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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. .

Reporter Tyler Perkins studied rhetoric and English literature, and also economics and mathematics, at the University of Utah. Although he grew up in and never left the West (both Oregon and Utah) until recently, he intends to study law and build a career on the East Coast. In his free time, he enjoys reading excellent literature and playing poor golf.

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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