The White House delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, intends to bring up cybersecurity issues, the Trump administration said Tuesday.
“Delegation officials will be meeting with their counterparts and others in business and government to discuss issues directly relevant to their duties,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “The scope of the delegation enables our government to discuss a wide range of issues, from economics to trade to border and cyber security to transportation and many others.”
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The delegation will include homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who has expertise in cyber policy and to whom Trump’s cyber coordinator reports; DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who heads the government’s main cyber agency and formerly led the WEF’s cyber process; White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who runs the tech-focused Office of American Innovation; and Chris Liddell, who leads OAI’s work on cyber and IT policy. A White House spokesman did not respond when asked for details about the delegation’s cyber meetings.
It’s unclear if the combination of the government shutdown and nasty weather in Davos — both of which have complicated travel plans — will mean the U.S. cyber delegation is smaller than intended, said Tony Cole, FireEye’s global government chief technology officer. “Things became a little complicated for cyber being on table when the government shutdown took place,” Cole told MC from Davos, where his company co-hosted a panel with Marsh and co-released a paper for executives, as well as a closed-door meeting with government and corporate C-suite officials. He added: “It was a zoo to get here.”
Still, “It’s nice to see that cyber is very prominent on the agenda” in Davos overall, said Cole, who observed that this year’s conference places it yet more prominently than in past years. The World Economic Forum debuted multiple cybersecurity-related papers in advance of the conference, and today, it’s officially launching a Global Centre for Cybersecurity, in addition to hosting yet more panels and events ahead.
HAPPY WEDNESDAY and welcome to Morning Cybersecurity! Cyber watchers won’t want to miss “Lil Hack,” headlining day three of Coachella. Send your thoughts, feedback and especially tips to email@example.com and be sure to follow @POLITICOPro and @MorningCybersec. Full team info below.
GEARING UP FOR ANOTHER HACKING SEASON — A liberal political action committee has arranged a cybersecurity threat briefing next week via Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for campaign managers for Democratic House incumbents. Robby Mook, who managed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and Debbie Plunkett, a former NSA official, will lead the briefing organized by End Citizens United, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. The meeting comes after a report on Russian attempts to infiltrate Senate offices refreshed 2018 tampering fears.
“We’re all painfully aware about Russian infiltration into the Clinton Campaign during the last cycle; but as the [New York Times] reported in December 2016, Russian actors also meddled in some of the most competitive congressional races as well,” the email reads. “Robby, Debbie and their colleagues at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center have compiled a list of short, easy and cost effective best practices for campaigns to protect themselves against cyber hacking.”
Also Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden publicly accused Sen. Mitch McConnell of refusing to sign off on a bipartisan condemnation in 2016 of Russian election interference, leading Biden to the conclusion that “this was all about the political play.” The Obama administration has taken heat from both parties over what many consider its inadequate response, and Biden said McConnell’s refusal made it more difficult for them to act. McConnell’s office disputed Biden’s characterization by pointing to an election hacking letter to state election officials that didn’t mention Russia specifically. Biden also said he and then-President Barack Obama struggled constantly with how to respond to Russian election meddling.
UNLIKE THE CAPS IN THE PLAYOFFS — The Trump administration is on the cusp of renewing a tool used by the Obama administration to boost the defenses of federal government networks, known as Cross-Agency Priority goals. Performance.gov, the website tracking how well agencies are meeting various tech and other such goals, contains a notice that says it “is undergoing an overhaul as agencies develop updated goals and objectives for release in February 2018 with the President’s next Budget submission to Congress.”
“I’m pleased to see the current Administration is finally going to bring back the White House Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goal Initiative,” Ken Durbin, senior strategist for global government affairs at Symantec, told MC via email. “The CAP Goals proved to be effective in driving behavior that lead to improved Cybersecurity in the prior Administration. Used correctly, they should continue to be effective moving forward.”
CYBER, ENCRYPTION ON CIA RADAR — CIA Director Mike Pompeo marked the one-year anniversary of his swearing-in with a wide-ranging discussion at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Besides weighing in on North Korea’s nuclear program, and providing a deep dive on President Trump’s intelligence briefings, the former House Intelligence Committee member offered a glimpse into the agency’s thinking on data encryption and cybersecurity. “Cyber is another vector — it’s not a threat of its own, but it is a means by which many non-nation-state actors can inflict incredible costs on the United States of America,” according to Pompeo. “And we need to make sure that we are watching those actors in the same way we would a threat from a traditional nation-state.” Meanwhile, the clandestine agency is “still doing pretty good collecting signals intelligence” despite the proliferation of end-to-end encryption, he said. “But that does not foreclose the absolute imperative that we continue to improve our capacity to collect human intelligence.”
GIMME BACK MY STUFF — A former National Security Agency contractor accused of stealing mounds classified information over two decades wants his stuff back. Harold Martin filed a motion in U.S. District Court requesting the government give him back a number of personal belongings, including a computer he decorated with stickers saying or depicting: “Got root?”…”Black hat”…”outline of actor Bruce Campbell” and “various hacker oriented stickers,” according to the filing. Martin, 53, who’s been held without bail since his arrest nearly a year and a half ago, could face a sentence of up to 10 years after agreeing to plead guilty to a felony charge of illegal retention of national security information. Martin reportedly spent several years working in NSA’s elite hacking unit, known as Tailored Access Operations. His arrest was the latest black eye for the clandestine organization, which has struggled to prevent leaks in the wake of the Edward Snowden’s unprecedented revelations about government surveillance.
PROMOTION FOR NIST AUDITING BILL SPONSOR — Rep. Ralph Abraham, the sponsor of a House bill that alarmed cybersecurity experts, will take over the House Space, Science and Technology Committee’s oversight subcommittee, the panel announced Tuesday. Abraham’s bill (H.R. 1224) originally would have tasked the technical standards agency NIST with auditing other agencies’ cybersecurity defenses, a prospect that alarmed NIST employees and outside experts who feared it would chill NIST’s collegial relationships with other agencies. The Science Committee subsequently pared back the bill, but close observers of government cyber auditing still said it went too far. Abraham was unapologetic, telling POLITICO, “I understand that there’s good friendships between these agencies, but nothing trumps national security.” In a statement announcing Abraham’s subcommittee chairmanship, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said he would “provide strong leadership of the Oversight Subcommittee as we work to strengthen America’s cybersecurity capabilities and ensure accountability to taxpayers.”
RECENTLY ON PRO CYBERSECURITY — Trump said FBI Director Christopher Wray never threatened to resign, contrary to news reports. … Wray selected a new chief of staff, however. … “Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff are calling on Twitter and Facebook to provide an explanation for reports of coordinated activity by Russian-linked accounts to promote a conservative hashtag on social media this month.”
TWEET OF THE DAY — Really, that’s the lesson you want to take from *gestures at everything*?
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
— Boris Segalis and David Navetta are joining the law firm Cooley, after departing Norton Rose Fulbright as U.S. co-chairs of its data protection, privacy and cybersecurity group.
— Top Dems want to know how much DHS will take on the responsibilities of the White House voter fraud commission.
Norton by Symantec estimates the global cybercrime tally for 2017 at $172 billion.
— Up to 100,000 Bell Canada customers could be affected by a data breach. Toronto Star.
— There are still a lot of cyber vacancies in the Trump administration after one year. NextGov.
— The room for error is tiny when it comes to hacking nuclear systems. The Verge.
That’s all for today. Your MC host doesn’t recommend staying on premises at Coachella, as I did it once and not only does California get surprisingly cold at night, but the electronic dance music crew stays up until the morning pumping their assorted jams at massive volume.
Stay in touch with the whole team: Cory Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org, @Cory_Bennett); Bryan Bender (email@example.com, @BryanDBender); Eric Geller (firstname.lastname@example.org, @ericgeller); Martin Matishak (email@example.com, @martinmatishak) and Tim Starks (firstname.lastname@example.org, @timstarks).