August 6 2021

This Week in Washington

The Washington Post Senate infrastructure bill sets stage for massive effort to make broadband more available and affordable
Senate Democrats and Republicans are inching closer to adopting more than $14 billion to help Americans who are struggling to pay for high-speed Internet, part of a package of digital initiatives that together amount to the largest one-time investment in broadband in U.S. history. The debate has played out in the context of a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure proposal that the Senate began debating earlier this week. The bipartisan measure sets aside $65 billion total to expand Internet access, a pot of money meant to build out connectivity to unserved parts of the country while helping low-income families afford their bills.

Wall Street Journal U.S. Taps Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Others to Help Fight Ransomware, Cyber Threats
The U.S. government is enlisting the help of tech companies, including Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Google, to bolster the country’s critical infrastructure defenses against cyber threats after a string of high-profile attacks. The Department of Homeland Security, on Thursday, is formally unveiling the initiative called the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative. The effort will initially focus on combating ransomware and cyberattacks on cloud-computing providers, said Jen Easterly, director of the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

NBC News A D for NASA, a C for HUD: Senate report warns agencies unprepared for cyberattacks
A number of federal agencies are woefully unprepared for cyberattacks, while others “have not met the basic cybersecurity standards necessary to protect America’s sensitive data,” according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate committee overseeing homeland security. The committee reviewed the annual audit findings from the internal watchdogs of eight federal agencies — the departments of Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, along with the Social Security Administration — for fiscal year 2020.

Nextgov The White House Is Deciding Whether to Support a Bureau of Cyber Statistics
The White House doesn’t yet know whether it would support legislation to create a Bureau of Cyber Statistics, National Cybersecurity Director Chris Inglis said in one of his first public appearances since starting in the newly created role. The creation of both the Bureau of Cyber Statistics—which would serve as a repository of data on cybersecurity incidents to inform risk-based decision-making—and the National Cyber Director’s office were recommendations of the Congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission, of which Inglis was a member.

The Verge Microsoft director with intelligence background will lead the White House’s space council
The White House’s core space policy body will be led by Chirag Parikh, a veteran intelligence official and senior director for Microsoft’s space-based cloud services, Vice President Kamala Harris announced on Monday. Harris, chair of the National Space Council, tapped the seasoned national security official to lead the council’s day-to-day activities as the Biden administration sees global competition mount in space. Parikh’s appointment, coming three months after the White House confirmed Harris would chair its space council, gets the ball rolling for the Biden administration’s coordinated priorities in space.

Nextgov Senators Introduce Bill to Help Agencies Counter Deepfakes and Deceptive Media
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee leaders moved to form a new federal task force to explore setting standards and deploying technologies for determining facts about the origins of digital content. That cadre—the National Deepfake and Digital Provenance Task Force—would draw insights from across the public, private and academic landscapes and operate within the Homeland Security Department, according to legislation introduced by ranking member Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., on Thursday.

Associated Press Justice Department says Russians hacked federal prosecutors
The Russian hackers behind the massive SolarWinds cyberespionage campaign broke into the email accounts of some of the most prominent federal prosecutors’ offices around the country last year, the Justice Department said. The department said 80% of Microsoft email accounts used by employees in the four U.S. attorney offices in New York were breached. All told, the Justice Department said 27 U.S. attorney offices had at least one employee’s email account compromised during the hacking campaign.

FedScoop Senate committee calls for FISMA to be revamped
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has identified continued major cybersecurity failings across agencies and is calling for the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) to be reformed. A new report published Tuesday identifies IT security flaws across almost every major U.S. government department, including the failure to secure citizens’ personal and financial data and the inability to keep track of thousands of items of IT equipment.

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Nextgov What One City Hopes to Learn by Pausing Use of Facial Recognition Technology
The Baltimore City Council approved legislation this summer that temporarily bans the use of facial recognition technology by residents, businesses and most city agencies. The legislation is expected to be signed by the mayor. If adopted, city lawmakers want the bill to do more than protect residents’ privacy—they also hope it will advance the conversation on policing and public safety to include a more holistic approach.

Axios How remote work raises the risks of cyberattacks
The pandemic-driven shift to remote work has been accompanied by a rise in cyberattacks on corporations — and that’s not a coincidence. Cyberattacks can cost companies millions and the broader economy billions. With remote work likely to stay — especially with the surging Delta variant — companies need to prioritize and retool cyberdefense for a more distributed working world. Between 2019 and 2020, ransomware cyberattacks rose 62% worldwide and 158% in North America, according to a recent report by the cybersecurity firm SonicWall.

Roll Call Industry groups, equity advocates applaud infrastructure bill’s broadband provisions
Telecommunications industry groups and digital equity advocates reacted positively Monday to high-speed internet provisions in the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. The massive 2,702-page bill, introduced late Sunday night as a substitute amendment to the legislative vehicle, includes around $65 billion in spending for broadband. And though the bottom line for broadband spending is significantly lower than the $100 billion originally sought by President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, almost everyone has found something to like.

CNBC SpaceX says Starlink has about 90,000 users as the internet service gains subscribers
SpaceX added subscribers to its Starlink satellite internet service, with Elon Musk’s company saying it now serves about 90,000 users around the world. The company gave an update on Starlink’s growth in a July 29 call with Federal Communications Commission officials, noting that the service now has users in 12 countries. The new user total, which appears to count the number of households with a Starlink dish, marks an addition of about 20,000 users in a month.

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  • Blog on Policies to Close the Homework Gap
    In a few short days or weeks, most K-12 students will physically return to the classroom—at least, this is the plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that local districts encourage mask wearing regardless of vaccination status. But some cities and school districts are still questioning such mandates, despite the rising number of vaccinated and unvaccinated people being infected by the COVID-19 Delta variant. The current immunization ineligibility among children under 12 years of age further complicates public health mitigation as some of them may become carriers of the virus to their parents and other close relatives, if not careful. (TechTank – No child deserves to be left offline this school year—here’s how Congress can help, August 2, 2021)