November 19 2021

This Week in Washington

CyberScoop Biden signs infrastructure bill that provides nearly $2 billion for cybersecurity
The legislation also contains nearly $2 billion for cybersecurity, including a cyber grant program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency in consultation with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to distribute over $1 billion over four years to state and local governments to improve their cyber readiness.

FedScoop CISA issues cybersecurity incident, vulnerability response playbooks for federal agencies
The documents, which were published Tuesday, reinforce the Department of Homeland Security component agency’s work to formalize the communications processes and action plans federal agencies turn to when a cyberattack is discovered. Much of the new guidance is focused on the preparation required from federal departments in anticipation of future cyberattacks, which includes the monitoring of multiple sources of threat intelligence, including alerts from CISA’s EINSTEIN intrusion detection system and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program.

The New York Times Senate approves Jonathan Kanter, a Big Tech critic, as the top U.S. antitrust official
The U.S. Senate confirmed Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division by a vote of 68-29, in a move that could curb the power of big technology companies. Kanter has litigated cases against Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other tech giants as a lawyer for their rivals, but it is unclear if he will recuse himself from any federal investigations involving Google or other companies given his history of representing their competitors.

StateScoop Education Dept. hasn’t updated K-12 cybersecurity plans since 2010, audit finds
Congress’ auditing branch on Friday made public a report on steps the federal government can take to better ensure the cybersecurity of K-12 schools nationwide, which have been walloped over the past few years by ransomware attacks. In its report, the General Accountability Office concluded that the U.S. Education Department needs to update its plans for responding to cyberattacks against grade schools, as they face a slew of online threats, including ransomware, denial-of-service attacks, email scams and pandemic-era concerns like disruptions to virtual learning environments.

FedScoop Department of the Treasury signs cybersecurity partnership with Israel
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Israel’s Ministry of Finance have agreed to a new cybersecurity partnership to protect critical financial infrastructure and to counter the threat of ransomware. On Sunday, the U.S. government announced the new bilateral agreement, which is included as part of a wider U.S.-Israeli task force on fintech innovation and cybersecurity.

Wall Street Journal Lina Khan Sees Turbulent Start as Head of Federal Trade Commission
Lina Khan, the new Federal Trade Commission chairwoman with broad ambitions to take on big business, has faced early turbulence within the agency, including from career staffers she will need to build antitrust cases and write regulations. President Biden tapped the 32-year-old Ms. Khan in June to lead the five-member FTC. She aims to challenge more corporate mergers and allegedly monopolistic practices, as well as adopt regulations to head off what she sees as unfair business tactics.

The Hill Oversight finds ‘small lapses’ in security led to Colonial Pipeline, JBS hacks
A number of “small lapses” led to successful ransomware attacks against the Colonial Pipeline, food processing company JBS USA Holdings Inc. and CNA Financial Corp., according to a staff memo from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The memo said hackers took advantage of vulnerabilities like a single user account having a weak password that could be stolen and another user accepting a fake browser update, which committee staff said highlights the need for greater security education and protections.

Article Summary

Wall Street Journal Australia to Beef Up High-Tech Prowess After Security Pact With U.S.
Australia will strengthen its capabilities in quantum science and other technologies that could be used to counter threats from China, providing more detail on the type of innovations Australia might develop alongside the U.S. under a new security partnership. Australia will invest the equivalent of about $81 million (111 million Australian dollars) in quantum technology, including for a hub that will foster strategic partnerships with like-minded countries to commercialize Australia’s quantum research, officials said.

The Washington Post 3G shutdowns could leave most vulnerable without a connection
Companies have long planned to phase out 3G networks to free up valuable resources for 5G networks, which carriers say will bring faster speeds and allow more mobile devices to connect than ever before. But the transition has been complicated by the pandemic, as safety concerns hampered outreach, especially to older Americans, and snarled supply chains globally, adding to a chip shortage that makes it more difficult to replace outdated devices.

NextGov Most Employees Want Stronger Enforcement of Cybersecurity Protocols in the Workplace, Survey Finds
As the Biden administration works to strengthen public and private sector partnerships within data protection, a survey found that most employees working within cybersecurity infrastructure want greater action at the federal level to protect U.S. data and systems. Conducted by software company Tripwire and Dimensional Research, the survey polled 306 information technology employees at both private companies and public agencies.

NPR News Students are still struggling to get internet. The infrastructure bill could help
Internet access has always been a problem for Faylene Begay, a single mother of four living in Tuba City, Ariz. Before the pandemic, she didn’t have an internet connection at her home on the Navajo Nation Reservation — all she had was an old phone with limited data. Back then, her lack of connection was a nuisance as she worked her way through classes at Diné College.

Associated Press Biden’s Build Back Better bill would deliver payroll tax credit to local newspapers
President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion social spending bill includes a provision that, if it becomes law, would mark the first time the federal government has offered targeted support in response to the decline of local news. The help would come in the form of a payroll tax credit for companies that employ eligible local journalists. The measure would allow newspapers, digital news outlets, and radio and television stations to claim a tax credit of $25,000 the first year and $15,000 the next four years for up to 1,500 journalists.

Tech Podcast of the Week

The Brookings Institution

  • Podcast on Consumer Privacy
    Today antitrust enforcement, competition policy, and privacy are hot-button issues in the U.S. and around the world. Critics of tech giants like Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook say they are powerful monopolists with too much control over people’s online activities, too much access to personal data, and maximize shareholder profit at the expense of consumers, workers, and even democracy itself. The debate over the lack of competition is not limited to the tech platforms. Consumers are increasingly frustrated with their limited options in other industries, such as hospitals, airlines, and internet service providers. (In the U.S.A.’s tech-driven economy, is enough being done to protect consumer choice and privacy? – November 15, 2021)