Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — House passes Biden plan with $500M for cyber

Today is Friday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Follow The Hill’s cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

The roughly $2 trillion social spending and climate action package approved by Congress includes more than $500 million for cybersecurity priorities, with the bill investing in issues including cyber workforce, training and state and local government security.

Meanwhile, lawmakers this week voiced concerns about the lack of clarity on whether engagement between the Biden administration and Russia has yielded results on cutting down destructive Russian-linked cyberattacks, and the head of Xbox is reevaluating the company’s relationship with Activation Blizzard.

Let’s jump into the news.

Big money for cyber

The House approved more than $500 million in cybersecurity funding on Friday as part of its version of President Biden’s roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better package.

The social and climate spending bill, passed by a narrow vote of 220-213, would mostly funnel those funds to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help address issues including cybersecurity workforce training and state and local government cybersecurity. 

Millions for CISA: The package gives $100 million to CISA for cybersecurity risk mitigation issues, $100 million for cybersecurity workforce and training, $50 million for moving to a secure cloud architecture, and a further $50 million to research and develop strategies to secure industrial control systems. 

The bill also designates $35 million for CISA to provide funding to the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), $15 million for an effort to train teachers on cybersecurity, and $50 million for CISA’s CyberSentry program that monitors the networks of critical infrastructure groups for threats. 

“I could not be prouder that the House Democratic Majority came together today, with a sense of urgency, to deliver for the people and to tackle climate change and a wide-range of other challenges that put our communities at risk,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonRules committee mulls contempt vote for Trump DOJ official Cheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE (D-Miss.) said in a statement Friday. 

“It also invests in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to help State and local governments develop secure and resilient critical infrastructure networks by, among other things, accelerating State and local governments’ transition to the .gov domain and increasing capacity to hire network defenders,” Thompson said. 

Read more here.


Lawmakers anxious over Russia 

Five months after President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE met with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense & National Security — Quick vote on defense bill blocked again Kremlin claims Ukraine may try to win back rebel-controlled regions by force Blinken threatens coordinated sanctions on Russia over Ukraine MORE and urged him to take a stand against ransomware attacks emanating from his country, lawmakers are beginning to chafe at what they view as a lack of results from the administration's efforts to confront Russia.

Different views: Their concerns have increased in recent weeks as they heard mixed messages from key federal leaders on whether ransomware attacks tied back to Russian-based hackers have decreased since the two leaders met, undercutting the Biden administration’s extensive efforts to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity. 

“If the United States knew that criminal actors were emanating from our soil and attacking another country, we would act, and I don’t see any evidence that Russia is actually helping us on this score,” Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinThree dead, six wounded in Michigan school shooting Taiwan says it is capable of responding to repeated Chinese military missions Five House members meet with Taiwanese president despite Chinese objections MORE (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Intelligence and Counterterrorism Subcommittee, said at a hearing Wednesday.  

Priority issue: Biden put cybersecurity concerns at the center of his agenda during his in-person talk with Putin in Geneva earlier this year, and handed the Russian leader a list of 16 types of critical infrastructure in the U.S. that could not be attacked without risking retaliation. Biden warned at the time that the U.S. would take further steps if action wasn’t taken, and private talks between U.S. and Russian officials have continued since that meeting. 

Adding to lawmakers’ concerns are statements made in recent weeks by top officials that have painted slightly conflicting pictures of the state of ransomware attacks.

Read more here.



The Chamber of Commerce on Friday pledged to fight rule changes put in place by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its new chair Lina KhanLina KhanHillicon Valley — Chinese disinformation accounts removed GOP resistance to Biden FCC nominee could endanger board's Democratic majority Hillicon Valley — Inside the Twitter shakeup MORE.

“The FTC is waging a war against American businesses, so the U.S. Chamber is fighting back to protect free enterprise, American competitiveness, and economic growth,” Suzanne Clark, the group’s president and CEO said in a statement.

The powerful lobbying group pledged to "use every tool at our disposal, including litigation," to oppose the agency’s agenda.

To kick off that opposition, the chamber filed a series of public records requests seeking information on a series of rule changes the FTC has adopted since Khan was appointed chair.

Khan has made several procedural changes since taking over aimed at speeding up action.

Read more here


The head of Xbox told employees in an email that he is “evaluating” the company's relationship with Activision Blizzard after a Wall Street Journal investigation found that its chief executive was aware of reports of sexual misconduct at the video game publisher, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

The email by Phil Spencer, which was seen by Bloomberg, said he is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments,” adding later that “this type of behavior has no place in our industry.”

Microsoft, which owns Xbox, confirmed to The Hill that the Bloomberg report was accurate and shared a statement from Spencer.

“I personally have strong values for a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox. This is not a destination but a journey that we will always be on. The leadership at Xbox and Microsoft stand by our teams and support them in building a safer environment for all,” it said.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement that it respected “all feedback from our valued partners” and was "engaging with them further." 

Read more here.



Rolls-Royce announced Friday that its Spirit of Innovation electric aircraft topped 387 mph during a recent flight test and is now the fastest all-electric airplane in the world.

The aerospace and technology company, which is separate from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said its electric plane shattered the previous speed record by 132 mph over nearly 2 miles on Tuesday, clocking a speed of 345.4 mph.

Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East praised those involved in the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) project, the team behind the Spirit of Innovation. 

Read more here.





An op-ed to chew on: Why science and religion come together when discussing extraterrestrial life

Notable links from around the web:

Fake Facebook accounts boost campaign opposing US consulate in Jerusalem (NBC News / Olivia Solon)

The Amazon lobbyists who kill U.S. consumer privacy protections (Reuters / Jeffrey Dastin, Chris Kirkham and Aditya Kalra)

Inside the Capitol Hill townhouse where tech’s critics feel at home (Politico / Emily Birnbaum)

One last thing: A texting option

a sign with information for the national suicide prevention lifeline

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to require text messages sent to the number 988 to be sent to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The agency voted last year to let people call the same number to reach the service. 

“The bottom line is that it shouldn't matter if you make a voice call or send a text message, because we should connect people in crisis to the resources they need no matter how they communicate,” Chairwoman Jessica RosenworcelJessica RosenworcelHillicon Valley — Chinese disinformation accounts removed GOP resistance to Biden FCC nominee could endanger board's Democratic majority Pragmatic bipartisanship – not hard left intolerance – is Democrats' surest path back to power MORE said during the agency’s open meeting on Thursday.

Until 988 works via both call and text starting July 16, 2022, Americans seeking help should continue to call 1-800-273-TALK. 

Read more here


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Monday.