16 minutes News

16 Minutes #61: J&J Vaccine Pause; FBI Removes Code in Hacked Exchange Servers

Vineeta Agarwala, Jorge Conde, Joel de la Garza, and Zoran Basich

Posted April 19, 2021

We have two brief segments in today’s episode: News and analysis of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine pause, and the widespread hack of Microsoft Exchange Servers across the country (and the dramatic and unusual steps the FBI took in response).

Johnson & Johnson: Federal health officials last week revealed that six women who received the vaccine had developed rare and severe blood clots in their brain, in one case fatally. Even more recently, a panel of expert advisors to the Centers for Disease Control determined that they needed more time to assess the risk of the drug, which was approved by the FDA under Emergency Use Authorization, or EUA.

Our experts are General Partner Jorge Conde, who previously appeared on our episode about J&J efficacy rates, and General Partner Vineeta Agarwala, who is a practicing clinician at Stanford Hospital and recently joined us on “16 Minutes” with Dr. Bob Wachter of UCSF to analyze the vaccine rollout in the U.S. They tease apart what’s hype and what’s real, addressing the clinical facts about the six J&J cases (and contrast it to the social media conversations and headlines), as well as look at the incidence rate, and what the J&J vaccine shares with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which has been halted or limited in Europe and elsewhere over similar blood clot concerns.

FBI and Microsoft Exchange Servers: The Department of Justice recently announced that the FBI, after getting court authorization, had removed malicious code from hundreds of computers running on-premises versions of Microsoft Exchange Server software used to provide email services. In March, Microsoft had announced the initial hack and released detection tools and patches to help owners of the compromised computers, but the latest government announcement revealed that the FBI had taken the step of accessing the private servers and removing the malicious code, in this case web shells that enable remote administration, from computers that had not mitigated the risk. Microsoft has associated the hackers with state-sponsored actors in China.

Our expert is a16z’s Joel de la Garza, who explains what’s behind this unusual action (including giving context about the decades-long debate over computer security and privacy rights) and where it all fits into larger trends of enterprise security and even national security.