May 13 2022

This Week in Washington 

The Hill Federal agencies issue warning to third-party security firms
U.S. federal agencies and a number of international partners issued a joint advisory on Wednesday on the best cybersecurity practices for managed service providers to protect their customers and secure sensitive data. The agencies said they expect malicious cyber actors to increase their targeting of managed service providers, third-party companies that remotely manage and update information technology systems and provide technical support to clients.

Reuters Biden eyes new ways to bar China from scooping up U.S. data
A draft executive order would give the Department of Justice major powers to prevent foreign rivals like China from accessing Americans’ personal information, according to a person familiar with the matter and excerpts seen by Reuters. The plan would also mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services stop federal funding from supporting the transfer of Americans’ health data to the country’s rivals, according to the excerpts, and comes as the Biden administration looks to counter the alleged national security threats posed by Chinese companies.

TechCrunch FCC proposes funding Wi-Fi on school buses
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed that federal funding be provided to equip school buses with Wi-Fi, potentially closing the homework gap by that much more. The proposal would allow the use of E-rate program funds, generally set aside for school tech and connectivity costs, to be used for purchasing wireless hot spots or other methods for getting the buses connected. “The ‘homework gap’ is still a hard fact of life for millions of schoolchildren in urban and rural America. Wiring our school buses is a practical step we can take that is consistent with the history of the E-rate program. This common sense change could help kids who have no broadband at home,” said Rosenworcel in a statement announcing the proposed ruling.

POLITICO Senate confirms Biden’s FTC nominee despite Republican opposition
The Senate confirmed Alvaro Bedoya to serve on the Federal Trade Commission by a 51-50 margin, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote after a party-line vote. Bedoya’s confirmation gives Democrats a 3-2 majority on the FTC and the ability to act on Chair Lina Khan’s agenda in areas like antitrust and consumer protection. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cast the move as a crucial step forward for the Biden administration’s effort to protect consumers’ privacy and fight inflation, including scrutinizing the reasons for rising energy prices.

Broadcasting + Cable White House Trumpets Broadband Subsidy Plans
The White House is promoting its ongoing American Connectivity Program (ACP) with a big splash Monday, announcing that it has gotten commitments from almost two dozen private sector ISPs to lower service costs for high-speed broadband (at least 100 Mbps) for millions of rural and urban Americans, and announcing the launch of a web site on how to sign up for the government program. The Microsoft-led coalition, Connect Americans Now (CAN), which is pushing the closing of the digital divide by any means necessary, applauded the White House.

The Hill White House expands cyber policy office with senior hires
The White House announced on Tuesday that it is expanding its cyber policy office with three new hires, including a former Microsoft executive and a former CIA official. Kemba Eneas Walden, a former assistant general counsel at Microsoft, will serve as principal deputy national cyber director. While at Microsoft, she was responsible for launching and leading its Digital Crimes Unit’s Ransomware Program. Prior to joining Microsoft, Walden spent nearly a decade at the Department of Homeland Security, most recently at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Bloomberg Tech Critics Press U.S. Congress for Antitrust Laws Ahead of Midterms
With U.S. midterm elections looming over the political schedule, almost two dozen groups pressed lawmakers to address both corporate dominance and privacy issues in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A package of bills limiting the power of tech giants is gaining momentum in Congress, though leaders are running out of time to pass major legislation before the midterms. Focal measures include the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would prevent tech companies from putting their own products ahead of those of competitors, as well as the Open App Markets Act, which would open up Apple and Google-owned app stores.

CyberScoop Cryptocurrency regulators are scrambling to catch up with hackers who are swiping billions
Just four months in, 2022 has been a banner year for hackers and fraudsters who have swindled more than $1 billion from cryptocurrency investors, according to estimates by cryptocurrency analysis firm Immunefi. The rise in fraud has put U.S. regulators on the offensive. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has positioned itself as the industry’s main regulator and enforcer, announced on Tuesday that it was going to double its staff working to combat the rise in fraud.

Article Summary

ZDNet Ransomware in numbers: How 2,500 potential targets turns into one actual attack
Microsoft has shone a spotlight on ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), a style of criminal enterprise that relies on gig workers and is structured around profit sharing to reduce risk borne by a single actor. Microsoft security teams are tracking more than 35 unique ransomware families and 250 threat actors across nation-state, ransomware and criminal activities. RaaS, it says, is a gig economy involving multiple actors around three key pillars. “In the same way our traditional economy has shifted toward gig workers for efficiency, criminals are learning that there’s less work and less risk involved by renting or selling their tools for a portion of the profits than performing the attacks themselves,” Microsoft Security says in a blogpost.

The Hill Predominantly Black rural university to shut down after 2021 cyberattack
A predominantly Black rural university in Illinois will close on Friday after falling victim to a cyberattack in December and struggling with declining student enrollment during the pandemic. Lincoln College, about 2.5 hours outside of Chicago, posted a notice about the permanent closure on its website, saying that despite “record-breaking student enrollment” in 2019, it was winding down operations after a crippling cyberattack and a devastating pandemic.

Associated Press Hackers hit web hosting provider linked to Oregon elections
A week before Oregon’s primary election, the secretary of state’s office is moving to protect the integrity of its online system where campaign finance records are published after a web hosting provider was hit by a ransomware attack. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s office said people inputting records into the ORESTAR state campaign finance reporting system may have been affected, and have been sent detailed instructions on how to proceed.

The Verge The EU could start enforcing rules to regulate Big Tech in spring 2023
The European Union aims to begin enforcing the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in spring 2023, Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager announced at the International Competition Network (ICN) conference last week, as first reported by TechCrunch. Vestager previously stated that the antitrust legislation, which introduces a new set of rules to curb the power of Big Tech, could be implemented as early as October of this year.

Tech Podcast of the Week 

WSJ What’s News

  • Podcast on Broadband Access
    Last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law includes billions in funding to expand broadband internet access. The Biden administration is offering $30-a-month subsidies to low-income households, and 20 internet providers, including AT&T and Verizon, have agreed to help. But getting everyone who is eligible to sign up has been a challenge. WSJ White House reporter Ken Thomas joins host Annmarie Fertoli to discuss. (Internet Providers Agree to Help Expand Broadband Access – May 9, 2022)