Gopal Ratnam

California sees push on data privacy
Companies and others want exceptions to strict new state law

Companies across the country are waging one last battle in Sacramento to carve out a few exemptions before California’s tough data privacy law is approved by the state’s lawmakers, who will adjourn for the year by the end of this week.

Retailers, online advertisers, small businesses and groups representing employers are all seeking either exemptions or amendments to the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which has set the stage for a national debate on how companies should safeguard users’ personal information online.

Energy, Health departments at risk for cyberattacks, OMB says
EPA, FCC, FTC also ranked as being ‘at risk,’ with email threats most prevalent

Several large federal agencies continue to be at risk for cyberattacks even as the number of cyber incidents reported during fiscal 2018 fell compared with the previous year, the Office of Management and Budget said in a report sent to Congress on Friday.

The number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies fell 12 percent to 31,107 during fiscal 2018 but “drawing conclusions based on this data point, particularly as agencies have adjusted to several new sets of reporting guidelines over the last few years, would be concerning,” the report said.

Democrats target state elections with focus on election security
Supporting secretaries of state offices in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi in effort to expand voting rights

Democrats on Thursday launched a campaign to win secretaries of state races in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi this November by pointing to their focus on boosting election security and expanding voting rights, compared with Republican officials.

“The office of the secretary of State is more important than ever,” Alex Padilla, the secretary of state for California and president of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told CQ Roll Call. “Every election cycle is an opportunity to elect Democratic secretaries of State, but also to ensure security and accessibility” for voters.

Disinformation moves from fringe sites to Facebook, YouTube
Report: Extremists promoting conspiracies are using same tactics as foreign actors

Lawmakers and regulators focusing their attention on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for the platforms’ role in propagating disinformation may be missing a big chunk of other online sites and portals that drive conspiracies and outright falsehoods, according to a nonprofit group that is studying how disinformation works.

Sites and discussion portals such as 4chan, 8chan, Reddit and Gab, as well as smaller social media sites such as Pinterest and even payment sites such as PayPal and GoFundMe, and online retailers such as Amazon and others are all part of a large online ecosystem that helps domestic and foreign agents shape disinformation and launch adversarial campaigns, the Global Disinformation Index said in a report released last week.

Capital One hack gets attention of Senate panel, New York AG
The breach affects at least 100 million Americans and 6 million Canadians, according to the company

Senate Banking Chairman Michael D. Crapo and New York state Attorney General Letitia James said they will probe the data breach suffered by credit card issuer Capital One, which the company reported late Monday.

“I have concerns about all aspects of this,” Crapo said about the Capital One breach during a Tuesday morning hearing on cryptocurrencies. “We want to understand how this happened, how other breaches happened ... and we want to know how vulnerabilities [appear] in systems and figure out what we must do to deal with them at a policy level. I don’t have answers yet, but yes, we need to figure that out and we do have concerns about those vulnerabilities.”

Russians will interfere again, maybe others too, Mueller warns
Mueller said it was unusual for a prosecutor to testify before Congress, said he would not comment on counterintelligence questions

Former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III told lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia, and possibly other countries, are looking to interfere in upcoming U.S. elections.

During his appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on the outcome of his investigation into Russia and links to the 2016 Donald Trump campaign, Mueller urged Congress to require U.S. intelligence agencies to work together to stop such efforts.

What counts as ‘foundational’ tech?
As Commerce gears up for export debate, definitions remain in dispute

In the coming weeks, the Commerce Department plans to announce a notice seeking comments on how it should draw up export control rules for so-called foundational technologies, similar to an effort the agency launched in November 2018 for a category called “emerging” technologies.

The rules were mandated after Congress passed the 2019 defense authorization act calling on the Commerce Department to establish export controls on “emerging and foundational technologies” that are critical to U.S. national security. But tech companies, universities, and research labs across the country continue to be alarmed that overly broad export restrictions could ultimately hurt American technological superiority.

House demands to see Trump’s cyberwarfare directive
But senators who oversee the Pentagon are not as concerned

A small but significant quarrel is emerging between a bipartisan team of lawmakers in the House and the Trump administration over how the Pentagon is going about using its newly minted authority to strike back against adversaries in cyberspace.

Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee and its emerging threats subcommittee — in a rare instance of bipartisan pushback against the White House — have repeatedly asked administration officials for a still-secret memo issued by President Donald Trump that lifted earlier restrictions on U.S. Cyber Command’s operations against adversaries.

Progress on federal data privacy bill slows in both chambers
Consensus is elusive, say congressional aides, industry sources and lobbyists

Lawmakers and industry groups want to pass a federal data privacy law this year, but progress on the measure has slowed. It’s now unclear whether legislation resembling California’s tough requirements on the tech industry can clear hurdles in Congress and be signed into law before the end of the year. 

Small bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both chambers are working on draft legislation that was supposed to have been unveiled in May but has been delayed and is now expected to be released sometime before the August congressional recess. 

Social media should be accountable for ‘deepfake content,’ intelligence experts say
Deepfake videos not only can be used by foreign and domestic perpetrators against political opponents, but could be used to hurt companies

Congress should amend portions of U.S. law that allow social media companies to enjoy immunity for content posted on their platforms in light of the significant dangers posed by artificial intelligence-enabled fake videos, a panel of experts told the House Intelligence Committee at a hearing Thursday.

Social media companies should be asked to exercise reasonable moderation of content, and U.S. government agencies should educate citizens on how to tell if a video is fake and invest in technologies that will aid in such determinations, the experts said.

Artificial intelligence is coming. Will Congress be ready?

It can help trace missing children, but misidentifies people of color. It can help detect cancer, but may recommend the wrong cure. It can help track criminals, but could aid foreign enemies in targeting voters. It can improve efficiency, but perpetuate long-standing biases.

The “it” is artificial intelligence, a technology that teaches machines to recognize complex patterns and make decisions based on them, much like humans do. While the promised benefits of the technology are profound, the downsides could be damaging, even dangerous.

Government and health care sectors had most breaches in 2018

Government computer systems — federal, state and local — suffered the most data breaches last year, driven most likely by foreign adversaries conducting espionage operations, according to Verizon’s latest annual report on cyberattacks.

In the private sector, health care, financial services and small-to-midsized accounting, tax and law firms suffered the largest number of breaches, according to the 12th edition of Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report, released last month.

Mueller departs with warning: Don’t forget Russia’s election meddling
Congress has been divided over how to address weaknesses in U.S. election system

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who stepped down from his position Wednesday, had a stark warning for Americans: pay attention to what Russia did to interfere in U.S. elections.

Most of the political wrangling and fallout over Mueller’s report has focused on whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice — the report, and Mueller on Wednesday, specifically said he did not exonerate the president on that score — and whether Congress should begin impeachment proceedings. Mueller himself pointed to an aspect of his office’s findings that hasn’t been challenged by either political party.

Iranians set up fake social media accounts to influence 2018 midterms, new report says
‘They promoted material in line with Iranian political interests,’ new report says

Iranians posing as Americans set up fake accounts on social media platforms between April 2018 and March 2019 and espoused policy views on both sides of the U.S. political spectrum, in a replay of the Russian playbook from 2016, according a report by the threat intelligence firm FireEye released Tuesday.

Some of those who were impersonated included Republican political candidates who contested House races, the firm said.

Altered Pelosi videos puts social media in congressional crosshairs
Facebook is once again under scrutiny as it continued hosting an altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Facebook last week said it had removed 2 billion fake accounts from its social media platform during the first quarter of this year, an effort it touted in its latest transparency report. But the company is once again in the crosshairs of scrutiny as it continued hosting a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that had been altered to make it look like she was slurring her speech.

The altered video posted by a group called Politics WatchDog, takes a Pelosi speech from Wednesday and appears to slow it down to make it sound as though she is intoxicated and slurring her words, and pausing longer than usual between thoughts. In thousands of comments left on Facebook, commenters assume Pelosi is drunk and chastise her for it. One commenter said, “How can you have a meaningful meeting with a drunken Speaker of the House?”

Americans may vote in 2020 using old, unsecured machines

The first primary in the 2020 presidential race is a little more than 250 days away, but lawmakers and experts worry that elections will be held on voting machines that are woefully outdated and that any tampering by adversaries could lead to disputed results.

Although states want to upgrade their voting systems, they don’t have the money to do so, election officials told lawmakers last week.

Election assistance agency pleads for more money ahead of 2020
“What we are working on is the infrastructure of our democracy”

Officials from the Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency responsible for overseeing voting machines used in thousands of jurisdictions across the country and helping states adopt good election administration practices, pleaded with lawmakers for more money to do their jobs ahead of the 2020 elections.

The federal agency is working with a staff and budget that are about half what they were 10 years ago, officials said Wednesday as lawmakers grappled with how to beef up the agency.

It’s not too late to keep Huawei’s 5G tech out of the U.K., Sen. Warner says
U.S. allies are struggling to balance the need for secure telecom equipment and affording the heavy investment of switching to 5G

The U.K. may still be persuaded to bar China’s Huawei Technologies from building the country’s 5G network, Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee told reporters Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s too late,” Warner said. But the U.K.'s decision may be complicated because the country’s existing telecom network already has an “enormous amount of Huawei equipment embedded” in it.

FDA grapples with AI medical devices
New approach to artificial intelligence extends the agency’s controversial fast-track process

Imagine a not-too-distant future when medical devices powered by artificial intelligence continuously adapt to new symptoms presented by patients and learn how to make accurate diagnoses much like a well-trained physician would.

The Food and Drug Administration is preparing for such a future and weighing how to assess and certify such medical devices, seeing them more like living things that can’t be regulated in the same manner as old-fashioned equipment.

Trump creates new cybersecurity competition with a $25,000 award
The competition is part of an executive order aimed at addressing a shortage of cybersecurity workers across the government

The Trump administration announced steps to address a shortage of cybersecurity workers across the federal government, including sponsorship of a national competition and allowing cyber experts to rotate from one agency to another.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Thursday that directed the Department of Homeland Security to work with the Office of Management and Budget to create a rotational program that will “serve as a mechanism for knowledge transfer” across agencies.