July 30 2021

This Week in Washington

Reuters Biden: If U.S. has ‘real shooting war’ it could be result of cyber attacks
President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that if the United States ended up in a “real shooting war” with a “major power” it could be the result of a significant cyber attack on the country, highlighting what Washington sees as growing threats posed by Russia and China. Cybersecurity has risen to the top of the agenda for the Biden administration after a series of high-profile attacks on entities such as network management company SolarWinds, the Colonial Pipeline company, meat processing company JBS and software firm Kaseya hurt the U.S. far beyond just the companies hacked. Some of the attacks affected fuel and food supplies in parts of the United States.

NBC News FBI tracking more than 100 active ransomware groups
The FBI is tracking more than 100 active ransomware groups, an agency official said Tuesday. The figure, given by Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the agency’s cyber division, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on ransomware, highlights the sizable problem that the United States faces in trying to mitigate the effects of ransomware gangs that attack American businesses, schools and other organizations.

The Washington Post Many ransomware attacks go unreported. The FBI and Congress want to change that
Congress, urged on by the nation’s top law enforcement agencies, is pushing to require companies to report ransomware attacks in an effort to help the government understand the scope of the threat. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, representatives of the Justice Department, FBI, Secret Service and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency all said Congress should consider passing a bill forcing companies that have been hit by a cyberattack to tell the government.

Argus Observer Sen. Ron Wyden and colleagues aim to support local journalism through tax credits for newspapers
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is among three senators who introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021 on Thursday, a bill that would help local newspapers reach viability through tax credits.The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Wyden, D-Ore., comes five weeks after a similar bill was introduced in the House. “The decline of local news has had devastating effects on our communities,” Wyden said in a news release on July 22. “Local news has often been the only window into the city council or mayor’s office.” Wyden emphasized that without local news outlets, important institutions go uncovered. His colleagues echoed this sentiment.

Roll Call Senate’s semiconductor aid may be opening bid in global race
In 1965, Gordon Moore, who would go on to found Intel Corp., foresaw that by 1975 the electronics industry would be cramming 65,000 components onto a single silicon chip about a quarter of a square inch in size. Moore’s law, which predicted that the number of transistors on a chip would double every two years, already has led to advanced chips packed with a trillion transistors, resembling a towering skyscraper if seen under a high-resolution electron microscope.

NBC News White House touts broadband part of new infrastructure deal
The White House announced Wednesday that its “once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure” would include a part dedicated to improving Americans’ access to the internet. Later, the Senate passed a critical test vote by 67-32, suggesting possible passage of the entire infrastructure bill in the coming days.

Article Summary

Axios Journalism’s two Americas
There’s a sharp divide in American journalism between haves and have-nots. While national journalists covering tech and politics on the coasts reap the benefits of booming businesses and book deals, local media organizations, primarily newspapers, continue to shrink. The disparate fortunes skew what gets covered, elevating big national political stories at the expense of local, community-focused news. At the local level, newspapers continue to be gobbled up by hedge funds eager to slash jobs for profits. News veterans with more experience are often the first to go.

The New York Times As Cyberattacks Surge, Security Start-Ups Reap the Rewards
As cyberattacks proliferated this year, Sanjay Beri, the chief executive of Netskope, a cloud security start-up, got a phone call. Then an email. Then more messages. All were from venture capitalists who wanted to invest in his company. Given the ransomware attacks and nation-state hacks that were making headlines, they told him, companies that made security products had a bigger market and mission than before.

The Wall Street Journal The Really Critical Infrastructure Need: American-Made Semiconductors
The push for two big infrastructure bills—one bipartisan, the other a much bigger one pushed by Democrats alone—is getting all the attention in Washington right now, and for good reason. Trillions of dollars hang in the balance, as does much of President Biden’s agenda and the question of whether Washington can do anything big in a bipartisan fashion any more. But most people are ignoring a third infrastructure initiative that, while smaller, is freighted with just as much long-term economic and strategic importance. It’s a relatively modest initiative to supercharge America’s at-home production of the semiconductors that now are vital in everyday life. That measure is sitting on a shelf in Washington, awaiting action, while the U.S.’s computer-chip vulnerability grows.

CNET Microsoft-powered autonomous beach-cleaning robot is here to clean our shores
A Dutch startup’s BeachBot robot aims to rid our sands of cigarette butts, and Microsoft’s artificial intelligence is helping it learn how. Microsoft highlighted the startup on Monday, showing off the prototype machine that’s still in the process of learning via the software giant’s Trove AI system, which helps provide image sets for this kind of machine learning task.

Axios New Facebook partnership tackles health misinformation
Facebook is partnering with a global tech non-profit called Meedan to give its 80+ fact-checking partner organizations access to training from experts in how to handle health and vaccine misinformation, a spokesperson tells Axios. It’s part of an expanded effort by Facebook to reduce health misinformation on its platform. The tech giant is facing increasing criticism from the Biden Administration and others that it isn’t doing enough to curb misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Sen. Klobuchar’s Section 230 Bill
    Like Howard Beale, the angry TV executive in the film Network, Senator Amy Klobuchar is mad and she’s not going to take it anymore. She is fed up with Facebook’s failure to control the spread of health misinformation on its social network. Last week, she introduced a bill to do something about it. Under her proposal, Facebook will lose its immunity from lawsuits under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act if it algorithmically promotes health misinformation, as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), during a health crisis. (TechTank – Senator Amy Klobuchar seeks to quell health misinformation on social mediaJuly 27, 2021)