Tech Brief: Ajit Pai Confirmed as FCC Chairman


Government Brief

  • The Senate confirmed Ajit Pai for a second five-year term as the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman in a 52-41 vote. (TechCrunch)
  • The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Samsung Electronics Co.’s attempt to force customers who have filed proposed class-action lawsuits against the company to instead go through arbitration. The justices left in place a unanimous decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that said Samsung did not provide proper notice of its arbitration provision. (Reuters)
  • One of the Russian-bought advertisements that Facebook Inc. shared with congressional investigators on Monday featured an armed black woman “dry firing” a rifle, an advertisement that investigators say was designed to stoke racial tensions. (The Washington Post)

Business Brief

  • Google Inc. and Facebook were criticized for spreading misinformation about the gunman’s identity in the Las Vegas mass shooting. In Google’s case, search result algorithms made one of the top results a thread on the message board site 4chan in which users identified the wrong man as the shooter. (CNN)
  • In prepared testimony provided to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, former Equifax CEO Richard F. Smith blamed slow website patches and network scans for allowing hackers to exploit consumers’ personal data. He also said that internal orders directing administrators to patch a critical vulnerability in the Apache Struts Web application framework went unheeded. (Ars Technica)
  • Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is considering a new trading operation focused on bitcoin and other digital currencies. The potential move, which would make Goldman Sachs the first major Wall Street firm to deal in the cryptocurrency market, is still in its early stages, however, and may not go forward. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Tuesday
Washington Post cybersecurity summit 9 a.m.
House Consumer Protection subcommittee hearing on Equifax data breach 10 a.m.
House Crime subcommittee hearing on “Online Sex Trafficking and the Communications Decency Act” 10 a.m.
House IT Oversight subcommittee h… on cybersecurity and IoT 2 p.m.
Wednesday
INSA event on cyber threats to critical infrastructure 8 a.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s sixth annual cybersecurity summit 8 a.m.
Senate Committee on Aging hearing on robocalls 9 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing for David Redl to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information 10 a.m.
Burr, Warner press conference on 2016 Russian election interference 12:15 p.m.
Senate Judiciary Technology subcommittee hearing on Equifax 2:30 p.m.
Thursday
New America event on Big Tech 6 p.m.
Friday
No events scheduled
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General

Goldman Sachs Explores a New World: Trading Bitcoin
Paul Vigna, The Wall Street Journal

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is weighing a new trading operation dedicated to bitcoin and other digital currencies, the first blue-chip Wall Street firm preparing to deal directly in this burgeoning yet controversial market, according to people familiar with the matter.Goldman’s effort is in its early stages and may not proceed, the people said.

Supreme Court’s new term: Surveillance, hacking, sports betting—and cake, too
David Kravets, Ars Technica

The Supreme Court’s 2017-2018 term begins today, and there are plenty of high-interest cases for Ars readers that are already on the docket or currently pending with the justices. The issues at hand range from surveillance, freedom of religion, and the definition of hacking to what constitutes an online threat and whether a federal law that bans sports wagering in most states—online and off—infringes on states rights.

Inspectors general unveil new website for reports from across government
Carten Cordell, FedScoop

The investigative work of inspectors general from across the federal government can now be found in a single digital location.The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency unveiled Oversight.gov, a new website that collects and aggregates reports examining waste, fraud and abuse from across the government.

State Election Officials Still Angry but Ready to Work With DHS
Joseph Marks, Nextgov

When Connie Lawson became president of the association of top state election officials in July, she inherited a boiling conflict between states and the federal government stemming from Russia’s digital efforts to undermine the 2016 election. In the wake of that election, the Homeland Security Department extended critical infrastructure protections to state and local voting systems, a move the federal government said simply made it easier for states to request security assistance when they were under attack but that states saw as a federal power grab.

Dollar Edges Up, Stocks Pause After Recent Gains: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter, Bloomberg

Both European stocks and the dollar lost some momentum on Tuesday as investors digested recent strong gains spurred by the prospect of tax cuts in the world’s biggest economy and growing optimism for global growth. The euro drifted as tensions bubbled in Catalonia.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Ireland Faces Rebuke From EU for Failing to Collect Apple’s Tax Billions
Dara Doyle, Bloomberg

Ireland faces a rebuke from European Union authorities for failing to collect a year-old tax bill of as much as 15 billion euros ($17.6 billion) from Apple Inc. during a fight with regulators. The European Commission may issue a so-called non-compliance action as soon as this week, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named because the information is private.

Apple faces down Qualcomm, Ericsson over EU patent fees
Foo Yun Chee, Reuters

The European Union is drawing up guidelines on how much patent holders should charge for their technologies, a thorny issue that pits Apple and other users against Qualcomm and Ericsson. Trillions of dollars in sales are at stake as regulators ponder whether a fridge maker should pay a different rate for crucial patents than a carmaker, or whether a flat, fixed rate would be fairer.

SEC goes after two cryptocurrency scams
Ali Breland, The Hill

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is charging two companies for defrauding investors through initial coin offerings (ICOs) — a new method for raising capital with cryptocurrencies. The SEC says that Maksim Zaslavskiy and his companies have been selling unregistered securities to investors and allege that the digital tokens he offered don’t exist.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Senate confirms Ajit Pai as FCC Chairman
Devin Coldewey, TechCrunch

Ajit Pai has been confirmed by the Senate as the Chairman of the FCC in a 52-41 vote. He has technically only been acting Chairman this whole time, as the process of confirmation generally lags well behind the succession process at the agency; the former Chairman, Tom Wheeler, stepped down shortly before the new Presidential term began, marking Pai’s de facto promotion.

Supreme Court rejects Samsung appeal in warranty dispute
Andrew Chung, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider a bid by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to force customers who have filed proposed class-action lawsuits against the company to arbitrate their claims instead of bringing them to court.The justices left intact a lower court’s ruling that purchasers of certain Galaxy smartphones made by the South Korean electronics company were not bound by a warranty provision that compelled arbitration of customer complaints.

Newsmax’s Ruddy Meets With Pai Over Sinclair Merger
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy met with FCC chair Ajit Pai last week to urge the FCC not to rush a decision on the $3.9 billion merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media, saying to do so gave the impression of impropriety. Ruddy has expressed numerous concerns about that deal and his conservate news network is on the record in opposition to the deal. Ruddy suggested the FCC was rushing a decision before the ownership cap was thoroughly vetted, according to an ex parte filing on the meeting obtained by B&C.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Russian Facebook ads showed a black woman firing a rifle, amid efforts to stoke racial strife
The Washington Post

One of the Russian-bought advertisements that Facebook shared with congressional investigators on Monday featured photographs of an armed black woman “dry firing” a rifle — pulling the trigger of the weapon without a bullet in the chamber, according to people familiar with the investigation. Investigators believe the advertisement may have been designed to encourage African American militancy and, at the same time, to stoke fears within white communities, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the probe.

Google and Facebook help spread bad information after Las Vegas attack
Oliver Darcy, CNN

In the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, people turned to Facebook and Google, looking for news about what happened and, in some cases, updates about their friends and loved ones in the area. What they were presented with, in some cases, was misinformation.

Tesla Misses Model 3 Production Goals
Tim Higgins, The Wall Street Journal

Tesla Inc. TSLA badly missed its goal of building 1,500 Model 3 car in the third quarter, the first sign that the production ramp-up for the new sedan isn’t going as smoothly as planned.The Silicon Valley electric-car maker built 260 of the Model 3s between July and September, the company said Monday in a statement.

Here’s the due diligence report Alphabet wants to use in its lawsuit against Uber
Johana Bhuiyan, Recode

A report that Alphabet wants to use in its lawsuit against Uber was made public today. The document in question details the assets and liabilities of a startup Uber acquired in August 2016 that has become a central part of Alphabet’s claims that Uber stole proprietary information.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

A series of delays and major errors led to massive Equifax breach
Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

A series of costly delays and crucial errors caused Equifax to remain unprotected for months against one of the most severe Web application vulnerabilities in years, the former CEO for the credit reporting service said in written testimony investigating the massive breach that exposed sensitive data for as many as 143 million US Consumers. Chief among the failures: an Equifax e-mail directing administrators to patch a critical vulnerability in the open source Apache Struts Web application framework went unheeded, despite a two-day deadline to comply.

Special Report: HP Enterprise let Russia scrutinize cyberdefense system used by Pentagon
Joel Schectman, Reuters

Hewlett Packard Enterprise allowed a Russian defense agency to review the inner workings of cyber defense software used by the Pentagon to guard its computer networks, according to Russian regulatory records and interviews with people with direct knowledge of the issue. The HPE system, called ArcSight, serves as a cybersecurity nerve center for much of the U.S. military, alerting analysts when it detects that computer systems may have come under attack.

Recent NSA leaks show challenge of a software ‘solution’ for insider threats
Chris Bing, CyberScoop

Two recent thefts of NSA documents were made possible simply because workers who handled sensitive material decided to walk out the door with some of it, serving to highlight challenges facing the U.S. intelligence community as it seeks to implement, and in some cases create, next generation insider threat programs. Former U.S. intelligence officials tell CyberScoop the rudimentary nature of these incidents makes it extremely difficult to create programs that keep material secure without negatively impacting workforce morale.

DJI launches a privacy mode for its drones after US Army ban
Thuy Ong, The Verge

DJI has launched a Local Data Mode that stops internet traffic to and from its app when its drones are in flight. The new mode, announced back in August after the US Army banned DJI drones for possible cyber vulnerabilities, is essentially a privacy feature.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

How Today’s Cybersecurity Practices Are Like the Railroads of the Civil War
Tommy Ross, Morning Consult

Imagine you live in the Civil War-era United States and the railroad is your primary means of long-distance transportation. In those days, the railway gauge — the distance between the rails on the track — varied widely.

Small businesses are cyber targets whether they know it or not
Troy Leach, The Hill

This week in Washington, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host its sixth annual Cybersecurity Summit. This important event will bring together some of the nation’s top cybersecurity experts to talk about ways to help the business community, large and small, better protect themselves against cyberattacks.

Making sense of the IT modernization challenge
Mike Conger and Michael Preis, FCW

Recent advances in IT modernization methods and tools will help the federal government increase efficiency, reduce costs and enhance digital services. These enhancements include cloud computing, cognitive solutions, cyber security and agile solution development.

Research Reports

Federal Information Security: Weaknesses Continue to Indicate Need for Effective Implementation of Policies and Practices
Government Accountability Office

During fiscal year 2016, federal agencies continued to experience weaknesses in protecting their information and information systems due to ineffective implementation of information security policies and practices. Most of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act (CFO) agencies had weaknesses in five control areas—access controls, configuration management controls, segregation of duties, contingency planning, and agencywide security management.

Key Patent Reforms Needed to Spur U.S. Innovation
Alden Abbott, Heritage Foundation

Patent rights have long been a bulwark of American economic growth and innovation. Unfortunately, over the past decade, the U.S. patent system has slipped from number one to number 10 in the world.

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