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Moody’s is spending $250 million to keep America’s biggest companies safe from cyber attacks

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The announcement from the company — whose credit ratings can influence global markets — comes as Biden administration officials are urging major firms to be more transparent about the security of their software. Several high-profile supply-chain hacks and ransomware attacks have rattled businesses and other organizations over the past year, costing companies millions of dollars and compromising their operations.

To better assess the risks that ransomware and other digital threats pose to Fortune 500 firms and government agencies, Moody’s is investing $250 million in BitSight, which uses an algorithm to assess the likelihood that an organization will be breached. Moody’s shared the news first with CNN Business.

As part of the deal, Moody’s will become the largest minority shareholder in Bitsight. In addition, BitSight will acquire a cyber risk rating system created by Moody’s and Team8, a company which bills itself as a “think tank” focused on global cybersecurity issues.

“There’s just a lot of opacity around cyber risk,” Moody’s CEO Rob Fauber told CNN Business. “You have compromises that have serious operational and organizational implications. It’s affecting a broader range of industries and the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been.”

Fauber said the $250 million would be used to improve BitSight’s data and risk-management offerings, among other products. BitSight, which says its customers include 20% of Fortune 500 firms, will be able to make more detailed risk assessments and “more clearly translate [that] to the risk of financial loss,” Fauber said.

New ransomware attack targets key IT vendor

Understanding cybersecurity risk has become a national security and economic imperative.

US corporate and government officials have been blindsided by ransomware attacks in recent months that forced critical infrastructure offline and compromised massive amounts of private information.

Colonial Pipeline, one of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States, was forced offline for days this spring, leading to widespread shortages at gas stations along the east coast. The company paid millions to a hacking group to resolve the incident, though some of that money was later recovered by authorities.

Victims of ransomware attacks paid some $350 million in ransoms in 2020, according to Chainalysis, a firm that tracks cryptocurrency. But that’s only a partial view of total ransoms paid, and those who don’t pay can spend millions of dollars rebuilding their computer infrastructure.

Hacks can also be difficult to detect, and US officials have worried that a lack of transparency about how attacks spread can mean that a single breach has the ability to ripple across many industries.

Last year, for example, alleged Russian spies exploited software made by federal contractor SolarWinds to infiltrate at least nine US agencies and about 100 companies. Hundreds of electric utilities in North America also downloaded the malicious software update used by the Russian hackers, offering a potential foothold into those organizations, though there is no evidence that the hackers took advantage of the backdoor at those utilities to conduct further intrusions.
Microsoft to acquire cybersecurity firm RiskIQ as cyber threats mount

Fauber said that the SolarWinds compromises were a big reason for Moody’s to invest more heavily in cybersecurity risk programs.

The breaches also inspired President Joe Biden to issue an executive order in May requiring federal contractors to meet a minimum set of security standards around data management and the reporting of attacks.

US officials see the executive order as a step toward prodding some private firms to provide more secure software and a scoring system for measuring that security. The directive tasks the Commerce Department with setting up a program to label consumer electronics devices, like wireless routers, with a cybersecurity rating.

“You’re seeing increased focus from government and regulatory bodies in the United States and elsewhere on making sure that companies are sufficiently focused on identifying, measuring and managing their exposure to cyber risk,” Fauber said.



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Prosecutors accuse Maryland couple of hiding additional classified naval secrets

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The revelation came during a detention hearing for Diana Toebbe, who is charged, along with her husband Jonathan, in an elaborate scheme to sell nuclear submarine details.

As part of its case to keep the couple in jail, prosecutors disclosed that the FBI has not been able to access all of the couple’s encrypted email accounts, and still has not located all of the classified naval secrets it believes the couple possessed.

Special assistant US Attorney Jessica Smolar said 50 of the 51 packets of restricted data the couple held cannot be found, warning the information could cause extreme damage to the Navy if the information got out.

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe appeared separately, each wearing orange jail uniforms, masks, and shackles. Jonathan Toebbe waived his right to a detention hearing, but an FBI special agent revealed new details about the couples’ alleged scheme during a lengthy hearing for his wife. The judge has not yet ruled if Diana Toebbe will be released.

Several photographs and videos were presented in court that the special agent said showed the couple arriving at numerous so-called dead-drop locations throughout the summer of 2021 where they appeared to act as tourists before depositing SD cards filled with classified naval submarine secrets.

They showed “typical tradecraft of espionage subjects,” the special agent testified, describing how FBI surveillance captured the couple parking their BMW Mini Cooper one-and-a-half miles from the initial dead-drop location and then carefully making their way to the previously agreed-upon drop-off spot.

“Diana was right behind him within a meter away,” the agent testified. “Basically keeping a look-out to make sure no one was coming up on them during that operation.”

After Jonathan deposited the SD card, “Diana provided a very distinctive head nod as if they needed to get out of the area, and I observed that,” the agent said.

The couple is accused of acting together to coordinate three separate drop-offs of SD cards containing classified information about nuclear submarines, specifically the Virginia-class submarine. The FBI agent disclosed the depths to which the couple attempted to hide the SD cards at the dead-drop locations, saying one SD card was tucked into a saran-wrapped peanut butter sandwich, while others were hidden inside a packet of gum and a sealed Band-Aid wrapper.

During an anticipated fourth dead-drop on October 9 in West Virginia, the couple was arrested by the FBI.

At the court hearing Wednesday, the testifying special agent said Jonathan Toebbe was getting increasingly concerned about his family’s safety. During the third dead-drop on August 28, Jonathan Toebbe arrived alone while his wife stayed home recovering from ankle surgery.

“Jonathan was extremely nervous,” the agent testified. “More nervous than we’d seen him on the previous ones and just very cautious about what was going on around him….because Diana was not there to act as a lookout.”

Jonathan Toebbe allegedly left a letter with the SD card during that dead-drop which said in part, “I have considered the possible need to leave on short notice. Should that ever become necessary, I will be forever grateful for your help extracting me and my family…. We have passports and cash set aside for this purpose.”

On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted the couple, charging them each with one count of Conspiracy to Communicate Restricted Data and two counts of Communication of Restricted Data. The couple pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

If convicted on any of the three counts, the couple faces up to life in prison.

The couple was arrested October 9, and the initial criminal complaint described how the Toebbes tried to sell sensitive information about nuclear submarines to a foreign country in exchange for millions of dollars in cryptocurrency. The country, which has not been identified in court filings, notified the FBI, which launched a year-long sting operation. The testifying special agent noted that the FBI moved quickly after discovering the couple was trying to sell these secrets in December 2020 because they were concerned the couple might try to shop the information to multiple countries.

After their arrest, the FBI searched their home in Annapolis, Maryland, where they discovered $11,300 in cash — all one hundred-dollar bills wrapped in rubber-bands; a crypto wallet; passports for their two children; and a go-bag containing a laptop computer, a USB drive and latex gloves.

Prosecutors revealed Wednesday that the couple had requested expedited passport renewals since theirs had expired in February 2021; the request was still being processed at the time of the couple’s arrest.

The Justice Department had previously moved to keep the couple in jail, citing their potential flight risk and the severity of their alleged crimes. The Toebbes appeared Wednesday with their court-appointed lawyers. Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble said he will issue a written decision as to whether Diana Toebbe will be released pending trial.



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Prosecutors accuse Maryland couple of hiding additional classified naval secrets

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The revelation came during a detention hearing for Diana Toebbe, who is charged, along with her husband Jonathan, in an elaborate scheme to sell nuclear submarine details.

As part of its case to keep the couple in jail, prosecutors disclosed that the FBI has not been able to access all of the couple’s encrypted email accounts, and still has not located all of the classified naval secrets it believes the couple possessed.

Special assistant US Attorney Jessica Smolar said 50 of the 51 packets of restricted data the couple held cannot be found, warning the information could cause extreme damage to the Navy if the information got out.

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe appeared separately, each wearing orange jail uniforms, masks, and shackles. Jonathan Toebbe waived his right to a detention hearing, but an FBI special agent revealed new details about the couples’ alleged scheme during a lengthy hearing for his wife. The judge has not yet ruled if Diana Toebbe will be released.

Several photographs and videos were presented in court that the special agent said showed the couple arriving at numerous so-called dead-drop locations throughout the summer of 2021 where they appeared to act as tourists before depositing SD cards filled with classified naval submarine secrets.

They showed “typical tradecraft of espionage subjects,” the special agent testified, describing how FBI surveillance captured the couple parking their BMW Mini Cooper one-and-a-half miles from the initial dead-drop location and then carefully making their way to the previously agreed-upon drop-off spot.

“Diana was right behind him within a meter away,” the agent testified. “Basically keeping a look-out to make sure no one was coming up on them during that operation.”

After Jonathan deposited the SD card, “Diana provided a very distinctive head nod as if they needed to get out of the area, and I observed that,” the agent said.

The couple is accused of acting together to coordinate three separate drop-offs of SD cards containing classified information about nuclear submarines, specifically the Virginia-class submarine. The FBI agent disclosed the depths to which the couple attempted to hide the SD cards at the dead-drop locations, saying one SD card was tucked into a saran-wrapped peanut butter sandwich, while others were hidden inside a packet of gum and a sealed Band-Aid wrapper.

During an anticipated fourth dead-drop on October 9 in West Virginia, the couple was arrested by the FBI.

At the court hearing Wednesday, the testifying special agent said Jonathan Toebbe was getting increasingly concerned about his family’s safety. During the third dead-drop on August 28, Jonathan Toebbe arrived alone while his wife stayed home recovering from ankle surgery.

“Jonathan was extremely nervous,” the agent testified. “More nervous than we’d seen him on the previous ones and just very cautious about what was going on around him….because Diana was not there to act as a lookout.”

Jonathan Toebbe allegedly left a letter with the SD card during that dead-drop which said in part, “I have considered the possible need to leave on short notice. Should that ever become necessary, I will be forever grateful for your help extracting me and my family…. We have passports and cash set aside for this purpose.”

On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted the couple, charging them each with one count of Conspiracy to Communicate Restricted Data and two counts of Communication of Restricted Data. The couple pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

If convicted on any of the three counts, the couple faces up to life in prison.

The couple was arrested October 9, and the initial criminal complaint described how the Toebbes tried to sell sensitive information about nuclear submarines to a foreign country in exchange for millions of dollars in cryptocurrency. The country, which has not been identified in court filings, notified the FBI, which launched a year-long sting operation. The testifying special agent noted that the FBI moved quickly after discovering the couple was trying to sell these secrets in December 2020 because they were concerned the couple might try to shop the information to multiple countries.

After their arrest, the FBI searched their home in Annapolis, Maryland, where they discovered $11,300 in cash — all one hundred-dollar bills wrapped in rubber-bands; a crypto wallet; passports for their two children; and a go-bag containing a laptop computer, a USB drive and latex gloves.

Prosecutors revealed Wednesday that the couple had requested expedited passport renewals since theirs had expired in February 2021; the request was still being processed at the time of the couple’s arrest.

The Justice Department had previously moved to keep the couple in jail, citing their potential flight risk and the severity of their alleged crimes. The Toebbes appeared Wednesday with their court-appointed lawyers. Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble said he will issue a written decision as to whether Diana Toebbe will be released pending trial.



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Bitcoin price surges to new record above $65,000

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Bitcoin prices have surged 50% this month, from just under $44,000 at the end of September.
Some investors are now predicting even bigger gains for bitcoin, despite continued criticism of the cryptocurrency by JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, who recently called bitcoin “worthless.”

“Given the price momentum we are seeing on the back of bitcoin’s ETF, we believe that bitcoin can easily go all the way to [$100,000] by the end of this year,” Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst with AvaTrade, said in a report Wednesday.



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