OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate Homeland Security and Commerce panels to talk cyber order, legislation

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Finding a bipartisan solution to addressing the cyber threat is a top priority for Carper, according to a committee spokesperson, and Thursday's hearing is one of the steps he is taking to find out how the country can better protect itself against cyberattacks. During the hearing, Carper intends to learn more about the implementation of the executive order and steps Congress can take to complement its measures.

The Homeland Security chairman also plans to discuss improving information-sharing efforts, as well as the need to clarify the roles of the federal government when it comes to cybersecurity, among other topics. 

Cybersecurity and the need to protect the country's water systems, banks, transportation networks and other critical infrastructure from hacker attacks have gained more attention in the past year. With the recent spate of attacks on U.S banks and companies like Apple, Microsoft, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, it seems like a week doesn't go by without some news about a computer security breach.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller noted in a statement that the cyber threat facing the United States has only increased since Congress failed to pass legislation last year, and that "we simply cannot afford to wait any longer to adequately protect ourselves."

While the headlines have not driven Congress to reach a compromise on cybersecurity legislation just yet, Thursday's hearing will provide clues on the Senate's plan this year and how it intends to move forward on a bill after a sweeping measure failed to clear the upper chamber in 2012. 

In addition to Napolitano, Patrick Gallagher, under secretary of commerce for Standards and Technology, will testify before the two committees. He will describe how the executive order tasks the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with working with industry to craft a framework of cybersecurity best practices and standards for key infrastructure.

"The cybersecurity challenge facing critical infrastructure is greater than it ever has been. The president's executive order reflects this reality, and lays out an ambitious agenda founded on active collaboration between the public and private sectors," Gallagher will say, according to written testimony. "NIST is mindful of the weighty responsibilities with which we have been charged by President Obama, and we are committed to listening to, and working actively with, critical infrastructure owners and operators to develop a cybersecurity framework."

Also testifying will be Gregory Wilshusen, director of information security issues at the Government Accountability Office, and Dow Chemical Company Chief Information Security Officer David Kepler. 


Top House Homeland Security Dems call for cyber information-sharing bill to be referred to panel: Top Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee are calling for their GOP counterparts to ensure the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is referred to their committee. The bill is being considered by the House Intelligence Committee, where its authors, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), chair the panel. Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the committee's cybersecurity subpanel, argue that CISPA includes provisions that fall within the Homeland Security Committee's jurisdiction and should be considered by the panel.

"Like you, we have strong views about the criticality of cybersecurity to the welfare of our nation, the role of the Department of Homeland Security in that effort, and our committee's obligation to play a central role in shaping cybersecurity policy," Thompson and Clarke write in a letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Rep. Pat Meehan (R-N.J.), chairman of the Cybersecurity subpanel. "We urge you to insist upon a sequential referral of the measure and afford members of the committee the opportunity to consider this legislation in an open markup session."

Eshoo joins chorus for cellphone unlocking: Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) is the latest lawmaker to say she will introduce legislation to legalize cellphone unlocking, which allows users to switch their phones to other networks.

A few weeks ago, cellphone unlocking was an obscure, technical topic that got little attention. But after an online petition accumulated more than 114,000 signatures and won the support of the White House, lawmakers are now clamoring to champion the cause.

"The ban on unlocking cell phones puts consumers in the back seat when it comes to choosing the mobile device and service that best suits them," Eshoo said in a statement. "Competition and consumer choice are equally fundamental to a vibrant mobile marketplace, which is why I intend to introduce legislation eliminating the ban on unlocking cell phones and other mobile devices."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was the first one out of the gate with his own bill on the topic: the Wireless Device Independence Act.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) have also said they would back legislation to legalize the practice.

DOJ doesn't object to T-Mobile, MetroPCS deal: The Justice Department appears to be giving the OK to T-Mobile's purchase of MetroPCS. The department let the 30-day waiting period expire without taking any action against the merger, the companies announced Wednesday.

The Federal Communications Commission must still give the deal its blessing, but it's unlikely to encounter much regulatory opposition.

In other T-Mobile news, the company is getting snarky as it fights back against AT&T's recent ads criticizing its network quality.

"If AT&T thought our network wasn't great, why did they try to buy it?" T-Mobile asks in one ad, according to TmoNews.


ON TAP

The Federal Trade Commission will announce a series of enforcement actions on Thursday against text-message scams.

The House Judiciary Committee's hearing on abusive patent litigation has been postponed due to the snow storm that apparently didn't happen.

The International Trade Commission will hold a hearing on Thursday morning to examine digital trade. The Senate Finance Committee requested that the ITC study the issue. David LeDuc, senior director of public policy for the Software & Information Industry Association, will be one of the witnesses and will argue for lower trade barriers and stronger intellectual property protections.

“The global nature of the digital economy makes it essential that we continually work to lower or eliminate barriers standing in the way of the free flow of data," he plans to say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. "Of course, even without barriers, digital trade will never reach its potential if we don’t have strong intellectual property laws and enforcement." 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

House bill would require police to obtain search warrant to access emails: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing private online communications or mobile location data.

Sen. Whitehouse plans future cyber hearing on prosecuting trade secret theft: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Wednesday said he plans to hold a future hearing on the resources the Justice Department has in place to prosecute the cyber theft of American intellectual property and take action against botnets.

Holder defends prosecution of Web activist Swartz: Attorney General Eric Holder denied on Wednesday that agency officials acted inappropriately in their prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist and co-creator of Reddit who killed himself earlier this year.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, Holder said that prosecutors initially offered Swartz a plea deal of three months in prison for allegedly stealing articles from a computer archive, and that they later said they would seek up to six months.

University presidents say immigration reform needed to boost innovation: Three university presidents from Arizona State University, Cornell University and Miami Dade College are urging their counterparts at other American universities and colleges to hold events next month that highlight the importance of immigration reform.

EU hits Microsoft with $731 million antitrust fine: European antitrust regulators fined Microsoft 561 million euros ($731 million) on Wednesday for violating a previous agreement to give users access to rival Internet browsers.

To settle an antitrust case in 2009, Microsoft pledged to display a "browser choice screen" to European Windows users, allowing them to choose between Internet Explorer and competitors like Google Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox. Regulators were concerned that Microsoft was using the popularity of its Windows operating system to stifle competition for Web browsers.


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