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Cybersecurity

North American Electric Reliability Corporation Creates Cyber Attack Task Force

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WASHINGTON March 3, 2011- The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has announced the formation of a Cyber Attack Task Force to evaluate and help protect the U.S. power grid in the event of an online assault.

NERC is an independent, international organization that seeks to ensure the “reliability of the bulk power system in North America.” The Cyber Attack Task Force will establish procedures and plans to deal with potential cyber-attacks on electrical grid infrastructure.

The task force will be chaired by Mark Engels, director of Information Technology Risk Management at Dominion Resources Services Inc.

“Operators are trained to spot anomalies and take the appropriate actions in real time,” Engels said. “The Cyber Attack Task Force will build on that existing knowledge with recommendations that make it easier to detect and respond to indicators of an organized attack.”

“NERC and the electricity industry have been actively addressing cybersecurity risks for some  years now,” said Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of NERC. “This initiative will more thoroughly examine the potential impact of a targeted cyber-attack and how the industry should best coordinate the preparedness and response actions of cyber security experts with power grid operators.”

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for BroadbandBreakfast.com since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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Cybersecurity

Private Sector Falling Behind on Information Sharing During Cyberattacks, Says Comcast Rep

Comcast’s Noopur Davis says cyber attackers share information better than the private sector.

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Noopur Davis, Chief Product and Information Officer at Comcast Cable.

ASPEN, Colorado, August 23 — In the wake of an influx of ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure and cyberattacks on private carriers, entities across the technology industry are revaluating their strategies and how they share information to prevent such acts.

T-Mobile announced on August 15 that as many as 50 million consumers had their private data compromised during a data breach. Days later, on August 17, as part of Technology Policy Institute’s 2021 Aspen Forum, Noopur Davis, Chief Product and Information Officer at Comcast Cable, sat down for a fireside chat to discuss what the industry was doing to address this event and events like it.

Join in Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s Discussion on “Cybersecurity: Reviewing the Biden Administration’s Executive Order,” on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, at 12 Noon ET.

When Davis was asked how she felt about the current state of cybersecurity, she said it was okay, but that the telecom community at large would have to do more.

She referenced the mean time of comfort—that is, the average duration between the time that a service becomes connected to the internet and when it is targeted by bad actors. While in the early days of the internet cybersecurity experts could expect to have significant mean times of comfort, she stated that this is no longer the case.

“The second you connect [to the internet] you are attacked,” she said.

As soon as a successful breach is recognized, Davis explained that the target companies begin to revaluate their “TTP,” or tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Information sharing is crucial

Though one company may find a remedy to their breach, other companies may remain vulnerable. To combat this, Davis said that it is critical for companies to share information quickly with their counterparts, but she indicated that this is a race that the private sector is currently losing.

“[Attackers] share information better than [the private industry does].”

She went further, revealing that there is now a sophisticated market for malware as a service, where various platforms publish reviews for their products and services and even offer tech support to those struggling to get the most out of their purchases.

Growing market for hacking tools

She pointed to the Colonial Pipeline attack as an example where hackers did not even create the malware themselves—they just purchased it from a provider online. She explained that this marketplace has significantly lowered the barriers of entry and deskilled the activity for would be attackers, and that theoretically anyone could engage in such nefarious acts today.

Though Davis was in favor of collaboration between companies to address these attacks, she made it clear that this would not mean that responses and capabilities would become standardized, and that every company would maintain their own unique strategies to ensure that their services and data remain uncompromised.

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Cybersecurity

DOJ Official Supports Mandatory Breach Reporting

Proposed legislation would make it mandatory for companies to report cyberattacks.

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Richard Downing from the Senate judiciary committee last week

August 2, 2021—An official from the Department of Justice urged members of the Senate judiciary committee last week to proceed with legislation requiring companies to report ransomware attacks to federal agencies.

Richard Downing, deputy assistant attorney general of the criminal division within the department, told the committee studying cybersecurity during a hearing that such mandatory breach reporting legislation would aid in its defense against cyberattacks.

There is currently no federal law requiring such disclosures, but bipartisan Senate legislation co-sponsored by Senator Angus King, I-Maine, would change that. Titled Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021, the bill was introduced last month.

This legislation would require all contractors, federal agencies, companies, and organizations critical to U.S national security to report all breaches of data to the Department of Homeland Securities’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within 24 hours.

The bill and discussions about it come in light of high-profile cyberattacks that have targeted software company SolarWinds and oil transport company Colonial Pipeline in the last several months. And the discussion isn’t expected to slowdown as more critical infrastructure is hooked up to the internet.

The Last week, the House energy committee approved a series of cyber bills that would improve telecom network security.  

Cyber threats becoming more bold

Downing noted that threat actors are becoming bolder and more sophisticated, and that the government must hasten efforts to thwart attacks and stay ahead of such malicious acts.

“Many actors now research their victims—identifying the victim’s net worth, the cost of a business interruption, and even the value of their cyber insurance policy—to extort as much money as possible,” Downing said during the hearing.

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Cybersecurity

House Energy Committee Approves Series of Cyber Bills to Improve Telecom Security

The committee approved five bills dealing with protecting networks and educating the public on cyberattacks.

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Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey

July 26, 2021—The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted to advance a series of cybersecurity bills. 

“These bipartisan bills will educate the public, smaller providers, and small businesses on how best to protect their telecommunications networks and supply chains,” said committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey.

The bills approved in the session includes the Understanding Cybersecurity of Mobile Networks Act, or H.R. 2685, which was introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois. That bill would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to conduct examination reports on the vulnerability of networks and mobile service devices to cyberattacks.

Other legislation passed in the committee Wednesday deals with the cooperation of enterprises and educational institutions working with federal agencies to promote secure networks and supply chains. 

The Information and Communication Technology Strategy Act, or H.R. 4028, was introduced reps. Billy Long, R-Missouri, Abigail Spanberger, D-Virginia, Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, and Jerry McNerney, D-California, and would authorize the Secretary of Commerce to submit a report analyzing the economic competitiveness of vendors within the information and communication technology supply chain.

“I think this bill is critically important to ensure that we are thinking about our supply chain security and do what we can to aid a robust marketplace for com equipment,” said McNerney.  

To assure that small telecommunications operators would receive assistance from the federal government, H.R. 4032, the Open RAN Outreach Act, introduced by reps. Colin Allred, D-Texas, Tom O’Halleran, D-Arizona, Brett Guthrie, R-Kentucky, and Richard Hudson, R-North Carolina, directs the NTIA to provide outreach to providers with regard to open radio access networks.

With the future moving toward 6G networks, H.R. 4045 – the Future Uses of Technology Upholding Reliable and Enhanced Networks Act or the FUTURE Networks Act, and introduced by reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Lucy McBath, D-Georgia – serves to authorize the FCC to create a task force on this matter.

Members of the task force will comprise representatives from the telecommunications industry, public interest organizations, academic institutions, and federal, state and local governments. 

The committee also moved forward the American Cybersecurity Literacy Act, or H.R. 4055, to raise public awareness of cyberattacks. This bill requires the NTIA develop a cyber literacy campaign to educate the public about cybersecurity risks and prevention measures. 

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