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Cybersecurity

Center for American Progress Panelists Explore FTC’s Role in Child Privacy Protection

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 – A Center for American Progress panel assembled Monday explored the challenges presented by emerging Internet technology privacy issues with respect to Federal Trade Commission enforcement, child safety and free speech rights.

Julie Brill, FTC Commissioner, addressed private sector and government solutions for protecting consumer data privacy in her keynote speech to a packed house of policy analysts, advocacy groups and government officials at the Center’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

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WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 – A Center for American Progress panel assembled Monday explored the challenges presented by emerging Internet technology privacy issues with respect to Federal Trade Commission enforcement, child safety and free speech rights.

Julie Brill, FTC Commissioner, addressed private sector and government solutions for protecting consumer data privacy in her keynote speech to a packed house of policy analysts, advocacy groups and government officials at the Center’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

“It is not reasonable to expect consumers to read and understand privacy codes as long as the Code of Hammurabi,” said Brill, in reference to the ancient Babylonian law code – the origin of the saying, ‘eye for an eye’.

Brill emphasized, in addition to companies putting privacy policies in plain English, that companies should be upfront with consumers regarding the kinds of personal data they collect and how long they keep it. Companies should also build privacy and security into new products – not just retrofit old products – according to the commissioner.

The morning’s discussion, however, centered around the thoughts of the commissioner and the panel who followed after her on how to best protect the privacy rights of children through several methods: an updated version of the ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998’ (COPPA), a federal online privacy law enforced by the FTC. The panel also delved into private sector development of technology that would allow consumers to opt-out of company data collection and location tracking, also known as a ‘do not track mechanism.’

The proposed mechanism would take two possible forms: consumer subscription lists that would allow a user’s browser to block sites engaged in tracking, and browsers that would require websites to refrain from tracking its users behavior at the request of the user.

Due to the recent major data breaches at Sony, Epsilon, Lockheed Martin, CIA.gov and the U.S. Senate by hacktivist groups Lulz Security (LulzSec) and Anonymous, companies and legislators are now confronted with the high stakes of data privacy at play.

Jim Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, whose company is a child and family media advocacy group, exhorted the group to consider an angle outside of the current privacy debate in Washington when discussing data privacy policy reform.

Steyer, in addition to stating that there should be no tracking of children whatsoever, proposed the creation of an eraser button. The eraser button would allow children and their parents to delete content posted about them online. The mechanism would, however, only be one defense against the negative ramifications lack of privacy inflicts on childhood development.

“We need to look at how these issues affect the cognitive, social and emotional development of children and teens,” said Steyer.

“Very few people disagree with empowering parents [about their children’s privacy],” said Chris Wolf, Co-Director of Future of Privacy Forum, in response to Steyer. Wolf, a lawyer, refocused the discussion on the stakes everyone has in data privacy.

“Companies are beginning to recognize that privacy is good for business.”

Cybersecurity

Remote Work an Opportunity for Service Providers to Build Trust on Cybersecurity: Research Director

A study by Futurum Research found organizations expect more remote work long-term.

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Photo of Ron Westfall, research director at Futurum Research

July 6, 2022 – An increase in remote work post-pandemic provides internet service providers with an opportunity to build trust by prioritizing cybersecurity, according to a new study discussed Wednesday.

The Futurum Research study of over 500 respondents – many of which are influential decision makers – concluded that post-pandemic, organizations are expecting their workforce to become more remote long-term.

“This, I believe, provides an opportunity for service providers to, for example, prioritize higher security as a way for these organizations to have more confidence and have more satisfaction in how the work-from-home coordination and limitations are optimized,” Ron Westfall, research director and senior analyst at Futurum Research, said at Fiber for Breakfast event on Wednesday

Cybersecurity is a huge concern for companies as employees work from home on various networks and with less supervision and “there is still a lot of work to be done,” continued Westfall. Security remains a hot topic in the industry as cyberattack threats increase.

Organizations that have already adopted a single, holistic approach to remote working are showing greater satisfaction with the outcomes of their collaboration platforms, Westfall said. Westfall indicated that executive leaders need to take action to produce an organization-wide work-from-home collaboration policy.

Video surveillance and artificial intelligence technologies are allowing key decision makers to maintain a remote work presence. However, over two-thirds of companies are still improvising how they will approach the remote or hybrid workforce, said Westfall.

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Cybersecurity

Cyber Notification Bill Critical, But Won’t Stop Bad Actors Entirely, Says Senator

Congress recently passed legislation including a requirement for critical infrastructure entities to notify government on cyber attacks.

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Photo of Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2022 – Mandatory cyber attack reporting is critical to keeping up cyber defenses against potential Russian attacks, a U.S. senator said, following the passing by Congress of legislation that would require certain companies to report such attacks within 72 hours.

But Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and a former State Department cyber expert, said the bill will not stop bad actors entirely.

“We probably cannot be 100 percent effective on keeping the bad guys out,” Warner said Monday during a Center for Strategic and International Studies event discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We shouldn’t aim for 100 percent perfection on defense, but what we should aim for is this information sharing, so that we could then share with the private sector.”

The Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022, part of a larger budget bill, requires certain critical infrastructure owners, including in the communications, energy and healthcare sector, and operators to notify the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of cybersecurity on attack incidents in certain circumstances. It was passed by both chambers and President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

The bill’s passing comes after a year of high-profile cyber attacks that targeted software companies, a meat producer and an oil transport firm. Following those attacks, lawmakers and cyber officials urged Congress to push the bill forward. Late last year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the department intends to create a new cyber bureau to help tackle the growing challenge of cyber warfare.

It also comes as Russia continues its war in Ukraine, which some have suspected will ramp up global cyber attacks.

‘Shields up’

Chris Painter, president of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise Foundation and former coordinator for cyber issues at the State Department, agreed with Warner on Monday, saying that he thinks “that we will see that [cybersecurity attack capability] is being held in reserve, so I think shields up is really the right approach for the U.S.

“With a dedicated adversary like Russia,” Painter said “you could be very good at defense, [but] they’re still going to get in.”

Warner, who said the notification requirement is a “giant step forward,” said the bill doesn’t “want to hold the company accountable, [but] we do want to go after malware actors.” He added this is about being resilient in the face of incoming attacks.

But in a January congressional hearing about cybersecurity, Ross Nodurft of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, warned Congress against an “overly prescriptive definition of a [cybersecurity] incident” to avoid running the risk of “receiving so many notifications that the incidents which are truly severe are missed or effectively drowned out due to the frequency of reporting.”

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Cybersecurity

Justin Reilly: Rising Ransomware Threats on Schools Require Better Approach to Cybersecurity

Ransomeware attacks are a costly lesson for educators.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Justin Reilly, CEO of Impero Software

Since the advent of the pandemic, education has been in a state of vulnerable flux. The rapid embrace of technology, sparked by the need to introduce remote learning, has given many educators whiplash. They need time to normalize, but recent trends threaten their ability to do so.

Against the backdrop of technological chaos, opportunistic hackers have been targeting schools with heightened fervor, causing harmful delays and disruptions on both a systemic and financial level. It’s time for schools to start getting proactive about cybersecurity, or they risk paying a hefty tuition to learn why they should have acted sooner.

Education technology use is surging across the nation. A recent study showed ed-tech up 52 percent over pre-pandemic levels, with U.S. school districts using nearly 1,500 different digital tools on average each month. While these digital tools possess the power to ultimately streamline and transform classroom management for the better, teachers are still feeling overwhelmed by the number of technology solutions they’re being asked to implement.

This issue is being exacerbated by many tech-resistant districts and teachers being forced to catch up all at once. When the pandemic hit, using devices and technology in the classroom was no longer an option – learning quickly needed to be online and accessible. By now, the dam has fully broken on tech adoption and we’re only likely to see these trends accelerate. Of course, as other sectors have seen firsthand over the last two years, these unchecked developments often cast unsavory shadows.

An appealing target for hackers

School districts were already an appealing target for hackers ahead of the pandemic, but the rapid adoption of technology – often outstripping security measures equal to these digital strides – has effectively chummed the waters for malicious elements looking for a “soft” target.

Cyberattacks against school districts went up by 18 percent in 2020, the height of the pandemic. The trend has continued since and isn’t expected to slow down in 2022. Among attacks against school districts, ransomware – an attack that locks users out of files on their own systems and then demands ransom money to return their rightful access – is by far the most common variety.

Just a few weeks into 2022, there were already multiple major headlines involving ransomware targeting school districts. The biggest story was the hacking of education website service provider FinalSite, which shut down the websites of 5,000 schools and colleges. Another story involved the cancellation of classes for 75,000 students after the Albuquerque Public Schools district fell victim to a ransomware attack it had been fending off for several weeks.

Yet another case, also in New Mexico, affected the town of Truth & Consequences. The town suffered a cyberattack just after Christmas and, as of mid-January, had still not regained control of its computer systems.

There’s no time left for district leaders to drag their feet on cybersecurity. It can be tough, especially given budget challenges, but the gap between digital advancement and lacking cybersecurity presents too great of a risk for schools.

Make cybersecurity a priority in hiring 

So what can school districts do to prepare? The first step is to make cybersecurity a proper priority – and that includes budgeting and hiring. Many schools still don’t have dedicated cybersecurity officers, instead relying on – in many cases at best – a CIO who happens to be tech-savvy.

This is starting to turn around in light of recent events, with more and more schools hiring chief cybersecurity officers and point-persons. Keeping up with this trend will be critical for setting a strong foundation.

Budgeting will always be a challenge, of course, seeing as many school districts still don’t have any budget at all dedicated to cybersecurity. This needs to change, but some schools have started getting creative on this front in the meantime. One possibility is to fold cybersecurity efforts into operating budgets. Another timely approach is to capitalize on new and improved “cyber grants” being offered by federal and local governments to meet this increasing need.

The most important thing is simply not to be ad hoc about cybersecurity. School districts can proactively gather data to find out where their needs are, what the wants are from teachers, and how they can properly address them. It’s far better to start gathering this data early rather than wait until it’s too late.

Consider this: schools can either make the investment now or pay much more a short way down the road. Should a school or district become the victim of ransomware, they’ll have to pay both to resolve the immediate crisis and for cybersecurity upgrades, all of which will have been unbudgeted and leave them reeling long after the attack. The norms of education are changing, and priorities need to change with them.

Justin Reilly is the CEO of Impero Software, which offers a virtual private network solution for schools and also serves more than half of the Fortune 100. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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