October 22 2021

This Week in Washington

Wall Street Journal U.S. Lawmakers Step Up Pressure to Adopt Tougher Tech Laws
Legislation to curb the influence of big technology companies, including putting new restrictions on online content, is starting to gain traction in Congress as lawmakers narrow their targets and seek to build on public attention. A bipartisan group of senators including Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) came out last week in favor of legislation that would prohibit dominant platforms from favoring their own products or services, boosting similar efforts already underway in the House.

CNBC Robotexts are flooding our phones, and the FCC is looking at ways to stop them
The move comes after the agency took on the rise of robocalls, which can feature similar scams as robotexts. The FCC implemented several additional measures to protect consumers from robocalls after Congress passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The bill allowed the agency to impose greater penalties for the illegal calls and strengthen rules allowing phone companies to block those calls to begin with.

Reuters U.S. Senate panel to hold new hearing on social media impact on young users
The Senate Commerce consumer protection subcommittee will hold a hearing Oct. 26 on the impacts of social media on young people, Chair Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced. Representatives of Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube are expected to attend as the panel seeks more information on their effects on children and what lawmakers can do to keep them safe.

Bloomberg U.S. Treasury Offers Crypto Guidance Amid Ransomware Surge
There was $590 million in suspicious activity related to ransomware in the first six months of 2021, exceeding the entire amount in 2020, when $416 million was reported, according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The average amount of reported ransomware transactions per month in 2021 was $102.3 million, according to the report. If the current trend continues, suspicious activity reports filed in 2021 “are projected to have a higher ransomware-related transaction value than SARs filed in the previous 10 years combined,” according to the report.

Los Angeles Times Big Tech faces new bills on liability and competition in the U.S.
The biggest U.S. tech companies would face new constraints under two bills announced Thursday after a month of revelations from a Facebook Inc. whistleblower sparked fresh calls to rein in an industry that has largely escaped regulation so far. A measure from Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone and other leading House Democrats would revoke legal liability protections for platforms that use algorithms to spread harmful information, arguing that companies should be held responsible for how their technology disseminates content.

NextGov National Cyber Director: Liability Should Be Part of the Equation for Public-Private Collaboration
Establishing a working public-private partnership to defend the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks should not mean granting companies immunity from liability when they fail to implement appropriate measures, according to one of the nation’s top cyber officials. “At the end of the day, if you’ve not performed well in this space, there will be consequences. There should be liability,” National Cybersecurity Director Chris Inglis said.

Article Summary

Microsoft Annual Report 2021 Shareholder Letter from Satya Nadella
Dear shareholders, colleagues, customers, and partners: As I write this, people and organizations everywhere continue to struggle with the uncertainty of a pandemic that continues to cause so much suffering. And yet, as I reflect on what has been a very challenging year for so many—one that will be forever remembered as a heartbreaking chapter in our history—I find reasons to be hopeful.

StateScoop Cities employed new cybersecurity strategies during the pandemic
Digital government “exploded” in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether or not cities were prepared to flip themselves into offering online suite of services and information. But the massive surges in constituents seeking new services online — provided by city staffers working mostly from their own homes — in turn required IT and cybersecurity officials to revisit their strategies.

Axios Sinclair Broadcast Group says systems impacted by cyberattack
Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the country’s largest local broadcast companies, said Monday that it had fallen victim to a cyberattack that left some servers and workstations “encrypted with ransomware.” The incident comes just days after Cox Media Group, another local broadcast company, acknowledged a that cyberattack it experienced this past summer was ransomware.

The Verge Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name
Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail.

Axios The smart city comes of age
Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city. How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound. A smarter city can be a more sustainable and livable one, but connecting where we live carries privacy threats as well as the risks of more disruptive cyberattacks.

Government Technology West Virginia Unveils Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy
On Friday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice revealed his billion-dollar strategy to improve broadband connectivity in the state. The strategy will utilize a combination of funding from federal, state and local sources as well as private-sector partners. A total of $718 million in government funding is expected to be invested in broadband in the state this fall. With private-sector funds, the total investment is expected to exceed $1 billion.

NPR When this hedge fund buys local newspapers, democracy suffers
Research shows that when local newspapers disappear or are dramatically gutted, communities tend to see lower voter turnout, increased polarization, a general erosion of civic engagement and an environment in which misinformation and conspiracy theories can spread more easily.

Tech Podcast of the Week

The Tech Talks Daily Podcast

  • Podcast on Cybersecurity Awareness Month
    Now in its 18th year, Cybersecurity Awareness Month continues to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. So what will you be doing differently this year? Will it be switching to a password manager? Or adding MFA to your email and social accounts? Alanna Gilson and Eric Due from Robust Network Solutions join me on today’s episode of Tech Talks Daily in a discussion about how to improve your security hygiene. (1737: Cybersecurity Awareness Month With Robust Network Solutions – October 1, 2021)