 

The Silent Partner Cleaning Up Facebook for $500 Million a Year (The New York Times / Adam Satariano and Mike Isaac)


D.C. unemployment recipients are being targeted by official-looking scam emails (DCist / Martin Austermuhle and Ally Schweitzer)

One last thing: Seeking ‘Stop the Steal’ records

The House committee investigating Jan. 6 sent letters to 35 different telecommunications and social media companies Monday, asking them to retain records of those who may have been involved in the attack on the Capitol — a group that likely includes lawmakers.

The requests seek email and phone records as well as communications and other data within different social media networks. The letters do not reveal whose information is being sought but follows a nod from Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) that the committee would seek the records of members of Congress.

Even without naming names, the letters released by the committee show a focus on both those already being investigated by the Department of Justice and those who were involved in planning former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally. 

Read more here. 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Wednesday.