Julian Hattem

House lawmakers want answers from eBay

A bipartisan duo of House lawmakers has questions for eBay about its recent data breach. Reps Joe Barton (R-TX) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) told eBay chief John Donahoe that they share “some concerns regarding the data security practices of personal information at eBay.”

The lawmakers, who are both members of the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, want to know if the company is still gathering details about the full scope of the hack and how users have been affected. They also asked whether or not eBay is looking to overhaul its security standards in light of the hack and if it had noticed a decrease in security breaches in recent years.

Norquist: Don’t tax the Net

Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist wants House lawmakers to permanently ban any tax on companies providing Internet service. In a letter to leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, Norquist said that a current bill in Congress would prevent “punitive and discriminatory” taxes from limiting the power of the Web.

“Excessive taxes will hinder continued growth in the digital space,” he wrote. “Allowing the Internet access tax moratorium to lapse would certainly lead to higher tax rates on consumers and reduce the rate of adoption and innovation. The Internet is our greatest gateway to innovation and education, higher taxes on Internet access undermines American economic competiveness and growth.”

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act would ban state and local governments from enacting taxes on Internet service. Unless it is passed this year, a 1998 law temporarily prohibiting the taxes would lapse, clearing the way for governments who might be eyeing taxes on Internet service companies as a way to fill their coffers.

Deadline set for Senate action on cybersecurity

The Senate needs to pass a major cybersecurity bill by August, or else the effort could be lost for the year, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) warned.

“If we don’t have something moving by August, I think it gets lost in the haze, and it will be a very long time until we actually get a bill passed that will actually have an impact,” he said.

The Senate has struggled to pass a companion measure to his Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which passed the House more than a year ago. Since then, revelations from Edward Snowden about programs at the National Security Agency have derailed the effort and heightened concerns about government snooping. The bill would allow companies to share information about possible cyber threats with each other and the government.

Rep Rogers said he was “cautiously optimistic that we can find some agreement within the next 30 days to try to get something moving.”

School groups 'cannot wait any longer' for FCC

More than a dozen school and library groups want the Federal Communications Commission to update its program to hook public educational facilities up to the Internet.

In a letter, the groups pushed for changes to the FCC's E-Rate program, also called ConnectED, including more money.

"We cannot wait any longer to increase E-Rate support. The time is now to permanently raise the E-Rate’s annual funding cap," groups including the American Library Association, American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association wrote. According to the groups, demand to access the fund is often twice the current cap of $2.4 billion, yet it "has received no meaningful funding increase since 1998."

Additionally, most of the money is tied up for connecting schools and libraries to the Web, which makes it difficult to ensure that every classroom and computer within the building is connected. That is leading to "major roadblocks to students, educators and library patrons having enough bandwidth to perform online research, participate in digital professional learning classes and apply online for jobs or government services and benefits."

Is Estonia leading the way for cybersecurity?

The president of Estonia thinks that his small northern European country is paving the way for keeping people’s information protected online. At a forum on international cybersecurity, Toomas Hendrik Ilves praised his country’s system of online digital signatures, which allow people to securely access a variety of financial, political and medical resources online.

“We have come to the solution that you cannot have any genuine security without a secure online identity,” he said. For instance, 90 percent of the country’s 1.3 million residents can file their taxes online in under three minutes, remotely access digital medical records and even vote over the Internet from the comfort of their couch, using the country’s digital national identification system.

“All these things are possible if and only if you have a secure online identity, because whoever has the data knows it’s you and not anyone else,” he said. Ilves said that the global public is misguided to fear that “big data” and the availability of everyone’s information online will expose their personal secrets. Instead, they should be focusing on how secure their data are from hackers and others who may be impersonating them online.

“You might be worried about someone knowing your blood type. I’m much more worried about someone changing the record of my blood type," Ilves said. “The real issue, and the real issue that I think instills fear in me, is maybe that it can be changed,” he added. “That will require a solution of the sort that we have.”

Estonia was the first real victim of an online attack, when attackers flooded the country with a stream of distributed denial-of-service attacks in 2007. Since then, it has rapidly increased security on national networks and developed a decentralized system to add new digital components onto the online infrastructure.

IT firm to bring satellite broadband to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

A Virginia communications firm won a $250,000 government contract to bring high-speed broadband Internet to the military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, via satellite.

According to a notice posted on a federal contracting website, E&E Enterprises Global will deliver “broadband satellite Internet equipment and subscription for Joint Task Forces Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

Satellite Internet service is routinely used by the base’s 6,000 military and civilian residents to keep in touch with friends and family back home, as well as for official purposes. The military has tried to move off of the satellite hookups in recent years, which can be slow and expensive to maintain.

In 2013, the Pentagon announced plans to lay undersea fiber-optic cables to connect the military base to the mainland US, though that effort is not expected to be finished until 2015. After the military connects the fiber cables to its 45-square-mile base, those lines could then extend to the entire island, officials have said.

Privacy groups want more from FTC

Privacy advocates are glad that the Federal Trade Commission outlined some potential problems with companies that collect and sell people’s data, but say it’s only a first step.

After the FTC released its call for new legislation on “data brokers”, Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeffrey Chester called the effort “insufficient.” “The real problem is that data brokers -- including Google and Facebook -- have embraced a business model designed to collect and use everything about us and our friends -- 24/7,” he said. “Legislation is required to help stem the tide of business practices purposeful designed to make a mockery out of the idea of privacy for Americans.”

American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese said that the FTC itself needed to be doing more with its current powers “to root out bad practices now.” That could include action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, he said, which bans various forms of discrimination that the FTC alleged are made possible through data merchants’ repackaging of consumers' information.

“Strongly enforcing those laws is a first step toward curbing the harms that come from the buying and selling of detailed personal profiles of every nearly every American,” Calabrese said.

China accuses US of ‘unscrupulous’ spying

China is hitting back against the United States’ spying operations, days after the Obama Administration escalated bubbling cyber tensions with charges against a team of Chinese hackers. In a report issued by the China Academy of Cyber Space, Beijing accused the US of running “unscrupulous secret surveillance programs” that “flagrantly infringe international laws, seriously impinge on human rights and put global cyber security under threat.”

“America's spying operations have gone far beyond the legal rationale of ‘anti-terrorism’ and have exposed the ugly face of its pursuit of self-interest in complete disregard for moral integrity,” the agency said. “As such, they deserved to be rejected and condemned by the whole world.”

The Chinese organization specifically criticized a number of the programs revealed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, including the government’s snooping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, plugging into fiber networks used by companies like Yahoo and Google and targeting Chinese firms like telecom giant Huawei. It also alleged that the US specifically targets “the Chinese government and Chinese leaders, Chinese companies, scientific research institutes, ordinary netizens, and a large number of cell phone users.”

“America must provide explanations for its surveillance activities, cease spying operations that seriously infringe upon human rights, and refrain from causing stress and antagonism in global cyber space,” the agency said in its report, called “America’s Global Surveillance Record.”

Senate appropriators: No plans for FCC rider

Republicans in the Senate aren’t thinking about using the appropriations process to block the Federal Communications Commission from issuing new regulations on Internet service providers.

The top GOP senators on the Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee overseeing the FCC both told The Hill that they don’t expect a rider preventing the commission from moving forward with the effort.

Bitcoin investment group registers lobbyist

The world’s first investment fund that focuses solely on the virtual currency bitcoin is bringing some lobbying muscle to Washington.

Falcon Global Capital director Brett Stapper filed paperwork to lobby Congress and federal agencies, according to federal lobbying disclose forms. The company is the second to formally declare that it is lobbying on the virtual currency, after MasterCard had five lobbyists it hired focus on the cryptocurrency in April.

According to the paperwork, the San Diego-based investment fund will focus on “education and understanding of Bitcoin and other crypto-graphic based currencies.” Falcon markets itself as being able to give clients “an easy entry and exit point into the exciting and fast growing Bitcoin markets while having their investment secured in our Insured Bitcoin vault.” The company’s team sees “Bitcoin as a disruptive force in the way currency is stored, transferred, and regulated around the globe,” it adds on its website.