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Cybersecurity

Commerce Department Commits to Funding Solutions to Technology Threats

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said more funding will go toward cybersecurity concerns.

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Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

June 9, 2021—The Commerce Department plans to devote extra funding and attention toward mitigating national security threats posed in the evolving tech industry in the coming year, said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on Monday.

Addressing the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Raimondo said the department is focusing its 2022 fiscal budget on addressing funding concerns surrounding cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and vulnerabilities in the telecommunications industry.

Raimondo says that the Commerce Department intends to set standards that address the national security concerns raised by lawmakers.

“Here’s what I do know: when the standards get baked, they define the whole industry,” she said. “And if we aren’t the ones making those standards, that is a real problem.”

She says that the United States needs to lead the world in regulating the tech industry, because whoever is first will shape the industry for the rest of the world.

Cybersecurity concerns

Following high-profile cybersecurity attacks on software company SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline, she says the department is taking the threat of ransomware and cybersecurity seriously.

In an op-ed published last month, Raimondo wrote, “This latest [Colonial Pipeline] attack should serve as a clarion call for organizations across the country to shore up their cyber defenses and get ahead of future threats.”

She told the committee that cybersecurity was a concern of the private sector, but that the federal government need to put pressure on the private sector to take it more seriously in the future in order to prevent similar attacks on our national infrastructure.

Following the attack last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on improving the U.S.’s cybersecurity capabilities. The order will establish a cybersecurity review board tasked with analyzing cyberattacks in order to find preventative techniques.

A cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security said this month that the federal government needs more consistent funding from Congress to address these threats.

Artificial intelligence and Chinese influence

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said the Covid-19 pandemic revealed the U.S.’s lack of manufacturing capacity as it is unable to respond to the pandemic, and supply chains were interrupted. Raimondo noted the implications of this for the technology industry, taking especial interest in the development of artificial intelligence technology.

She says that the use of semiconductors are essential in artificial intelligence research, and that while the U.S. is dependent on Taiwan for these semiconductors, China has invested in their domestic manufacturing in order to provide the semiconductors themselves. She says that, should another disruption to the U.S.’s supply chain occur, China could take the lead on this emerging technology.

Vulnerabilities in the telecom market

Raimondo stressed the importance of investing in American manufacturing, citing the telecommunications market as reliant on the sector. She says that much of the equipment that telecom companies use is provided by the Chinese company Huawei, in large part due to the relatively low cost of the company’s equipment versus European rivals Nokia and Ericsson.

Because of the potential for data collection and spying, she called this practice a “serious national security risk,” and that the U.S. needs to invest in domestic manufacturing in order to protect our privacy from China which could act in bad faith.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would inject additional funding to boost industrial production and technology research to protect against the influence of China. The bill will go to the House for a vote. .

Cybersecurity

Companies Should Adopt Default No Trust Position on Programs to Protect Against Cyberattacks

Panelists identified risks in employees freely accepting links without thinking about their associated risks.

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Screenshot of Fred Gordy, director of cybersecurity at smart building company Intelligent Buildings

WASHINGTON, August, 24, 2022 – Companies should assume that new programs installed on company systems pose a threat to their networks to ensure a vigilant position on hacking risks, according to an expert on cybersecurity, after the country faced a number of high-profile cyberattacks recently.

The zero trust approach in which the default position is one of distrust of new programs was touted by Osman Saleem, cybersecurity and privacy director of operational technology and internet of things at professional services firm PricewaterHouseCoopers in Canada, who was speaking as a panelist on a Fierce Telecom event on Monday.

The event heard that the vast majority of security breaches at companies were a result of human error, including clicking on links containing malicious software (malware) that can wreak havoc on and suspend company systems. Data, in the case of a ransomware attack, can be locked away until the company pays a monetary sum to get it back.

Fred Gordy, director of cybersecurity at smart building company Intelligent Buildings, said companies sometimes don’t even back-up their systems in the event of an attack and only end up doing so in response to an attack.

Gordy also encouraged the zero trust approach to company security by assuming all digital programs and software have malware.

Opportunities for better cybersecurity

Saleem proposed that cybersecurity documents be reviewed and revised regularly because the cyber landscape always changes. This, he said, can protect the digital infrastructure of the companies’ systems, operations and employees.

Meanwhile, Congress has been pressing the issue, following the high-profile cyberattacks on software company SolarWinds, financial services company Robinhood, meat producer JBS, and oil transport company Colonial Pipeline. President Joe Biden earlier this year signed, as part of a larger budget bill, the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022, which requires certain critical infrastructure companies to report cyberattacks to the federal government.

A House Oversight and Reform committee investigation concluded that certain hacks on companies were perpetrated through, in one example, an employee accepting a fake browser update. In the case of Colonial Pipeline and JBS, the use of many devices connected to the internet (IoT), the investigation found mass-produced factory password settings may have been the point of vulnerability.

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Cybersecurity

Rep. Swalwell Says App Preference Bill Will Harm National Security

‘I just want to limit the ability for any bad actor to get into your device.’

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Photo of Representative Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

July 27, 2022 – Antitrust legislation that would restrict the preferential treatment of certain apps on platforms would harm national security by making more visible apps from hostile nations, claimed Representative Eric Swalwell, D-Calif, at a Punchbowl News event Wednesday.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is currently under review by the Senate and, if passed, would prohibit certain online platforms from unfairly preferencing products, limiting another business’ ability to operate on a platform, or discriminating against competing products and services.

The legislation would ban Apple and Google from preferencing their own first-party apps on their app stores, which would make it easier for apps disseminated from hostile nations to be seen on the online stores, Swalwell said.

“[Russia and China] could flood the app store with apps that can vacuum up consumer data and send it back to China,” said Swalwell, adding that disinformation regarding American elections would spread. “Until these security concerns are addressed, we should really pump the breaks on this.”

Swalwell asked for a hearing conducted by Judiciary Committee of the House with the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security officials to lay out what the bill would mean for national security.

“I just want to limit the ability for any bad actor to get into your device, whether you’re an individual or small business,” said Swalwell.

Lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about China’s access to American data through popular video-sharing apps, such as TikTok. Last month, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Apple and Google to remove the app on the grounds that the app’s parent company, ByteDance, is “beholden” to the Communist government in China and required to comply with “surveillance demands.”

The comments follow debate surrounding the bill, which was introduced to the Senate on May 2 by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on how it would affect small businesses and American competitiveness globally.

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Cybersecurity

Government Should Incentivize Information Sharing for Ransomware Attacks, Experts Say

‘Information sharing between the government and the private sector, while integral to tackling ransomware, is inconsistent.’

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Screenshot of Trent Teyema of GeoTech Center

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2022 – The federal government should incentivize the reporting of cyberattacks through safe harbor and shield laws, said experts at an Atlantic Council event Tuesday, as a recent law requiring companies in critical infrastructure sectors to report such attacks to the federal government is limited and currently unclear on who exactly it impacts.

The Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act passed in March does not cover private companies who do not operate in the critical infrastructure sectors and does not include safe harbor and shield laws that would encourage private companies to engage in the process.

Oftentimes, companies will avoid interacting with law enforcement to avoid the stigma associated with being a victim of a cyberattack and out of fear of being held liable by regulators and investors, said Trent Teyema, senior fellow at technology policy university collaborative GeoTech Center.

Teyema called for a safe harbor framework, a law that provides protection against legal liability when other conditions are met. Such a provision would decrease the risk of companies being held liable for cyberattacks from regulators, investors, and the public.

He also called for shield laws that would protect against revealing certain information to the government as a requirement for receiving law enforcement assistance.

The government needs to make it easy for the private sector to share information with law enforcement, said Teyema.

“Information sharing between the government and the private sector, while integral to tackling ransomware, is inconsistent,” read a report written by Teyema and David Bray, fellow at GeoTech Center. Information sharing across sectors allows cybersecurity experts in both sectors to learn about new vulnerabilities in software and new attack vectors. It strengthens collective resiliency and can influence the processes used to anticipate and respond to threats, continued the report.

Ransomware on the rise

Ransomware attacks in which bad actors demand money to release encrypted data are increasing dramatically, reported the White House last year. Ransomware incidents often disrupt critical services, such as banks, hospitals and schools that require constant access to data. In 2021, there was approximately $20 billion in damages from ransomware attacks in the United States, with $11 billion in 2020 and $5 billion the year before, said Bray.

This follows on the heels of the 2021 Colonial Pipeline hack that targeted the billing system and led to the shutdown of the largest fuel pipeline in the United States. The Russian-speaking cybercrime group responsible, DarkSide, received $4.4 million in ransom from Colonial, part of which was later recovered by the United States law enforcement.

Research firm Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that there will be a ransomware attack every two seconds by the year 2031 with global costs exceeding $265 billion.

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