Destructive Hacks Strike Saudi Arabia, Posing Challenge to Trump

State-sponsored hackers have conducted a series of destructive attacks on Saudi Arabia over the last two weeks, erasing data and wreaking havoc in the computer banks of the agency running the country’s airports and hitting five additional targets, according to two people familiar with an investigation into the breach. Saudi Arabia said that “several” government agencies were targeted in attacks that came from outside the kingdom, according to state media. No further details were provided.

Although a probe by Saudi authorities is still in its early stages, the people said digital evidence suggests the attacks emanated from Iran. That could present President-elect Donald Trump with a major national security challenge as he steps into the Oval Office. The use of offensive cyber weapons by a nation is relatively rare and the scale of the latest attacks could trigger a tit-for-tat cyber war in a region where capabilities have mushroomed ever since an attack on Saudi Aramco in 2012.

FBI and NSA Poised to Gain New Surveillance Powers Under Trump

The FBI, National Security Agency and CIA are likely to gain expanded surveillance powers under President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, a prospect that has privacy advocates and some lawmakers trying to mobilize opposition. President-elect Trump’s first two choices to head law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for attorney general and Rep Mike Pompeo (R-KS) for director of the Central Intelligence Agency -- are leading advocates for domestic government spying at levels not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The fights expected to play out in the coming months -- in Senate confirmation hearings and through executive action, legislation and litigation -- also will set up an early test of Trump’s relationship with Silicon Valley giants including Apple and Alphabet’s Google.

Fake News May Not Be Protected Speech

[Commentary] In the free marketplace of ideas, true ideas are supposed to compete with false ones until the truth wins -- at least according to a leading rationale for free speech. But what if the rise of fake news shows that, under current conditions, truth may not defeat falsehood in the market? That would start to make free speech look a whole lot less appealing.

The rise of fake news therefore poses a serious challenge to our basic ideas about the First Amendment. Much of the debate in recent weeks has focused on social media and search engines. But whether the market for ideas is failing is more fundamental than whether Facebook or Google can be blamed for algorithms that promote and spread false stories. False news that hinders public discussion and encourages irrationality may have a role in the marketplace; but it doesn’t contribute to the good functioning of democracy

[Noah Feldman is professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University.]

What President-elect Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan means for red and blue states

[Commentary] Details of President-elect Trump’s plan are murky, but at an estimated $1 trillion over 10 years is twice as long and nearly four times as big as the five-year, $275 billion effort championed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Analysis from Onvia’s State & Local Procurement Snapshot for Q3 2016 suggests that the possible trickle-down effects of increased investment in the nation’s aging infrastructure would naturally have a positive impact on state and local government investments.

For municipalities with “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, the thought of increased Federal funding for infrastructure projects is an exciting one. Studying project specifications, scopes of work and bid documents to benchmark proposals and pricing from other agencies who have already issued similar solicitations is a time-saving tactic that can help expedite getting the contracts out the door for public bidding.

[Ben Vaught is the Director of Onvia Exchange]

President-elect Trump’s FCC Expected to Relax Media Ownership Limits

The Federal Communications Commission is likely to change course and prioritize lifting newspaper and television station ownership restrictions when it comes under Republican control in 2017, agency watchers said. Industry analysts who track the FCC expect Republicans to relax rules once they assume control of the agency in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. That would include loosening restrictions on how many broadcast properties one company can own in any given market and lifting the ban on media companies owning newspapers and broadcast TV stations in the same market, a practice known as cross-ownership.

The FCC declined to ease those restrictions in its most recent review of media ownership rules in August. Another restriction — an ownership cap preventing one entity from owning enough stations to reach more than 39 percent of all U.S. households — is up to Congress to change. “A pro-business Republican administration led by Donald Trump is expected to push for more deregulation,” Geetha Ranganathan, a Bloomberg Intelligence senior analyst, wrote in a Nov. 10 note. “For broadcasters, this may translate to relaxation of the 39-percent ownership cap and elimination of the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership ban.”

Satellite Dishes That Power Time Warner Imperil AT&T Deal

Behind the Time Warner campus in Atlanta (GA), more than a dozen massive dishes silently stream CNN newscasts, Cartoon Network shows and Turner Sports games to satellites in outer space. They’re a vital link in the media giant’s global news and entertainment business. But they operate under licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, which means they also could be the biggest threat to Time Warner’s aspirations to merge with AT&T.

Time Warner has dozens of FCC licenses. Transferring them to AT&T would trigger a review by the agency, and the company is looking for ways to avoid that, according to a person familiar with the situation. Otherwise, the $85.4 billion deal could be exposed to an agency that’s been a graveyard for mergers. In theory, Time Warner could sell its dishes to an unaffiliated third party and enter into a contract with them for the same services -- but in that case, the buyer would need to ask the FCC for a license to provide services in the same location over the same airwaves, said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior counselor at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. It’s possible the FCC would accept the application without a fuss, Schwartzman said. But, he said, FCC officials also might say, “Wait a minute! We’re not stupid -- you are evading this review.”

Trump’s Data Team Saw a Different America—and They Were Right

Nobody saw it coming. Not the media. Certainly not Hillary Clinton. Not even Donald Trump’s team of data scientists, holed up in their San Antonio (TX) headquarters 1,800 miles from Trump Tower, were predicting this outcome.

But the scientists picked up disturbances—like falling pressure before a hurricane—that others weren’t seeing. It was the beginning of the storm that would deliver Trump to the White House. President-elect Trump’s numbers were different, because his analysts, like Trump himself, were forecasting a fundamentally different electorate than other pollsters and almost all of the media: older, whiter, more rural, more populist. And much angrier at what they perceive to be an overclass of entitled elites. In the next three weeks, Trump channeled this anger on the stump, at times seeming almost unhinged.

China Adopts Cybersecurity Law Despite Foreign Opposition

China has green-lit a sweeping and controversial law that may grant Beijing unprecedented access to foreign companies’ technology and hamstring their operations in the world’s second-largest economy.

The Cyber Security Law was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, and will take effect in June, government officials said. Among other things, it requires internet operators to cooperate with investigations involving crime and national security, and imposes mandatory testing and certification of computer equipment. Companies must also give government investigators full access to their data if wrong-doing is suspected.

The Slow, Painful Death of the Media's Cash Cow

Most of the newspapers currently in operation will ultimately die, because the Internet rewards scale rather than deep local knowledge. They will die whether they stick to their knitting or go all-in on “digital first.” And their deaths will, as deaths tend to, be rather unpleasant. I’m not going to tell them to waste the time they have left on a long-shot chance at life. But I’m not quite willing to tell them they shouldn’t, either.

Telecom’s Next Battle Will Take Place in the Web’s Slow Lane

The telecommunications industry has found a new battleground: slower, narrowband systems.

Vodafone is building a wireless network that’s cheap and robust enough to link items like garbage cans or garden soil sensors to the internet, so refuse companies will know when to send the truck and the roses get just the right amount of water. The system, in Madrid, is the vanguard of what will eventually be a global Vodafone narrowband network for the so-called internet-of-things -- millions, perhaps billions, of connected devices designed to save businesses money and time, and free consumers from mundane tasks. The new grid is cheaper to run than than regular mobile and WiFi networks because it uses less power. It’s designed for gadgets like gas meters or traffic-light signals that check in sporadically, rather than driverless cars or heart monitors, which speak continuously to the net.

To carriers like Vodafone, the networks represent a way to replace income from voice and data bundles that are becoming commoditized. Champions of the narrowband IoT envision homes and neighborhoods teeming with devices, blipping away for a few cents a day on batteries that last for years.