July 16 2021

This Week in Washington

CyberScoop Senate confirms former White House, NSA official Jen Easterly as CISA director after delay
Seven months into Joe Biden’s presidency, an administration confronting several cybersecurity crises finally has a permanent director en route to take over one of the top few cyber posts in the federal government. The Senate on Monday confirmed Jen Easterly as director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency by voice vote.

CNBC FCC finalizes program to rip and replace Huawei, ZTE telecom equipment in the U.S.
In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission finalized a $1.9 billion program to rip and replace equipment from Chinese telecom companies considered national security risks by the U.S. government. The program is meant to subsidize the cost for small telecommunications companies in the U.S. to replace gear from firms like Huawei and ZTE in an effort to secure U.S. networks.

The Verge Biden’s executive order puts net neutrality back in the spotlight
Earlier Friday President Biden signed the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, and in it there were several provisions relating to net neutrality. The prior administration’s FCC and FTC rolled back Obama-era rules in those areas, and now there is a clear agenda to restore them. The FCC is now tasked with reviving the “Broadband Nutrition Label” that was in development in 2016. The label would provide a standardized format for providers to display their price, data allowances and details on performance, similar to the labels you currently see on food at the grocery store.

B+C Wicker: NTIA Broadband ‘Need’ Map Is Woefully Inaccurate
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has asked the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to review its broadband data collection, suggesting it is using “woefully inaccurate” data that threatens the effectiveness of billions of dollars in broadband subsidies. Accurate data collection has been a big issue, particularly at the FCC, as the need for universal broadband grew during the COVID-19 pandemic and the spotlight on the digital divide, both rural and urban, grew stronger.

Radio Iowa Senator Grassley introduces bill to help expand rural broadband
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is introducing a bill today which he says will help rural Iowa communities, as well as isolated towns across the U.S.,  get high-speed internet connections. The measure is called the Assisting Broadband Connectivity Act and it’s being co-sponsored in the Senate by Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar. Grassley says, “This bipartisan bill will make changes to the rural broadband program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture so that areas aren’t automatically ineligible for federal funding because a project previously received state funding.”

FedScoop DISA launches broadband satellite contract worth $980M
The Defense Information Systems Agency is soliciting bids for a contractor to service a 10-year commercial broadband satellite program. The contract has a ceiling of up to $979.8 million and is structured as an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, against which the agency intends to award firm-fixed-price task orders. According to documents filed on Sam.gov, the new contract is intended to augment government-owned and operated telecommunications systems and to provide additional redundancy to meet critical mission requirements.

Multichannel News FCC’s Nathan Simington Pledges Bipartisan Approach to Biden Executive Order
While acting Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel was prominently in the picture at President Joe Biden’s signing ceremony for an executive order on competition that urged various regulatory steps by the agency to promote high-speed, low-cost broadband, there was another commissioner in attendance: Republican Nathan Simington. With the FCC currently at a 2-2 political tie, courting Simington could be key to getting things done if Biden is not yet ready to name a permanent chair and/or pick a third Democrat.

Article Summary

Microsoft Official Blog Microsoft to acquire RiskIQ to strengthen cybersecurity of digital transformation and hybrid work
Organizations are increasingly using the cloud to reimagine every facet of their business. Hybrid work has accelerated this digital transformation, and customers are challenged with the increasing sophistication and frequency of cyberattacks. Today, Microsoft is announcing that we have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire RiskIQ, a leader in global threat intelligence and attack surface management, to help our shared customers build a more comprehensive view of the global threats to their businesses, better understand vulnerable internet-facing assets, and build world-class threat intelligence.

The App Association Colorado Joins the State Privacy Patchwork
A little more than three months ago, we wrote about the impending expansion of the state privacy patchwork. At the time, Virginia’s Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) was a signature away from becoming law, with promising efforts also underway in Washington and Oklahoma. Now, with VCDPA officially on the books and many state legislative sessions winding down for the year (the Washington and Oklahoma bills eventually failed to pass), the new privacy landscape is coming into focus, but not before one last twist. A month ago, Colorado legislators surprised many by passing their own comprehensive privacy legislation, the Colorado Privacy Act (CPA).

Reuters Work from home fueling cyber attacks, says global financial watchdog
Financial firms may need to bolster their defences in the face of rocketing cyber attacks after employees began working from home, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) said on Tuesday. The FSB, which coordinates financial rules for the G20 group of nations, said remote working since economies went into lockdown to fight COVID-19 opened up new possibilities for cyber attacks. Working from home (WFH) is expected to stay in some form across the financial services industry and beyond.

Axios The true cost of U.S. internet service
The Biden administration wants to cut Americans’ monthly internet bills, making efforts to accurately measure those costs more urgent — and sometimes contentious. The White House’s executive order on competition, signed Friday, included a series of policies aimed at reducing what consumers pay for their online connections. The administration’s push to measure internet prices — and the broadband industry’s counterargument that Americans actually pay less than consumers abroad — is a prologue to a bigger debate over whether to regulate those prices.

ZDNet Cybersecurity organizations announce new first responder credentialing program
Cybersecurity companies and organizations are banding together to create a cybersecurity first responder credentialing program designed to support both large and small organizations dealing with cyber incidents. The ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance is working with CISA on the effort alongside the Incident Command System for Industrial Control Systems (ICS4ICS) and more than 50 other cybersecurity companies, universities and corporations.

New York Times How Do You Stop Robocalls?
The calls look vaguely familiar, as if they could be coming from a neighbor’s phone. Sometimes they’re ominous warnings about your Social Security number. A friendly voice pretends to be concerned about the warranty on a car you don’t have. Americans get millions of illegal robocalls every month, despite attempts by the telecommunications industry and government agencies to stop them. The latest effort by the Federal Communications Commission — the government agency that regulates communications — to cut down on the calls uses a technology called Stir/Shaken, which went into effect on June 30.

Axios “Ransomwhere” project tracks payment demands
A new project, Ransomwhere, aims to put a dollar figure on the profit-driven attacks that have become a headache for businesses, governments and non-profits around the globe. While ransomware is clearly a growing problem, there hasn’t been a good way to keep tabs on how much is being paid, and to whom. Ransomwhere is an “open, crowdsourced ransomware payment tracker” launched by Jack Cable, a former government cybersecurity expert who now works as a security architect for Krebs Stamos Group. Anyone can enter a payment demand they have received, though people are required to submit a screenshot of the ransom note as one means of verifying the legitimacy of claims posted to Ransomwhere.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

  • Op-ed on Broadband Legislation
    A handful of U.S. senators have introduced legislation designed to improve high-speed broadband access throughout the country. The Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy Act of 2020 (BRIDGE Act) proposes spending $30 billion to improve broadband access for those in rural and low-income areas. Although laudable in its broad intentions, the devil is truly in the details. Buried towards the end of the BRIDGE Act is Section 15 – “Preemption of State and Local Restrictions on Municipal Broadband.” This section bars all states and local governments from prohibiting or “substantially inhibiting” local governments from establishing and providing broadband services. In other words, the BRIDGE Act would completely negate any state law or local ordinance stopping a municipality from taking over broadband at a local level. (TPA Blog – Good Broadband Intentions May Lead to Horrible Policies, July 7, 2021)