Gopal Ratnam

Cybersecurity budget up 5 percent in 2020, White House says
The total request of $17.4 billion for fiscal 2020 compares with $16.6 billion the administration sought in 2019

The White House is seeking a 4.7 percent boost in cybersecurity spending across all federal agencies for fiscal year 2020 with the Pentagon and the State Department getting the largest increases, according to details of the request released this week.

The total request of $17.4 billion for fiscal 2020 compares with $16.6 billion the administration sought in 2019. The Pentagon is seeking $9.6 billion or a 10.4 percent increase, and State is seeking $400 million or a 10.2 percent increase. The Justice Department is asking for a 7 percent increase in fiscal year 2020 for a total of $881 million.

Hackers eye the factory floor
Manufacturers are turning to internet-connected devices. That’s bringing new risks

Factories across the world are increasingly switching to internet-connected sensors, monitors and other devices to operate and supervise their manufacturing operations more intensely. But the proliferation of such equipment is posing new cybersecurity risks.

Shop floor devices such as programmable logic controllers, remote terminal units and human-machine interface equipment have been in use for nearly half a century, said Sean Peasley, a partner at Deloitte who specializes in internet of things and cybersecurity.

Data privacy bill faces long odds as states, EU move ahead
Most tech companies agree laws on how to collect and use consumer data are essential, but the specifics are still being debated

Lawmakers want to pass a federal data privacy bill before 2020 to put Washington on par with Europe and ahead of several U.S. states. But those efforts could be delayed because of differences between technology companies and Congress over how powerful the law should be and how it should be structured.

A delay in enacting a uniform federal law could leave technology giants and startup app makers trying to meet a latticework of standards set by multiple regulations passed by many states as well as a growing international set of rules being modeled after the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Companies also could be liable for fines and face consumer lawsuits allowed by state laws.

Pipelines vulnerable under TSA’s watch
The same agency responsible for airport pat-downs is supposed to be guarding pathways for oil and natural gas

Nearly 3 million miles of pipelines that crisscross the United States carrying oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids may be vulnerable to cyberattacks as the federal agency responsible for overseeing their security is overburdened with other responsibilities, lawmakers, government auditors and regulators say.

The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, better known for pat-downs of passengers heading to their flights, is also in charge of securing about 2.7 million miles of pipelines. Most are buried underground in remote and open terrain, but others run through densely populated areas, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

Senate Commerce chairman eyes data privacy bill this year
Sen. Roger Wicker hopes to act decisively on a federal privacy bill to avoid a patchwork of state legislation

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Roger Wicker is aiming to have a federal data privacy bill written and passed by Congress this year as technology companies, privacy advocates and civil rights groups press lawmakers to act decisively to avoid a patchwork of state legislation.

“It would be nice to have it on the president’s desk this year,” the Mississippi Republican told reporters Wednesday after leading a hearing on how Congress should approach a federal data privacy bill. Wicker said the bill that emerges from the discussions is likely to be a “good strong bill” that will garner bipartisan support and also avoid a 50-state grab bag of laws.

Quantum computing, deepfakes and machine learning, Oh my!
 

Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research Subcommittee, sits down with CQ’s Gopal Ratnam to discuss some of the challenges that U.S. intelligence agencies face from new technologies....
5G technologies could challenge US spy agencies
“They’ll be swimming in an ocean of data that they can’t begin to parse,” Himes says

An avalanche of new technologies enabled by 5G wireless networks and artificial intelligence will pose new challenges for U.S. spy agencies as they strive to stay ahead of adversaries. These new technologies are set to fundamentally alter how data is collected, stored, and transmitted.

“We would find ourselves at a disadvantage relative to our opponents around the globe if we didn’t adopt and adapt” to these technological advances, said Rep. Jim Himes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s newly created Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research Subcommittee. The panel will focus on how U.S. intelligence agencies use emerging technologies. “Are we adopting and adapting technology within the intelligence community as rapidly as we need to?” is among the questions it intends to probe.

Forget federal races. Democrats are targeting a key state office
Secretaries of state are in the spotlight with voting rights under siege

The presidential, congressional and gubernatorial races typically get all the media attention as Republicans and Democrats duel for dominance, but another statewide office is quietly becoming a battleground between the two parties: the secretary of state, who in most states is responsible for administering elections.

Democrats, who control fewer secretary of state offices nationwide than Republicans, see gaining control of the office as key to ensuring free and fair elections. The results of the November elections left Democrats controlling 20 secretary of state offices and Republicans 25. Two state offices are nonpartisan and the position does not exist in three states — Alaska, Hawaii and Utah.

Spy chiefs say Chinese, Russian cyber strengths are top threats to U.S.

China and Russia possess cyber technologies they will increasingly unleash on U.S. companies, the military, election systems and critical infrastructure, and that poses a significant threat to national security, Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence panel in an annual hearing called the Worldwide Threat Assessment.

“At present, China and Russia pose the greatest espionage and cyberattack threats,” but other countries are catching up, the director of National Intelligence told the committee Tuesday. 

Cybersecurity may suffer as shutdown persists
Congress remains in the dark about how the spending stalemate has affected DHS’ anti-hacking mission

The partial government shutdown may be making some key federal departments and agencies running with skeletal staffs more vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches, experts said.

Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security, said it remains in the dark about how the shutdown has affected the department’s mission to safeguard critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Google Would ‘Make the NSA Blush,’ Says Republican at Hill Grilling
Tuesday marked the first time a top Google executive appeared at the Capitol since the 2016 election

Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared for the first time before a congressional panel and batted away questions from lawmakers, who bombarded him about alleged bias against conservatives in search results and the company’s data collection practices.

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte said Google was collecting so much information on its users that it would “make the NSA blush,” referring to the National Security Agency. The Virginia Republican also said the committee was interested in learning more about how Google determines what is objectionable, and allegations that biased ranking of Google’s search results could result in shifting voters’ views.

Democrats Want More Security Clearances for House Intel Aides
There are too many top-secret documents and not enough staffers, they say

A long-stalled effort to hire more staffers with security clearances to help the House Intelligence Committee will get fresh momentum in the 116th Congress, as Democrats take leadership roles.

California Rep. Adam B. Schiff, who will likely be the next chairman, said he’s looking for ways to provide panel members’ personal staffs with top secret clearances so they can review classified information. Schiff said he will work with U.S. intelligence agencies to determine the best way to meet lawmakers’ needs.

Pentagon, Homeland Security Helping Private Companies Defend Against Cyber Threats
Agreement signed in the weeks before the midterms

The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement in the weeks before the midterm elections to jointly defend the United States against strategic cyber threats, including offering assistance to private companies, top officials from both agencies told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“This agreement clarifies roles and responsibilities between” the Department of Defense and the DHS “to enhance U.S. government readiness to respond to cyber threats and establish coordinated lines of efforts to secure, protect, and defend the homeland,” DHS Assistant Secretary Jeanette Manfra told a joint hearing of the House Armed Services and House Homeland Security committees.

Under Democratic Control, Russia, Spy Agencies, Tech to Get Greater Scrutiny, Schiff Says
If House flips majority, top Democrat on Intelligence Committee says expect more oversight

If Democrats take the House in next week’s election, the House Intelligence Committee plans to exercise greater oversight over U.S. intelligence agencies, finish the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and probe threats posed by new technologies, according to Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, who would become chairman of the panel.

If Democrats win, “we must refocus the committee on conducting serious oversight of the intelligence community and the Trump Administration’s direction to the intelligence agencies we oversee,” Schiff told CQ Roll Call in an email.

Paper Is Big Again, at Least for Elections. These States Don’t Have It
Headed into the midterms, 14 states have a paper trail problem

Just days before a pivotal midterm congressional election, dozens of jurisdictions around the country go to polls without a paper backup for electronic voting systems. The shortfall comes despite nearly two years of warnings from cybersecurity experts that in the absence of a paper backup system, voters’ intentions cannot be verified in case of a cyberattack that alters election databases.

Fourteen states will conduct the midterm elections where voters will register their choices in an electronic form but will not leave behind any paper trail that could be used to audit and verify the outcome.

Many Swing-State County Websites Lack Security, McAfee Finds
Minnesota and Texas had the largest percentage of non-.gov domain names

Counties in more than a dozen swing states across the country operate election-related websites that lack basic security measures and are not even identified as government related, computer security research firm McAfee found in a study published Wednesday.

“We found that large majorities of county websites use top level domain names such as .com, .net and .us rather than the government validated .gov in their web addresses,” the study found after examining 20 swing states. “Our findings essentially revealed that there is no official U.S. governing body validating whether the majority of county websites are legitimately owned by actual legitimate county entities.”

Russia, China, Iran Aim to Sway Elections, Officials Warn
First came the dire election warning. Minutes later, more Russian meddling charges

The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman with election interference just as top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies warned that Russia, China, and Iran are running influence campaigns seeking to sway American voters in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential campaigns.

“We are concerned about ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies,” said the statement issued jointly by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. “These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision making in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections.”

China Will Close Artificial Intelligence Gap by End of 2018, Lawmakers Warn
More spending on self-driving car research, predictive technology, will help U.S. compete, new report says

Artificial intelligence technologies are capable of disrupting every aspect of society and the United States must do more to maintain leadership in the area, the leaders of a House panel said in a report released Tuesday.

Artificial intelligence “has the potential to disrupt every sector of society in both anticipated and unanticipated ways,” according to a report authored by Reps. Will Hurd of Texas and Robin Kelly of Illinois, the chairman and top Democrat of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on information technology. “In light of that potential for disruption, it’s critical that the federal government address the different challenges posed by AI, including its current and future applications.”

Lawmakers Eye Cyber Bounties to Fix Bugs in Federal Networks
House panel approves Senate bill to set up pilot program at DHS

Lawmakers last week moved closer to mandating that the Department of Homeland Security start a bug bounty program that will pay computer security researchers to spot weaknesses in DHS’s computer networks. That requirement would bring the department in line with other U.S. agencies with similar cybersecurity programs.

The House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday by unanimous consent approved a Senate bill that would set up a pilot program at the department. The Senate passed the bill on April 17. The Pentagon, the IRS and the General Services Administration already operate such programs, and lawmakers have proposed legislation that would launch similar efforts at the departments of State and Treasury.

They’re Crying in the Cyber Wilderness
Attacking American institutions has become a lot simpler since 9/11

Seventeen summers ago, 19 men had to make their way physically into the country, train to fly planes while avoiding scrutiny, and then crash them into buildings in order to pull off a devastating attack on a superpower.

In the years since then, attacking the United States and its institutions has become a lot simpler: a few strokes on a keyboard can now disrupt elections or shut off a power grid.