August 19 2022

This Week in Washington 

The Hill Lawmakers push for improved cybersecurity in health sector amid growing cyber threats
Lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to strengthen the federal government’s cyber defenses in the health care sector amid a spike in cyberattacks, a push industry leaders see as a way to help protect a critical sector that stores sensitive information. In a letter addressed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) urged the agency to better protect the health care and public health sector from the growing number of cyber threats.

Axios Big Tech is facing a data privacy squeeze
The Federal Trade Commission’s major move towards crafting data privacy rules is the latest signal of a potential end to Big Tech’s expansive use of online data. As people grow more wary of the online trails of digital data they leave behind, the lack of data privacy protections in the U.S. has increasingly become a glaring source of concern for many. The FTC voted 3-2 along party lines last Thursday to seek comment on the harms of “commercial surveillance” and whether privacy rules are needed. “We’ve seen now that the growing and continuing digitization of our economy means that [privacy violations and data security breaches] may now be prevalent, and that case by case enforcement may fail to adequately deter law breaking or remedy the resulting harms,” FTC chair Lina Khan said in a call with press.

StateScoop Broadband grant program to start distributing planning funds
The National Telecommunications and Information Agency said Wednesday that its new Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment, or BEAD, program will soon start issuing initial planning funds to states and territories. The agency said in a press release that every state, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories have submitted for initial funds from the $42.5 billion program, which was created in last year’s federal infrastructure law, along with smaller NTIA funds for digital equity and middle-mile broadband deployment. States faced an Aug. 15 deadline to get their initial planning fund requests to the NTIA.

Axios The White House’s newest cyber official makes his case
One year into his tenure, national cyber director Chris Inglis tells Axios his office — now nearly fully staffed — is ready to tackle its first big job. The Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) plans to release the administration’s national cybersecurity strategy next month after the White House charged the office in late June with leading its development. The strategy will define the nation’s plans to prevent major cyberattacks and responses to them when they occur. It’s taken most of the year for Inglis’ office to get off the ground, but now that the team is nearly staffed up, the ONCD could start to play a more clearly defined and prominent role in federal cyber discussions.

Wall Street Journal Faster Internet Is Coming to America—as Soon as the Government Knows Where to Build It
The government’s $42.5 billion plan to expand internet service to underserved communities is stuck in a holding pattern nearly nine months after approval, largely because authorities still don’t know where gaps need to be filled. The broadband plan, part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Biden last November, stipulates that money to improve service can’t be doled out until the Federal Communications Commission completes new maps showing where homes and businesses lack fast service.

Nextgov NIST to Release New Playbook for AI Best Practices
Experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology want public and private entities to take a socio-technical approach to implementing artificial intelligence technologies to help mitigate algorithmic biases, as detailed in a new playbook. These recommendations to help organizations navigate the pervasive biases that often accompany AI technologies are slated to come out by the end of the week, Nextgov has learned. The playbook is meant to act as a companion guide to NIST’s previously issued Risk Management Framework. Reva Schwartz, a research scientist and principal AI investigator at NIST, said that the guidelines act as a comprehensive, bespoke guide for public and private organizations to tailor to their internal structure, rather than function as a rigid checklist.

Article Summary

Washington Post Is the drop in ransomware numbers an illusion?
In recent months, tallies of ransomware — a kind of cyberattack where hackers encrypt a victim’s system, then demand payment to unlock it — have shown signs of decline. The short explanation is: It might be less about whether the number of attacks have fallen off, and more about whether the people who do the counting have less information about what’s happening than before. If it’s not an illusion, analysts can point to a host of potential factors explaining the drop. Either way, by no means do the numbers suggest ransomware is significantly less rampant.

Redmond Magazine Microsoft Disrupts Major Russian Phishing Group
Microsoft this week announced it had taken actions to cripple the Russia-based SEABORGIUM cybercriminal group. In a security blog posted on Monday, Microsoft said it has disabled email, social media and LinkedIn accounts used by the group for surveillance and phishing activities. The group is believed to be Russian state-sponsored based on its choices of targets, which have included former intelligence officers, Russian citizens abroad and Russian affairs experts, according to Microsoft.

Education Week Artificial Intelligence Is All Around Us. So This District Designed Its Own AI Curriculum
The description of “artificial intelligence in high school” may conjure up a science fiction novel where robots stand around chatting at their lockers. The reality, at Seckinger High School in Gwinnett County, Ga., looks more like this: A social studies teacher pauses a lesson on the spread of cholera in the 19th century to discuss how data scientists use AI tools today to track diseases. A math class full of English-language learners uses machine learning to identify linear and non-linear shapes. The simplest explanation of this technology is that it trains a machine to do tasks that simulate some of what the human brain can do.

Government Technology Alaska Bill Establishes New State Broadband Office
Alaska has enacted new legislation to establish a state broadband office, a broadband parity adjustment fund and a statewide broadband advisory board. The law that establishes all three was recently signed by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy after it was initially proposed last year by state Rep. Bryce Edgmon in response to recommendations listed in a Nov. 2021 report from the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. In the report, the task force detailed the state’s need for a centralized approach to expanding broadband.

CNET Identity Crime Reports Jumped to Record Level in 2021, Group Says
Reports of identity related thefts and scams jumped to record levels last year, as the COVID pandemic continued to boost criminal attempts to steal the unemployment and other government benefits of deserving consumers, the Identity Theft Resource Center said Wednesday. The ITRC, a nonprofit that helps victims of identity theft, said it was contacted nearly 15,000 times in 2021 by regular people looking for help. That represents a 26% jump from 2020’s total and the biggest total since the center was founded in 1999.

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