Data Sheet—Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 11, 2017, 2:11 PM UTC

Myself and two colleagues—Jeff John Roberts and Jonathan Vanian—will be attending the RSA conference in San Francisco this upcoming week.

The security event, which started as a colloquy for cryptographers in 1991, has since mushroomed into a vendor bonanza. Seemingly timed to extend the advertising frenzy of this year’s Super Bowl by another week, the conference will provide marketers the opportunity to swipe badges, to eke out s.w.a.g., and to court the basest emotions of our lizard brains. The perennial unspoken theme: FUD—or fear, uncertainty, and doubt—a trifecta universally embraced by salespeople, especially ones in cybersecurity.

If I had to guess which phrases will be on the tips of everyone’s tongues at this year’s confab, there’s little doubt in my mind: machine learning and artificial intelligence. A shortage of digital defense talent and a surge in computer-based attacks have created the perfect conditions for automated threat-blocking to thrive. (At least in theory; whether the technology lives up to people’s claims is another question.) Successfully brandished to great effect in the promos of upstarts, such as the showroom-stealing antivirus supplanter Cylance, those two alluring letters, A.I., now decorate the security catalogs of innovation-thirsty incumbents, like Symantec and IBM. Expect more companies to join the trend.

Given all the pitches we’ll be forced to endure, I hope you will forgive the inclusion of my own. Below is the plug for a fireside chat I’ll be hosting with former Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan’s eighth district, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2011 to 2015. We’ll be talking about hacking, international affairs, and the elusive diplomatic ideal of deterrence. Per the teaser:

Security’s leading role on the geopolitical spectrum is unprecedented. Interpretations of nation-state hacking, meddling and influence have given way to foreign policy movements and sanctions. Is it really a brave new world, with treasure troves of hacked data lying in wait to deploy systematically for reputational damage and blackmail…or is it all just more transparent?

Tantalizing, no? If you’re attending the conference, I invite you to drop by the session at 2:45 P.M. Pacific Time on Thursday. Come say hi. (No machines here—only human learning, I promise.)

Robert Hackett


Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my, PGP encrypted email (see public key on my, Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


Welcome to America! Now fork over your passwords. The Homeland Security Department is considering boosting security checks at the nation's borders. One proposal would require visitors to divulge the passwords to their social media accounts, so their posts and communications can be screened. The measure is just an idea, and one that was also bandied about during former President Barack Obama's tenure. (NBC News, Fortune)

I'm thinking Arby's—got breached. Hundreds of thousands of payment cards swiped at the fast food chain have reportedly been compromised. The malware, which the company claims to have "contained and eradicated," is believed to have struck point-of-sale systems at corporate Arby's restaurant's between October 25 and January 19. Expect banks to issue new cards to affected customers. (Krebs on SecurityFortune)

Eat your heart out, Ed Snowden. A federal grand jury indicted former National Security Agency contractor Harold T. Martin for allegedly stealing and hoarding government secrets and hacking tools at his home in Glen Burnie, Maryland over the course of two decades. At the time of his arrest in August, Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, the same defense contractor where Edward Snowden took a job before pulling off a heist of his own. (Reuters)

The Cyber in the White House. Tom Bossert, President Donald Trump's pick for a homeland security advisor, is an unusually cool-headed counsellor to the commander in chief on matters of cybersecurity, in Wired's view. The former Atlantic Council fellow appears to have faith that cyber insurance, not government regulation, will pressure private companies into putting proper defenses in place. Meanwhile, Cory Louie, the Obama-appointed White House chief information security officer, has reportedly departed. (Wired, ZDNet)

Instead of heading to the RSA conference in San Francisco next week, let's all go to Vegas?

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Fortune's Jeff John Roberts weighs in on the bug bounty trend. Despite a rough start to their relationship, companies seem to be finally warming up to hackers.

Until recently, the phrase "bug bounty" only popped up in tech and security circles. Now, it's becoming an everyday term as companies like Starbucks and GM, and even the U.S. Army, are making bug bounty programs part of their operations. The recent change in attitude is coming as more corporate executives realize many hackers are not malicious, and are instead a valuable early warning system for compromised computer code. Read more on


Own a Vizio TV? Change This Setting to Protect Your Privacy, by Alex Fitzpatrick

This Google and H&M App Will Track Your Phone Data to Create a Custom Dress, by Polina Marinova

Judge Says Microsoft Can Sue U.S. Government Over Email Surveillance, by Tessa Berenson

Accenture Just Made It Far Easier For Banks to Say 'Yes' to Blockchain, by Robert Hackett

Lawyer Charged for Trying to Sell Secret Tech Whistleblower Case, by Jeff John Roberts


"Do you suppose it's possible to teach a computer how to spot serial killers?" Thomas Hargrove, a data journalist turned hobbyist sleuth, has been parsing annual FBI homicide reports to advance investigations of unsolved murders. Chillingly, his analyses have led him to the conclusion that "most cities have at least a few" uncaught serial killers. Yeek. (Bloomberg)

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