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Rep. Marsha Blackburn at Partisan Hearing on Cybercrime: ‘Hackers are Smart, and They are Adapting’

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WASHINGTON, June 15, 2017 – Cybercrimes cost the global economy about $450 billion annually, House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said Tuesday as she cited the 2017 Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report.

“Hackers are smart, and they are adapting,” said Blackburn. “McAfee’s 2016 Mobile Threat Report notes mobile devices are quickly becoming the cybercriminals target of choice of the abundance of sensitive information individuals store on them.”

She spoke at a hearing on “Promoting Security in Wireless Technology,” and which focused on the current status of cyber-crimes and cyber-security.

Cyber threats include packet sniffing, rogue access points, jamming and locating flawed encryption algorithms. She said hackers do this to obtain financial information, user passwords and to block legitimate network traffic. She gave the November distributed denial of service attack on Dyn that disrupted websites, such as Twitter and Netflix, as an example.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, interjected the issue of net neutrality, noting that there were just under 5 million comments in the Federal Communications Commission proceeding to repeal Obama-era regulations on the subject. That breaks the previous record of 3.7 million comments on the subject in 2015, he said. He also cited the example of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election an example in need of cybersecurity protections.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-California, discussed his Securing IoT Act that would require cybersecurity standards for devices making use of the so-called “Internet of Things.” He expressed disappointment that his Republican colleagues weren’e very interested in his bill.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey, also blasted Republicans.

“Worse still, the only legislation House Republicans have pushed and supported within this subcommittee’s jurisdiction actually makes us less safe,” he said. “With no hearings or advance notice, the leadership of this Committee led the charge to strip away Americans’ privacy rights and throw out some of the only protections on the books to secure the data.”

The hearing, he said, was “another example of committee Republicans simply not taking these issues seriously.” The Democrats tried to offer their own cybersecurity witness to testify, but Pallone said the Republicans denied the expert a witness spot.

“These games have to stop because these issues are just too serious to keep playing politics with our national security,” Pallone said.

Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., said she introduced the Cybersecurity Responsibility Act of 2017 because she wanted to reduce vulnerability of her constituents.

Among the witnesses, Bill Wright, director of government affairs for Symantec, said mobile phones need to start being treated like computers. In other words, they need to be protected just as much as computers too. Attackers are getting better, and cybercrime is very lucrative without much risk.

“The underground cybercrime marketplace is booming allowing even an art history major to conduct highly sophisticated cyberattacks,” he said.

Hackers only need to gain one’s phone to access everything.

Amit Yoran, chairman and chief executive officer of Tenable Network Security, said identifying assets is the foundation to developing a cybersecurity platform.

Charles Clancy, professor at Virginia Tech, said the problem is that current infrastructure is insecure and accessing hotspots, such as the ones offered at coffee shops, is also insecure.

Kiersten Todt, managing partner at Liberty Group Ventures, LLC, said the cloud and mobile adoption are just beginning, and both have become the access points to our lives. Mobile security is one of the greatest risks for all enterprises, she said, adding that the industry and the government have to work together to form cybersecurity legislation.

IoT devices that are hacked can have real world consequences, Wright said.

Yoran talked the dangers present in setting up Wi-Fi hotspots. Because they can be open for others to easily access, people can accidentally connect to rogue hotspots set up by cyber-criminals.

Clancy talked about the computer science programs at colleges, and he said a problem is that the computer science departments treat cybersecurity as a fad and aren’t teaching cyber-security classes.

(Photo of Marsha Blackburn by Gage Skidmore used with permission.)

Cybersecurity

Microsoft Executive Calls For Improved Information Sharing Between Governments and Companies

Brad Smith said information sharing is critical for preventative measures against cyberattacks.

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Microsoft Vice Chair Brad Smith

WASHINGTON, September 20, 2021—Microsoft Vice Chair Brad Smith called for improved information sharing between countries to prevent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure.

While participating in a Washington Post Live discussion on September 20, Smith pointed toward certain sectors and aspects of society that should be protected from cyberwarfare. He specifically mentioned that a country’s digital supply chains, healthcare systems, and electoral processes should be considered off limits.

“I think the sobering fact of life is that unfortunately the world typically comes together to do what needs to be done only after it has experienced some kind [disaster],” he said.

“If we said we won’t harm civilians in a time of war, why should we for a moment, tolerate this kind of harm to civilians in what is supposed to be a time of peace?” Smith likened the SolarWinds attack to tampering with a blood supply to harm recipients.

A webinar in June hosted by the Stimson Center heard that a cybersecurity framework between countries is key to combatting cyberattacks.

Information sharing with private companies

In addition to reaffirming a commitment to not cause civilian harm, Smith also called for improving coordination and information sharing between private companies and stated that these efforts are enhanced by government leadership.

“I think any day when we’re sitting down and talking about how we can collaborate more closely among companies, that’s probably a good day.” Smith lauded efforts by the Biden Administration to facilitate information sharing between tech companies to prevent further attacks like the one SolarWinds suffered, “We are going to need a government that can work as a single well-coordinated team and the team is going to need to include participants in an appropriate way from the private sector as well. I’m hopeful, encouraged and I would dare say even optimistic.”

Last month, Comcast Cable’s chief product and information officer Noopur Davis said the private sector is falling behind on information sharing during cyberattacks, and that companies in the tech industry are reevaluating their strategies and how they share information to prevent such acts. Some have noted that companies are still not prioritizing cybersecurity.

Senator Angus King, I-Maine, has even called for new rules requiring companies to disclose when they’ve been breached in a hack.

Shortage of cybersecurity workforce

Smith noted, however, that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. He described a “substantial shortage” of cybersecurity professionals, which he stated is one of the reasons organizations are not able to move quickly enough to keep pace with bad actors and implement best practices.

“There is a real opportunity for us to work together for community colleges to do more [and] for businesses to do more to train their people,” he said.

Overall, Smith stated that things are moving in the right direction but emphasized that the international community—governments and otherwise—need to establish better methods of federating data that is secure from bad actors but accessible to the necessary parties.

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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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