AT&T on board for Einstein, joint financial cyber exercise and more

News and notes from around the federal IT community.

Shutterstock image (by Maksim Kabakou): pixelated shield, protection concept.

AT&T finally on board for Einstein

AT&T is the last big Internet service provider to agree to a contract to provide the latest iteration of the Department of Homeland Security's cyber intrusion blocking program, known as Einstein 3A.

"We expect to have our initial [Einstein 3A] countermeasures ready this year to help protect government data and .gov websites against cyberattack," Chris Smith, vice president for technology at AT&T Government Solutions, wrote in a blog post.

AT&T and DHS had been at odds over liability issues with the contract.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has prioritized the Einstein program in the wake of the devastating hack of the Office of Personnel Management, which exposed personal data on more than 20 million current, former and potential federal employees. Johnson has directed DHS to make at least some Einstein 3A features available to all federal civilian agencies by the end of the year.

Federal Times was the first to report the AT&T contract.

U.K., U.S. run cyber exercise for financial sector

The British and American governments on Nov. 12 conducted a joint cyber exercise with financial firms to test the resiliency of the financial sector.

The exercise focused on making improvements in incident response and recovery, information sharing, and public communications, according to a joint statement.

Among the U.S. participants were the departments of Treasury and Homeland Security, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The British side included the British Treasury and the Bank of England. Firms and trade groups on both sides of the Atlantic participated, but the statement did not specify which ones.

"In our increasingly interconnected world, cyber criminals do not respect national borders and they target government, private industry and individual citizens alike," U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said. "Today's exercise with our U.K. partners is an important step to ensure that we are doing all we can to share threat information, adopt best practices and support our collective resiliency."

The U.S.-U.K. relationship in cyberspace is a strong one. British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year appointed a cyber envoy to Washington to further bolster the collaboration.

FBI arrests Ohio man for threatening .gif reblog

Federal authorities arrested a 25-year-old Akron, Ohio man on Nov. 12 on charges he used social media to solicit the murder of U.S. military personnel in the U.S.

According to the Justice Department, Terrence McNeil appeared in a federal courtroom in Ohio on Nov.12 where he was charged with one count of solicitation of a crime of violence. However the formal complaint lists dozens of specific of tweets, Facebook posts and messages supporting ISIL, or urging violence and mayhem. It also said law enforcement tracked down McNeil using his Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Time Warner Cable accounts.

DoJ officials said that in September, McNeil used a Tumblr account to reblog .gif image files supporting  Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and post headline banners that read "Islamic State Hacking Division," "Target: United States Military" and "Leak: Addresses of 100 U.S. Military Personnel."

"While we aggressively defend First Amendment rights, the individual arrested went far beyond free speech by reposting names and addresses of 100 U.S. service members, all with the intent to have them killed," said Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI's Cleveland Office.

McNeil, according the complaint, had backed ISIL on social media sites "on numerous occasions" since June. The .gif file looped several dozen photographs, purportedly of U.S. military personnel, along with their respective names, address and military branch, with final image a picture of a handgun and a knife with text that read "…and kill them wherever you find them."

Facebook sees increase in requests for user data

World governments increasingly requested Facebook user data in the first half of 2015, according to the social network's twice-yearly Global Government Requests Report released Nov. 11. The report, which has been released every six months since 2013 and covers 93 countries around the world, outlines the number of times Facebook was asked by global governments for user information as well as requests for content to be restricted.

Facebook reported that requests for account data rose by 18 percent across all countries compared to the same time period in 2014. The biggest jump, however, was seen in blocked content, with a 112 percent increase from the second half of the previous year.

The United States far outranked the other countries with 26,579 requests for user data, of which Facebook granted a little less than 80 percent. India and the United Kingdom had the second and third most requests, respectively. 

While Facebook cannot reveal the exact number of requests from U.S. intelligence agencies as it does with law enforcement, it did provide requests in ranges of 1,000. According to the report, Facebook received between 0 and 999 national security requests in the first six months of 2015.

Facebook's deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby introduced the report by reiterating that Facebook will not provide governments with "back doors" or "direct access to people's data."

"If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary," he said.