Hillicon Valley — Cybersecurity's breakout year

·6 min read


Today is Tuesday. 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.

Lawmakers zeroed in on cybersecurity like never before in 2021, responding to a variety of incidents including ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and major nation state-backed attacks like the SolarWinds hack.

And in breaking news on Tuesday, the gaming development group behind League of Legends agreed to pay $100 million to settle a harassment suit brought against the company by thousands of female employees.

Let's jump into the news.

A wake up call on Capitol Hill

The past 12 months stand as a banner year in the severity of cyberattacks that wreaked havoc on organizations large and small.

Impact: In the wake of the chaos, a silver lining has emerged around a never-before-seen level of bipartisan support and genuine interest on Capitol Hill for strengthening the nation's cybersecurity.

"Everybody's consciousness had been raised with respect to threats in cybersecurity, everything from the ransomware attacks, to other different types of cyber intrusions which have taken place," Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), chair of the House Armed Services's cybersecurity subcommittee, told The Hill earlier this month. "We have more awareness now, more members are paying attention to it than ever before.

Rough year: The changes come after one of the most bruising years in the history of cyberspace, with a barrage of high-profile and highly damaging attacks occurring in quick succession.

These included ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline, meat producer JBS USA, IT company Kaseya and scores of schools and hospitals throughout the year that were already under pressure from changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Incidents also included nation state-backed efforts, such as the SolarWinds hack, which allowed Russian hackers to compromise at least nine federal agencies, and Microsoft Exchange Server vulnerabilities, which were exploited by Chinese hackers and potentially impacted thousands of groups.

"It seems like a week doesn't go by that there is not some major new cyber issue that has emerged, so yes, more attention is being paid to it, and more willingness to do something about it," Langevin said.

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM HUAWEI

RIOT GAMES PAYS UP

Riot Games will pay $100 million to settle a discrimination and harassment case brought by more than 2,000 women employees, California's civil rights agency announced Monday.

Details: As part of the agreement, the developer behind the game "League of Legends" will dedicate at least $80 million to compensating workers. The company will also create a $18 million reserve over three years to make pay adjustments and fund diversity, equity and inclusion programs, according to the announcement.

California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) first notified Riot in October 2018 of its investigation into allegations of harassment and discrimination, and employees filed a class action suit a month later seeking a proposed $10 million settlement.

In January 2020, DFEH and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) intervened and objected to the proposed $10 million settlement.

The state agencies reportedly argued the women could be entitled to over $400 million in potential back pay based on the wage disparities between men and women, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Read more here.

Crypto conundrum

a vector illustration of coins falling into a slot in a cell phone attached to a virtual wallet
a vector illustration of coins falling into a slot in a cell phone attached to a virtual wallet

The cryptocurrency explosion has forced Washington to adapt federal financial rules to a quickly growing and changing industry.

Americans have poured billions of dollars into cryptocurrencies and a wide array of blockchain-based financial platforms over the past year as the pandemic triggered an investment boom.

While the crypto market has picked up steam steadily over the past decade, a surge of interest in the space and the rapid rise of decentralized financial networks has drawn fresh attention from regulators and lawmakers.

Democrats, Republicans and industry advocates largely agree that the current patchwork of state and federal rules covering cryptocurrencies and technologies is no longer feasible.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Treasury Department and state money transmission licensers all share overlapping jurisdiction over parts of the crypto industry, which often leaves firms unsure about their regulatory obligations.

Ron Hammond, director of government relations for the Blockchain Association, said two forces have driven a regulatory awakening in D.C: a growing understanding among crypto critics that the industry is here to stay, and the industry accepting the necessity of working with Washington.

"You can't get around D.C.," Hammond said. "D.C. is a huge - in most cases - obstacle and in some cases an opportunity, and it's important to educate members of Congress and to get the narrative right. Otherwise, you can find yourself on the wrong end of things."

Read more here.

GOOGLE SETTLEMENT UPDATE

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld Google's settlement in a class action case over allegations that it collected Wi-Fi data illegally with its Street View program.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the $13 million settlement was unfair because it only distributed money to privacy groups and did not pay the class members.

Judge Bridget Bade argued in the decision that it was not feasible to distribute money directly to the 60 million people whose data was allegedly inadvertently collected.

The initial suit was filed in 2010 by plaintiffs alleging that the vehicles Google deployed to take photos of streets around the world had collected sensitive info including emails, passwords and documents from Wi-Fi connections.

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM HUAWEI

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: America needs more science and technology literacy

Lighter click: Choose wisely

Notable links from around the web:

TikTok content moderator sues company, alleging trauma from hours reviewing videos of rape and killings (The Washington Post / Bryan Pietsch)

Our predictions for the next year in audio (The Verge / Ashley Carman)

Japan and US expected to boost cooperation on ransomware threats (The Record / Adam Janofsky)

Logan Paul and the elusive quest to build a free-speech platform that's not a cesspool (The Los Angeles Times / Brian Contreras)

One last thing: Apple closes stores in NYC

george floyd black lives matter apple Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) tim cook software
george floyd black lives matter apple Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) tim cook software

Apple has closed 16 of its stores in New York as the city sees a significant uptick in COVID-19 infections.

During the temporary closures, customers will be permitted to place online orders and pick up their items in stores, according to Bloomberg.

In addition to closures in New York, Apple has also shut down stores in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Texas, Georgia and Florida, the outlet added.

The closures come as the highly contagious omicron variant has swept across the country, including its significant impact on New York, which was also a hotspot in the early weeks of the pandemic.

As of Monday, New York City had a seven-day average of 14,025 daily cases, compared to its 28-day average of 6,786, data from New York City's government showed.

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 Wednesday.

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