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Republican congressman says labor crunch biggest threat to US cybersecurity

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) said during a Thursday morning event that labor shortages within the cyber sector present the biggest long-term threat to U.S. cybersecurity. 

“Workforce — in five years, if we don’t fix this workforce problem, that is probably the biggest threat that we have toward ensuring that when it comes to cybersecurity,” Garbarino said. 

The GOP lawmaker spoke at a panel hosted by Punchbowl News, where he discussed the future of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence’s (AI) place in it.

Garbarino stressed that the workforce shortage in the cyber sector, which, according to cybersecurity workforce analytics platform Cyber Seek, currently sits at more than 570,000 job openings, creates opportunities for “bad actors” such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea to “attack” companies and the U.S. government. 

It’s not only the shortage of workers that concerns Garbarino, but the pressure building across sectors to hire highly skilled workers equipped to fight against ransomware and other attacks.

Garbarino began sharing these concerns about the ongoing labor crunch in June during a House Homeland Security Committee subpanel hearing. 

“We need not only enough people, but the right people with the right skills in the right jobs to meet the growing cyber threat,” Garbarino said.

Former National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, who urged the government to hire more workers in cyber and tech during that same hearing, mentioned that the administration has “been successful in filling two-thirds of the jobs that have the word ‘cyber’ and [‘information technology’] in it, and that’s the good news.” However, he said that there is still more that needs to be done. 

For Garbarino, part of the solution is not only strengthening partnerships in the private and public sectors, but shrinking the information gap between the sectors about the rapid development of AI. 

“It is a steep learning curve, even for me, because AI can touch so many different aspects — there’s a whole cybersecurity aspect when talking about AI,” Garbarino said. 

The lawmaker also said that Congress could contribute to solving the workforce deficit by incentivizing schools, through additional funds, to adjust the curriculum that offer cyber-related classes. 

“We can help give money to schools — I’m talking about K-12 — to change the curriculum, so people are starting to focus on cyber at a young age,” Garbarino said. 

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Vietnam agents tried to plant spyware on phones of US lawmakers and journalists: probe

Vietnamese government agents apparently targeted several U.S. lawmakers and journalists with spyware using public posts on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, according to an investigation by Amnesty International and a consortium of media outlets.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) were all tagged in posts earlier this year that featured malicious links to install Predator, a spyware similar to Pegasus, the investigation found.

McCaul, who serves as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was allegedly targeted in a reply to a tweet from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Hoeven was allegedly targeted in a reply to a post from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen about the senator’s visit.

Peters, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were both tagged in a reply to a tweet from an Albanian politician about their visit to the Balkan nation.

CNN, its chief national security analyst Jim Sciutto and two other reporters based in Taiwan were also targeted with malicious links to install the Predator spyware, the investigation found.

Most of the posts on X came from the account @Joseph_Gordon16, which has since disappeared from the social media platform, and often included links that mimicked news sites. 

The Washington Post reported that none of the targeted individuals it reached out to said their devices had been infected with the spyware. The Post was part of the consortium of outlets participating in the investigation.

Amnesty International said its findings “suggest that agents of the Vietnamese authorities, or persons acting on their behalf, may be behind the spyware campaign.”

The group said Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security had signed a deal with a company tied to Predator’s developers through what researchers dubbed the “Intellexa alliance” and appeared to receive technology shipments through its intermediaries.

“The combination of technical research and evidence of Intellexa alliance sales to Viet Nam, suggests that the operator of the account had close links to Viet Nam and may have been acting on behalf of Vietnamese authorities or interest groups,” Amnesty International said in its report.

The Post reported that the Vietnamese government declined to comment. The Hill has reached out to Vietnam’s Embassy in Washington for comment.

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Jury selection to begin in trial of fallen cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried

NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Bankman-Fried, a tech wunderkind who once promoted his FTX digital coin exchange as a safe way for regular people to get into cryptocurrency, faces the start of a criminal trial over allegations that he cheated thousands of customers.

Jury selection begins Tuesday in New York in a case in which the 31-year-old crypto mogul, once a billionaire, faces the possibility of a long prison term.

Prosecutors say he defrauded thousands of people who deposited cryptocurrency on the FTX exchange by illegally diverting massive sums of their money for his personal use, including making risky trades at his cryptocurrency hedge fund, Alameda Research. He’s also accused of using customer money to buy real estate and make big political contributions as he tried to influence government regulation of cryptocurrency.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, who is overseeing the prosecution, has called it one of the biggest frauds in the country’s history.

In interviews and social media posts, Bankman-Fried has acknowledged making huge mistakes while running FTX but insisted he had no criminal intent.

He has blamed FTX’s collapse last November, in something equivalent to an old-fashioned bank run, on vindictive competitors, his own inattentiveness and fellow executives who he said failed to manage risk properly.

“I didn’t steal funds, and I certainly didn’t stash billions away,” he said in a post earlier this year on the online platform Substack.

As recently as early last fall, Bankman-Fried portrayed himself as a stabilizing force in the cryptocurrency industry. He spent millions of dollars on celebrity advertisements during the 2022 Super Bowl that promoted FTX as the “safest and easiest way to buy and sell crypto” and “the most trusted way to buy and sell” digital assets.

Comedian Larry David, along with other celebrities such as football star Tom Brady and basketball star Stephen Curry, have been named in a lawsuit that argued their celebrity status made them culpable for promoting the firm’s failed business model.

Bankman-Fried is charged with wire fraud and conspiracy. The trial is expected to end before Thanksgiving.

Bankman-Fried agreed to be extradited to the United States after his arrest in the Bahamas last December, weeks after the FTX’s abrupt collapse as customers pulled deposits en masse amid reports questioning its financial arrangements.

While his plane to the U.S. was in the air, authorities announced that two of his top executives had secretly pleaded guilty to fraud charges and were prepared to testify against him. They were Bankman-Fried’s former girlfriend Carolyn Ellison, who had been the chief executive of Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, who co-founded FTX.

Initially freed on a $250 million personal recognizance bond, Bankman-Fried was confined to his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, until Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ordered him jailed last month after concluding that he’d tried to influence witnesses including Ellison and an FTX general counsel.

His lawyers have appealed that decision and repeatedly said their client can’t properly prepare for trial. But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal of the detention order, saying the judge had thoroughly considered all relevant factors and defense arguments were unpersuasive.