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Federal Communications Commissioner Starks Seeks to Encourage Democratic Principles Online

The commissioner noted the peril democracy and citizen privacy finds themselves in around the world.

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Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2021 – Speaking at an event hosted by Bridge for Innovation on Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks says the private sector must lead in the fight to promote democracy and digital privacy rights online.

With increasing challenges to democracy around the world and citizen surveillance efforts by several international governments, as well as domestic concerns over privacy on social media platforms, Starks says private sector entities should work to set standards which promote democratic principles and privacy for citizens.

Just this month, Facebook faced a lawsuit – which it won – over access of third-party companies such as Cambridge Analytica, the British political consulting firm made famous when it was investigated in connection with alleged Russian interference and collusion in the 2016 United States presidential election, to users’ personal data.

Starks also emphasized that international diplomatic and regulatory bodies play a key role in upholding these norms.

He stated that China is looking to step up its role in these international bodies in attempts to influence policy to gain greater control over its citizens’ political activities and limit their privacy rights online.

At the beginning of November, President Joe Biden’s administration announced an initiative with several international allies to share information on surveillance programs of authoritarian regimes, with key focus landing on actions of the Chinese government.

Additionally, Biden said he would take action to limit U.S. exports to China of technology that  China uses for surveillance efforts.

U.S. technologies are on record being used in China for citizen surveillance, military modernization and persecution of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Looking to domestic broadband expansion efforts following the enactment of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Starks said the FCC will soon be collecting and posting pricing information from internet service providers which participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Reporter T.J. York received his degree in political science from the University of Southern California. He has experience working for elected officials and in campaign research. He is interested in the effects of politics in the tech sector.

Cybersecurity

Biden On Lookout for Cyberattacks with Russia Massing on Border of Ukraine

The president says that, in the past, Russia has taken covert military actions.

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Photo of President Joe Biden on Thursday

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – President Joe Biden said Thursday that the administration will be on the lookout for Russian cyberattacks in Ukraine as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may be edging closer to invading Ukrainian territory.

Biden warned that, in the past, Russia has launched aggressive computer attacks that, while perhaps falling short of overt military action, have been daunting cyber-offensives of “military” officials not wearing Russian uniforms.

The comments came at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting of Biden’s Infrastructure Implementation Task Force. Biden briefly addressed rising tensions surrounding Ukraine.

Many critics of Russia, including Biden, have said that they Putin will pounce.

During his remarks, Biden said Moscow would “pay a heavy price” should it move any Russian troops across the Ukrainian border.

Following his foreign policy comments, Biden turned his attention to the planned task force talks on implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed on November 15, 2022.

He turned to former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the administration’s unofficial “infrastructure czar,” to offer comments on the administration’s progress to press.

Biden specifically addressed the law’s implications for ongoing supply chain issues.

Since the back half of 2021, the world has faced historic shipping delays on a variety of commercial goods as global manufacturing systems continue struggling to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and workforce shortages exacerbated by it.

Specifically, the tech industry has faced chronic shortages of semiconductor chips, perhaps worse than most other commodities. The shortages have crippled many digital industry supply chains. products.

Biden said that with the infrastructure law investment in physical infrastructure, including additional highways to alleviate traffic on the nation’s roads, will allow goods to be transported faster through existing supply chains.

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Cybersecurity

Telework Here to Stay, But Devices Need Beefed Up Security

The future of teleworking will need upgraded security.

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Allen McNaughton, sales director at Infoblox

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2022 – Remote work is here to stay, but that means getting up to speed on securing websites is critical, said a director at an information technology security company Wednesday.

At a Business of Federal Technology event, which posed the question “is hybrid forever?,” Kiran Ahuja, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, said “hybrid remote work and telework policies are clearly helping not only federal agencies, but literally every single office, company, and organization in this country.”

But while Allen McNaughton, sales director at security company Infoblox, agreed that telehealth is “here to stay, no doubt about it,” he also made clear that the reality of hybrid work is not effective without protected technology.

“When you have telework, when you have people that can work anywhere in the world, the world is now your attack surface,” says McNaughton. McNaughton noted that there is now a greater opportunity for hackers to install malware on unsecure devices.

The country has already been gripped by high-profile cyberattacks, including on software company SolarWinds, oil transport company Colonial Pipeline, and meat producer JBS USA.

Some of the attackers simply gained access because devices had simple default passwords, raising concern among security experts about how prepared people are for full-time remote work and school.

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Cybersecurity

Congress Must Avoid ‘Overly Prescriptive’ Incident Reporting To Avoid Missing Larger Cyberattacks

Too many reports could burden federal officials, said the executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation.

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Rep. Debbie Shultz
Rep. Debbie Schultz, D-Florida

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2022 — The executive director of an organization that pushes information technology reform in government testified Tuesday in front of the House Oversight committee that any incident reporting requirements that Congress is considering should not burden officials so much that they end up missing more serious breaches of cybersecurity.

Ross Nodurft of the Alliance for Digital Innovation told lawmakers studying the reform of the Federal Information Security Management Act, a 2002 law which implements an information security and protection program, that the amended legislation should consider keeping Congress abreast of incidents, but should be mindful of how it defines a security problem.

“As Congress considers defining major incidents or codifying vulnerability response policies, any legislation should be mindful of the dynamic nature of responding to cybersecurity challenges facing government networks,” Nodurft said. “If Congress is overly prescriptive in its definition of an incident, it runs the risk of receiving so many notifications that the incidents which are truly severe are missed or effectively drowned out due to thee frequency of reporting,” he said in prepared remarks.

The comments come on the heels of a year that included major cybersecurity attacks, including the attacks on software company SolarWinds, oil transport company Colonial Pipeline, which prompted a Senate hearing on the matter. The House Oversight committee released details of its investigation into some of the breaches in November.

The comments also come after lawmakers proposed new reporting requirements on companies. Those proposed laws would make it mandatory that small and large companies report incidents to the government so they can best prepare a response to protect Americans.

In July, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced the Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021, which requires federal and private sector cybersecurity intrusions to be reported to the government within 24 hours.

Cyber incident reporting was recently left out of a Senate bipartisan version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Lead cybersecurity officials in government have been calling for mandatory breach reporting to government. Brandon Wales, executive director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told the same Oversight committee in November that Congress should force companies to share that kind of information. Last summer, a Department of Justice official said he supports mandatory breach reporting.

In October, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the department intends to create a new cyber bureau to help tackle the growing challenge of cyber warfare.

Agency roles should be clarified

Rep. Debbie Schultz, D-Florida, talked about the varied organizations and institutions in her state that have been affected by cyberattacks and threats, including the Miami-based software company Kaseya, which experienced a major ransomware attack.

Schultz stated that there are two entities that are critical to federal cybersecurity: the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Office of the National Cyber Director.

Grant Schneider, senior director of cybersecurity services, Venable, said that the Office of the National Cyber Director acts as a conductor in the framework of FISMA. These organizations work with other organizations, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, and the Office of Management and Budget.

With so many organizations, Nodurft explained how important it is for the roles within these organizations to be defined. He talked about how important it is for agencies to know where to turn to report cyberattacks. In part with this, he continued, agencies who “are proactively trying to mitigate their cyber risks” need clear reporting channels and clear areas of jurisdiction to go to for various issues.

According to Nodurft, these defined roles would “make it much easier for [agencies] to work together, to build a broader defensive structure.”

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