Cost of global cyber attack could match massive hurricane - Axios

Cost of global cyber attack could match massive hurricane

Vadim Ghirda / AP

A massive, global cyber attack on a cloud service provider could cost as much as $53 billion, about the amount of damage incurred by Superstorm Sandy, according to a new report by Lloyd's of London and risk-modeling firm Cyence, per Reuters.

  • In the hypothetical attack, hackers used malicious code designed to crash the cloud provider's servers a year later. At that point, the malware would have spread to the provider's customers, including big banks and hotels. The report says that the average economic losses from such an attack could range from $4.6 billion to $53 billion, but actual losses could hit as high as $121 billion.
  • By contrast: The WannaCry ransomware attack, that spread to more than 150 countries in May, cost $8 billion, and the June Petya attack cost $850 million, according to Cyence.
  • Why it matters: The rise in global cyber attacks is a major liability for corporations, and insurers are struggling to deal with covering losses and estimating exposure.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman steps down as chair of PC spin-off

AP Photo/Richard Drew

What was once known as Hewlett Packard created quite some confusion on Wednesday as it announced that Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO was stepping down as chair of HP Inc, the PC-making unit that was spun off from the enterprise IT company. Axios has confirmed that Whitman, who is rumored to be a candidate for the vacant top spot at Uber, remains CEO of HP Enterprise.

"Meg is fully committed to HPE and plans to stay with the company until her work is done," a company representative told Axios.

The two HPs: The venerable computer maker split in two in November 2015. Whitman, who had been CEO of the combined company, was named CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and chair of the PC unit, which took the name HP Inc.


"Clean" repeal bill fails in Senate

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Senate has voted down a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacing it — the leading alternative to the Senate repeal-and-replace bill, a version of which got shot down last night. Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats to defeat the bill, which was supported by Sen. Rand Paul and leading conservative groups. President Trump has also suggested straight repeal as a strategy if the Senate couldn't pass a replacement.

Why it failed: Conservatives were putting heavy pressure on Republican moderates to support it, since most of them voted for a similar bill Congress passed in 2015 (then-President Obama vetoed it). But some moderates, including Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito, have said they couldn't support repeal this time without a replacement. Other "no" votes — like John McCain — were a surprise.

Republicans who voted no: McCain, Murkowski, Capito, Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Rob Portman, Dean Heller.

What's next: The search continues for a repeal bill the Senate can pass.


Report: Trump banned transgender troops to save spending bill

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump's surprise decision this morning to ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military was fast-tracked in order to save a House spending bill — imperiled by a dispute over Pentagon-funded gender reassignment treatment for transgender military personnel — that would fund some of his key promises, including a border wall, per Politico.

  • Conservative Republicans asked more moderate figures, including Paul Ryan and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, to intervene to prevent the Pentagon from funding gender reassignment treatments, but found themselves consistently rebuffed — leading them to contact the White House directly.
  • More than expected: Trump's decision to apparently expel all transgender individuals from military service was far beyond what conservative Republicans were asking for regarding the spending bill.
  • A key quote: A senior House Republican aide told Politico, ""This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire."

Sessions prepares to announce leaks investigation

Susan Walsh / AP

Expect Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce multiple criminal leaks investigations, as first reported by WashPost and Fox News and confirmed by Axios.
  • The backdrop: President Trump has been publicly pressuring Sessions to more vigorously investigate the national security leaks that have plagued this young administration, most notably ones pertaining to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Per an official familiar with the planning: "Planned announcement is about stepped up leak investigations. Has been in works for some time. Will most likely happen within the next week."
  • Go deeper: Despite multiple Trump body blows, Sessions won't take the hint.

Scientists finally made the world's first blue chrysanthemum

Naonobu Noda / NARO

Scientists have engineered a "true blue" chrysanthemum for the first time. After roses, chrysanthemums are the world's top-selling flowers, available in every color but blue.

  • How it works: Despite hundreds if not thousands of years of breeding and earlier attempts at engineering, humans have never been able to make blue chrysanthemums. (The flowers are naturally pink, red, magenta, yellow and white and, through breeding, orange and green.) The plant lacks an enzyme that creates the blue-violet pigments found in other flowers.
  • By introducing a gene from the blue-flowering Canterbury bells that encodes that enzyme and a related gene from butterfly peas into the chrysanthemum, researchers at Japan's National Agriculture and Food Research Organization created a blue-hued flower, as defined by the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • What's next: Roses, carnations, lilies, gerbera daisies and other flowers lacking blue hues might also be engineered in the color.


WH unsure whether Trump ban applies to transgender troops overseas

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Newly-appointed Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump's decision to bar transgender people from serving in the U.S. military was "based on a military decision. It's not meant to be anything more than that." She also claimed that the Obama-era policy enabling the Pentagon to fund gender transition surgery is "a very expensive and disruptive policy."

When asked what will happen to transgender members of the military currently serving overseas, Sanders couldn't answer, but stated that the DoD and WH will have to work together "as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully."

Live updates:

  • On Sessions criticism: "You can be disappointed in someone and still want them to continue to do their job."
  • Why doesn't Trump fire acting FBI Director McCabe himself rather than asking Sessions to do it? The president is looking forward to having Christopher Wray come in and replace him.
  • Education donation: President Trump is donating his second quarter salary, $100k, to the Department of Education.
  • On being a mom: "To the best of my knowledge, I am the first press secretary who is also a mom... that says less about me than it does this president."
  • Letters to the President: Sanders said she plans to start some briefings by reading a letter or email that is sent to the WH. Today she read one from a 9-year-old.

Tech leaders speak out against Trump ban on transgender troops


Salesforce and the CEO of Google are among the first tech leaders to publicly speak out after President Trump's announcement Wednesday to ban transgender troops from serving in the military.

Why it matters: Republicans have targeted transgender civil rights in a number of areas, with the Texas legislature currently debating a "bathroom bill" that would prevent people from using a restroom that doesn't match their official government documents. Tech companies have emerged as a leading voice in support of LGBT rights at the local, state and federal levels.

  • "I am grateful to the transgender members of the military for their service.," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a tweet, adding the hashtag "LetThemServe."
  • Salesforce issued a statement condemning the move: "Salesforce believes in equality for all," the company said. "We support and thank all U.S. service members, including transgender Americans.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted "Everyone should be able to serve their country -- no matter who they are."
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet that "Discrimination in any form is wrong for all of us #LetThemServe."
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook: "We are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back. #LetThemServe"
  • Microsoft President Brad Smith: "We honor and respect all who serve, including the transgender members of our military. #LetThemServe"
  • Venture capitalists, including Sam Altman and Cyan Banister also spoke out, with Altman noting the "estimated cost of trans service members is less than a couple of Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago."
  • Veteran entrepreneur Max Levchin urged support for transgender people across party lines. "Trans kids, soldiers etc need our support today and to know they are valued & respected regardless of politics. Let us not be divided."
  • Uber: "We owe the deepest debt of gratitude to all those who volunteer to serve in the US Armed Forces and defend our values," the company said in a statement to Axios. "These patriotic Americans deserve to be honored and respected, not turned away because of who they are."
  • The companies join a number of elected officials who have spoken in opposition to Trump's move, which runs counter to studies that transgender troops don't hurt combat readiness or add costs.

How LGBTQ Trump supporters reacted to his military transgender ban

Michael Noble Jr. / AP

Although he received fewer votes than Romney, McCain and George W. Bush, Trump still managed to win 14% of the LGBTQ vote in November. After Trump's twitter announcement banning transgender Americans from serving in the military, pro-Trump and conservative LGBTQ groups had varying responses.

In defense

  • Peter Boykin, founder of the group Gays for Trump, told Axios, "This whole transgender mess isn't necessarily anti-gay." He argued that the long transition process, especially when including surgery, could make people unfit for military service. He also doesn't believe the military should have to pay for sex reassignment surgeries. He compared the ban to people being denied from military service for being "flat-footed" or having other minor medical conditions.
    • "If I'm in the military I want the person to be 100%, and I need to be confident that they're going to be able to serve properly. And if they're going through all that change and all that stuff… their hormones might be up and down, who knows."
    • Post operation and recovery, Boykin believes transsexual people should be able to sign up for the military as whatever sex they have transitioned to.
  • Scott Presler, another pro-Trump, LGBTQ activist tweeted this morning, "I don't think the U.S. Military should pay for sex reassignment surgery for transgender Americans, and I don't agree with the ban." But later in the day, he seemed to defend Trump's actions more: "Generals have military expertise Trump doesn't have. Trump didn't just wake up & decide to ban transgender Americans. He was advised. #LGBTQ"

In opposition:

  • Log Cabin Republicans: The president of the biggest Republican LGBTQ organization released a statement condemning Trump's decision: "This smacks of politics, pure and simple. The United States military already includes transgender individuals who protect our freedom day in and day out. Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn't strengthen it."
  • Caitlyn Jenner, who has been a supporter of Donald Trump, tweeted, "There are 15,000 patriotic transgender Americans in the US military fighting for all of us. What happened to your promise to fight for them?" She linked to one of Donald Trump's tweets from last year.

Hillary Clinton ally: Her memoir will be a "bombshell"

Patrick Semansky / AP

Hillary Clinton's new memoir, which a longtime ally of hers has described as a "bombshell", will have a lengthy passage on how Russia's interference in the 2016 election and ex-FBI Director James Comey's actions contributed to her astonishing loss, reports The Hill's Amie Parnes, citing sources familiar with the book, which is set for release in September.

Privately, Clinton has told her friends that she "wants the whole story out there from her own perspective":

"She really believes that's why she lost, and she wants to explain why in no uncertain terms," said the ally. "I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised by how much she reveals."
"She believes she would have won and that Russia and Comey ultimately brought her down," said another longtime adviser. "She feels validated by all the news circulating out there about Russia."

Trump sanctions 13 Venezuelan officials

Alex Brandon / AP

The Trump administration is slapping sanctions on 13 "current and former Venezuelan officials associated with the Nicolas Maduro regime" in Venezuela who have been involved with corruption, human rights abuses, or those who are degrading order in Venezuela, senior administration officials told reporters Wednesday.

If carried out, this would fall under an already existing executive order.

Motivation: The U.S. is trying to discourage Maduro from establishing a national constituent assembly on Sunday, which Venezuela's majority-backed opposition opposes as well. Critics say the assembly would secure his role as dictator of the country, per Reuters.

One senior administration official said, "in short [Maduro] has ignored the Venezuelan constitution and the will of its people" since it is "designed to undermine Venezuelan democracy and designed to undermine Venezuelan people's role in deciding the future of their country." The U.S. is prepared to sanction anyone who decides to join the assembly as well.

About oil: Sanctioning crude oil could impact U.S. gasoline prices and worsen the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, per Bloomberg, but the senior U.S. administration officials said they haven't come to a conclusion about how to move forward on whether to involve oil. One official said, "all options are on the table, we have not made a decision..." One of those sanctioned includes the vice president of finance for the national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

Context: This news comes as a 48 hour strike begins in Venezuela in opposition to the plans to establish the assembly. There have been nearly daily anti-government protests throughout Venezuela amidst shortages of medicine and food, and more than 100 people have been killed in violence since protests began this April.

The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on Venezuela, including on the chief judge and seven other members of Venezuela's Supreme Court as a response to their decision to cancel the opposition-led Congress this year. The U.S. has also sanctioned the country's vice president.