OVERNIGHT TECH: Hagel stresses importance of cybersecurity

THE LEDE: Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said deterring future cyberattacks will be a "continued key challenge" for the United States and he will ensure the Defense Department provides "strong support" toward efforts to defend the country from hackers if he is confirmed as secretary of Defense.

In response to a slate of questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hagel said defending the country from cyberattacks should "involve the full range of tools at the disposal" of the U.S., but he didn't specifically say whether that will require the use of offensive and defensive cyber forces. However, he said one of the tools the U.S. should employ is "any authorized military operations," as well as diplomacy and law enforcement.

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In the 112-page document with his answers, obtained by The Hill, Hagel provided few clues about what his cybersecurity strategy would be as head of the Defense Department. Hagel said he will carefully consider various cyber challenges facing the department and consult with other military officials and agencies before making decisions that will affect the country's cybersecurity policy. Hagel's responses come ahead of his confirmation hearing on Thursday before the Armed Services Committee, where he is expected to face a grilling from lawmakers. 

Hagel said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leads the country's domestic cybersecurity efforts. The Defense Department provides assistance to DHS when needed and provides military forces to deter an adversary, as well as prevents cyber threats against critical infrastructure and classified networks. Still, Hagel said various departments within the federal government and industry should share information about cyber threats and work together to boost network defenses.

"I believe that the defense, homeland security, and law enforcement communities should work together, and with our private sector partners to improve network defenses, share information on cyber threats, and ensure swift response to threats when they manifest themselves," he said.

Hagel noted that recruiting and training skilled military and civilian personnel needed for cyber operations at U.S. Cyber Command "will be a challenge" in light of the looming budget cuts facing the department.

"This is a high priority area for the Department with regard to investment of both resources and management oversight and, if confirmed, I will review these systems and practices," Hagel said.

So far, it appears the U.S. has successfully deterred major cyberattacks but thwarting those attacks "will be a continued key challenge," he said.

The former senator shed little light on whether he plans to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to a unified command. Hagel said he will evaluate the "maturity" of Cyber Command and consult Congress, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders before making any decisions about its future.

However, he acknowledged that he's aware of concerns with Gen. Keith Alexander's dual role of heading up Cyber Command and the National Security Agency and will "carefully consider these concerns."

"My sense is that dual-hatting the commander of CYBERCOM and the Director of NSA has worked well to date," Hagel writes. "However, if confirmed, I will review specifics of the dual-hatted relationship and assess whether it should continue in the future."

If confirmed as to the Cabinet, Hagel said he is committed to "all options" to counter aggressions from Iran, as The Hill's Defcon Hill reports.

Hagel added that he intends to consult with others in the Defense Department and federal agencies to address China's theft of American intellectual property. Hagel also warned that the country's current fiscal state "will force hard choices across a range of priority missions, including cyber" and he will work with the military and civilian leaders within the department, the president and Congress to find "the right balance." 

Facebook now a 'mobile company': Facebook revealed on Wednesday that for the first time, the number of daily users who accessed the site on their mobile devices exceeded the number who accessed the site through their desktop computers.

"In 2012, we connected over a billion people and became a mobile company," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement announcing the company's quarterly results.

Facebook reported that fourth quarter revenue grew 40 percent to $1.59 billion, beating expectations. Mobile advertising accounted for 23 percent of advertising revenue, up from 14 percent in the previous quarter.

The stock tumbled after the announcement but quickly recovered.

Microsoft to host discussion on STEM education: On Thursday, Microsoft will host a panel discussion that will examine the steps policymakers and educators need to take to prepare American students for jobs in technical fields, or the so-called STEM fields. The topic has been brought up as Congress debates changes to immigration rules and high-skilled immigration reform since tech companies say the U.S. is not producing enough qualified graduates for engineering and research jobs.

The panel will include Andrew Ko, general manager of Microsoft's Partners in Learning program; Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Offices; and Becky Pringle, secretary-treasurer for the National Education Association.  

Senators look to extend ban on Internet taxes: Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Dean Heller (Nev.) introduced legislation Wednesday that would extend a law banning federal, state and local governments from taxing Internet access.

The Internet Tax Freedom Act, originally enacted in 1998, is set to expire in November 2014. The bill from Ayotte and Heller would extend the ban indefinitely. 

Grassley: Voluntary ratings for video games not enough:  Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested at a hearing on Wednesday that violent video games can lead to real-world violence.

"There are too many video games that celebrate the mass killing of innocent people — games that despite attempts at industry self-regulation find their way into the hands of children," Grassley said at a Judiciary Committee hearing called to examine the causes of gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.

DOJ asks FCC to delay action on Sprint-Softbank deal for national security: The Justice Department is asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay a decision in its review of the purchase of Sprint by Japanese firm Softbank.

In letter to the FCC released on Tuesday, an attorney for the Justice Department's National Security Division said DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI need more time to investigate the deal for any "national security, law enforcement, and public safety issues."

Rockefeller: Fortune 500 companies back voluntary cybersecurity standards:  Leading U.S. companies will support a voluntary program enabling the government and industry to develop a set of cybersecurity best practices, according to a memo from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

The report released by Rockefeller's staff on Wednesday conflicts with claims raised last year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that establishing the voluntary standards was opposed by business and could be a back door to new burdensome regulations.

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