Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Russian hacking and propaganda

  • A report released by the U.S. intelligence community on Friday concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the hacking of Democratic Party networks and other actions as part of a campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.
  • Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Russian government engaged in a “multifaceted campaign” against Democratic Party targets that included hacking as well as the deliberate spread of fake news and propaganda on social media.
  • Republican and Democratic senators expressed discontent that there is no comprehensive strategy for responding to cyberattacks or a concrete definition of an act of cyberwar. Answering those questions will be the goal of a new Senate Armed Services subcommittee on cybersecurity.
  • Clapper wants to create an “information agency on steroids” to fight foreign propaganda campaigns. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who will chair the cybersecurity subcommittee, wants to create a new “counter-Russia account” as part of the foreign operations appropriations measure to counter Russia’s propaganda and fake news.

Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies

  • President-elect Donald Trump tweeted statements by WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange signaling skepticism of U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian hacking, leading to criticism from some GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Clapper he believes Assange put intelligence officials’ “lives in danger.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump is planning to shrink and restructure the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there is “no truth” to the report.

Telecom

  • Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said he plans to make changes to key portions of the Communications Act this year. He said his committee will likely go through a step-by-step approach instead of a full-scale rewrite.
  • Trump is still against AT&T Inc.’s proposed $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner Inc. because he believes it would concentrate too much power in the media industry, according to unnamed sources close to the president-elect. The merger looks like it will avoid Federal Communications Commission review, according to an AT&T filing.
  • T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere said a merger with SoftBank Group/Sprint Corp. is a “potential future outcome” of the incoming Trump administration and a friendlier regulatory environment.
  • Verizon Communications Inc. is unsure about its planned acquisition of Yahoo Inc.’s internet business after Yahoo disclosed the largest known data breach in history last month.

Rosenworcel renominated

  • President Barack Obama renominated former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for a second term, but Thune said Trump should “be able to nominate the commissioners he wants to serve.” Rosenworcel would have to receive a confirmation vote from Thune’s committee before receiving a confirmation vote from the full Senate.

What’s Ahead

  • Discussion of Russian intelligence hacking continues on Capitol Hill. Clapper, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, CIA Director John Brennan and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey are scheduled to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday.
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a nomination hearing on Wednesday for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Trump’s pick to lead the CIA.
  • The Senate has a spate of confirmation hearings scheduled that will affect tech policy. The Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday for Elaine Chao, Trump’s intended nominee for secretary of transportation, a position that will hold sway over the regulation of self-driving cars. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick to lead the Commerce Department, will testify before the same panel on Thursday.
  • Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters Thursday that the formation of a new cybersecurity subcommittee within his panel will be complete in the coming week. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will chair the subcommittee.

Correction: A previous version provided the wrong date for the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian hacking. It’s scheduled for Tuesday.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Monday
No events scheduled
Tuesday
FCC hosts Informal Working Group Four on regulatory issues 10 a.m.
Clapper, Rogers, Brennan, Comey testify at Senate Intelligence Committee hearing 1 p.m.
Wednesday
Open Technology Institute event on internet freedom 9:30 a.m.
Rep. Pompeo testifies at Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for CIA post 10 a.m.
Reps. Hultgren, Luján speak at event on tech R&D 10 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing for Elaine Chao to lead Transportation Dept. 10:15 a.m.
Atlantic Council event on a nonstate strategy for cybersecurity 3:30 p.m.
Thursday
FTC hosts PrivacyCon 9 a.m.
Commerce Committee nomination hearing for Wilbur Ross to lead Commerce Dept. 10 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

 

Morning Consult Tech Top Reads

1) ‘A Grave Mistake’ — Rep. McCaul pushes back on Trump cyber-defense plan
Chris Bing, FedScoop

2) Trump Promises a Revelation on Hacking
Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

3) Constitutional Concerns Raised by House Rule Penalizing Live-Streaming
Brendan Bordelon, Morning Consult

4) Mark Zuckerberg shares Facebook’s secrets with all his employees, and almost none of it leaks
Kurt Wagner, Recode

5) T-Mobile CEO says Sprint merger is ‘potential outcome’ under Trump
Chris Welch, The Verge

6) Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility, say people close to investigation
Ellen Nakashima and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

7) Freshmen legislators to watch
Samantha Ehlinger, FedScoop

8) Five regulatory fights facing tech in 2017
Ali Breland, The Hill

9) Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top U.S. Spy Agency
Damian Paletta and Julian E. Barnes, The Wall Street Journal

10) The FBI Never Asked For Access To Hacked Computer Servers
Ali Watkins, BuzzFeed News

Briefings

Tech Brief: FCC Faces Scrutiny for Reporter ‘Manhandling’ Incident

After the National Press Club issued a release reporting that a journalist had been “manhandled” by security guards at a Federal Communications Commission press conference, Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) wrote a letter asking FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for details surrounding the incident and assurances it won’t happen again. They requested a response by May 26.

Tech Brief: GSA Launches Civilian Bug Bounty Program

A public-private U.S. effort to stem cyberattacks is underway as the General Services Administration partners with HackerOne to incentivize the discovery of web vulnerabilities in a “bug bounty” program. Researchers would give the government time to fix problems before the vulnerabilities become public.

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