Gopal Ratnam

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.

The Pentagon Saw a Prized Jet. John McCain Saw a ‘Hangar Queen’
Armed Services chairman was no dove, but he couldn’t stand Defense waste

Few lawmakers have ridiculed wasteful Pentagon spending or scolded military officials from the Senate floor, hearing rooms, campaign events and in reports as often as Sen. John McCain.

The Arizona Republican died Saturday after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.

Senate Panel Abruptly Cancels Markup of Election Security Bill
Anti-hacking measure would require paper ballots, post-election audits

A Senate committee on Wednesday abruptly postponed the planned markup of a key election security bill that had bipartisan support and would have imposed new audit requirements on states.

The markup of the Secure Elections Act, authored by Oklahoma Republican James Lankford and Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, is “postponed until further notice,” the Senate Rules and Administration Committee said on its website. 

Cost Isn’t Everything. Pentagon Should Judge Contractors on Cybersecurity, Report Says
Security would be ‘fourth pillar’ in weapons purchase decisions

The Pentagon should take into account the cybersecurity capabilities of defense contractors in addition to cost and performance measures when awarding contracts, a U.S. government-funded think tank recommended in a report published Monday.

Through its buying process, the Pentagon “can influence and shape the conduct of its suppliers,” the Mitre Corp. said in a report titled “Deliver Uncompromised: A Strategy for Supply Chain Security and Resilience in Response to the Changing Character of War.”

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Say They Don't Censor Conservatives

Executives from the world’s top social media companies tried to reassure Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that their platforms do not censor or control conservative content and commentary, contrary to assertions by some lawmakers about the companies’ practices.

While social media companies such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have been removing false accounts, fake ads, and banning foreign government-owned propaganda outlets, lawmakers said some of them also have been restricting conservative content.

DHS: Russia Not Targeting Election Systems Like 2016
No evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with midterms

U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security are not seeing evidence so far of a concerted effort by Russia to hack or penetrate American election systems during the 2018 midterms, top Homeland Security officials told lawmakers Wednesday.

Although the 2018 “midterms remain a potential target for Russian actors,” the intelligence community has yet to see evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with our election infrastructure along the lines of 2016 or influencing the makeup of the House or Senate races, Christopher Krebs, the top DHS official overseeing cybersecurity and elections security, told the House Homeland Security Committee.

War Over FBI and Justice Reaches Crescendo on Hill
Divided House passes resolution demanding surveillance documents by July 6

Partisan clashes over the Justice Department and the FBI intensified Thursday as the House passed a resolution 226-183 demanding that Justice leaders turn over thousands of pages of investigative documents pertaining to the investigation of Carter Page and other former aides to President Donald Trump’s campaign. 

The House resolution insists that the Justice Department by July 6 comply with document requests and subpoenas issued by the Intelligence and Judiciary committees regarding potential violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by department personnel during the FBI’s investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign.

CIA Nominees Often Feel Like a ‘Dancing Bear’ in Capitol Circus

One of President Bill Clinton’s nominees for CIA director, after months of repeated hearings and delays by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, dropped out, saying that he felt like a “dancing bear in a political circus.”

Another one of Clinton’s CIA nominees, a retired Air Force general, Michael P. C. Carnes, withdrew because of a scandal involving a Filipino servant he had brought to the United States.

Fearing New Government Rules, Tech Titans Promise Security Vigilance
Lawmakers also may be likely to push for new legislation

SAN FRANCISCO — New European privacy rules, the spotlight on Facebook’s role in the 2016 elections, and the potential that cyberattacks targeting devices could harm consumers in their homes are propelling the tech industry to question its security practices and prompting top executives to promise to make amends.

During five days at the annual RSA Conference last week in San Francisco, top executives from the world’s largest technology companies, including Google, Microsoft, IBM, CISCO, McAfee and Symantec, said they took the scrutiny seriously and would not only step up to make their own devices and software safer but also work with thousands of vendors worldwide urging them to do the same.

Three Cybersecurity Bills to Hit Trump’s Desk This Year, Staffers Say
Movement on ‘Internet of things,’ intelligence and homeland security measures

SAN FRANCISCO — Dozens of bills are filed in Congress relating to cybersecurity and data breaches but many if not most may never see a committee markup let alone a floor vote. But key congressional staffers speaking at the RSA Conference here predicted at least three bills are likely to get to the president’s desk this year. 

A House-passed measure that would reorganize the Department of Homeland Security and create a new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has also cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and is awaiting Senate floor passage. 

Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Silos
Administration looks for ways to strengthen cyberattack defenses

SAN FRANCISCO — The Homeland Security Department is working on a cybersecurity strategy that aims to strengthen the overall digital economy’s defenses against cyberattacks, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at a cybersecurity conference here on Tuesday.

The strategy “will bolster our digital defenses by prioritizing enhancements in risk identification, vulnerability reduction, threat reduction, and consequence mitigation,” Nielsen said without identifying when the strategy is likely to be made public. “We must be more aware of vulnerabilities built into the fabric of the internet, and other widespread weaknesses.”

A Deeper Look at 2016 Facebook Ads Targeting Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
Large volume of ads came from suspicious groups, many of them Russian in origin

A forthcoming peer-reviewed study of paid political ads that appeared on Facebook in the weeks just prior to the 2016 presidential election shows that of 228 groups purchasing ads on hot-button issues, 122 — more than half — were submitted by “suspicious” groups whose identities may never be known.

The University of Wisconsin researchers, led by Professor Young Mie Kim, defined “suspicious” as meaning there was no publicly available information on who was behind the groups.

Zuckerberg Vows to Step Up Security at Expense of Facebook’s Profits
Social media CEO plans to say ‘I’m sorry’ during House testimony

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will tell lawmakers this week that the social media company plans to significantly increase spending on security even at the cost of its bottom line to prevent the kinds of data leaks and manipulation by fake accounts that have dogged the company in the past two years.

“I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security — on top of the other investments we’re making — that it will significantly impact our profitability,” Zuckerberg plans to tell Congress, according to his prepared remarks made public by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday. “But I want to be clear about what our priority is: protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”

Facebook Case Highlights Possibility of New Privacy Laws
Data experts say U.S. privacy regulations could move toward European model

Facing mounting criticism after news broke that his company shared users’ data with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said in recent days he would accept some federal regulation.

The question is what sort of rules or legislation would even begin to address the authorized data sharing that appears to be at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica case.

DARPA Chief Touts Artificial Intelligence Efforts
Assertions push back on private sector worries about lagging behind

The United States is no laggard on investment and advances in artificial intelligence technologies, Steven Walker, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told reporters on Thursday, disputing assertions by top U.S. technology executives that China was racing ahead.

“I think I’d put our AI, our country’s efforts, up against anybody,” Walker said at an event hosted by the Defense Writers Group. DARPA “helped create the field in the early 1960s” and since then has consistently invested in the three waves of artificial intelligence technologies, Walker said.

No White House Order to Combat Russia, Cybercom Chief Says
Third administration official says Trump has given no guidance on countering interference

Russia hasn’t been sufficiently penalized for its meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, and that has emboldened Moscow to continue interfering in American elections, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

“They haven’t paid a price sufficient to change their behavior,” Rogers said under questioning by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Report: Cybercrime May Have Cost 0.8 Percent of 2016 Global GDP
Russia, North Korea and Iran named as top perpetrators of cybercrime

Theft of personal data, loss of intellectual property and opportunity costs stemming from these and other cybercrimes in 2016 may have cost the global economy 0.8 percent — or as much as $600 billion — according to a report released Wednesday.

The growing spread of computer connectivity, easy availability of malware and the ability to monetize stolen information is leading to an explosion in cybercrime, according to the report, titled Economic Impact of Cybercrime. It was prepared by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, and McAfee, a computer security firm.

Grand Jury Indicts Russian Nationals for Election Interference
Operatives targeted Clinton, Rubio and Cruz, while largely supporting Trump and Sanders

Updated 3:25 p.m. | The Justice Department charged Russian operatives Friday with a sweeping effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, spending millions of dollars to wage social media campaigns, buy political advertisements and pose as grass-roots organizers to spark political rallies on American soil.

The grand jury criminal indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies landed like a bombshell in Washington, where the debate has raged over the extent of Russia’s influence in the election while President Donald Trump has waged a campaign to quell special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.