Former FCC Boss Wheeler Says Trump FCC Napped On Cybersecurity

from the asleep-at-the-wheel dept

As we've made clear by now, the FCC under Trump spent four straight years kissing monopoly ass. From eliminating decades-old rules protecting consumers and competitors from the harms of media consolidation to gutting the FCC's consumer protection authority simply because AT&T and Comcast wanted it done, the agency under Pai was a textbook example of regulatory capture. There were a few high points (like the creation of a national suicide hotline), but by and large the FCC under Pai was just a mindless rubber stamp for the industry's wealthiest players.

While the Pai FCC was busy doing whatever AT&T and Comcast wanted, a lot of stuff those companies didn't care about fell off the table. Like any real rules governing the massive light pollution caused by low orbit satellites. Or any support for policies that would competitively challenge entrenched incumbents. And according to former FCC boss Tom Wheeler, a little thing called cybersecurity (more specifically, funds directed at smaller competitors to help them secure their networks):

"We are currently failing to use efficient regulatory mechanisms to oversee the security of these networks. The Department of Homeland Security has the expertise but lacks the regulatory authority of an agency such as the Federal Communications Commission. Yet, for the past four years, the Trump FCC was asleep at the switch, gutting cyber programs and refusing to exercise its authority."

The FCC has largely been a no show on the security and privacy issues plaguing the internet of broken things. And as Congress prepares to throw another $100 billion at America's broadband problem, Wheeler's worried that the funds won't come with any aid to shore up network cybersecurity. While a company like Comcast may not want or need that help, Wheeler argues that smaller broadband providers are going to need aid ensuring they're protected from the growing threat of cyberattacks like the one that just rocked Cox Media Group:

"It is precisely these factors that make such small rural companies prime targets for cyber hackers. The companies typically have fewer than 100 employees — some fewer than 10 — and often cannot afford dedicated cybersecurity personnel or cutting-edge defensive technology."

Of course lobbyists for incumbent giants like Comcast and AT&T are busy shaping what the final broadband bill looks like. That already means not only less money overall, but more subsidies sent to giant players, and less money sent to smaller companies -- especially if they're going to be providing any competitive challenge to incumbents. But throwing yet more money at broadband providers (an approach that already historically hasn't worked out that well for taxpayers) without providing funds to secure them could spell trouble as ransomware and other attacks increasingly target the most ill-prepared.

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Filed Under: ajit pai, cybersecurity, fcc, tom wheeler


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  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 11 Jun 2021 @ 12:07pm

    Anything that protects America and its citizens, Republicans ignore or oppose it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jun 2021 @ 12:41pm

    While all that is reasonable, our ignorance (whether willful, or just stunning by this point) of security is cultural and systemic.

    But yeah, i am all for small utilities or hospitals being supported in securing their networks.

    There is also yet the idea of not connecting bloody critical infrastructure and systems to business-production network and a public internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 11 Jun 2021 @ 12:57pm

    Glacial Timescale

    Somehow, something tells me that no amount of authority is going to get a regulatory boondoggle agency like the FCC to get pipeline companies and meat packing plants to upgrade their cybersecurity measures in a timely manner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jun 2021 @ 1:38pm

    Historically, CEOs and corporations have seen cybersecurity as something with no payback for the money spent so it is always been shortchanged.

    These ransom ware attacks are showing them a new picture, one that while they don't like it, now has a certain value to directing money towards internet security. You can do a lot of security for several million dollars. Payment to cyberhackers gets you no return for your money in prevention.

    The releasing of sensitive information on your customers, your business deals, and employee personal info, does a lot of PR damage. The type to cause customers to change who they do business with as well as national notoriety in the media.

    It's about time they had a wake up call and this ransomware is giving it to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 11 Jun 2021 @ 2:02pm

    The biggest part

    Tends to be ALL the things the FCC is supposed to do, THEY DIDNT DO.

    https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/advisory-committees-fcc

    https://www.cliffsnotes.com/cliffsnotes/su bjects/american-government/what-does-the-fcc-regulate

    Advertising: The FCC regulates and limits the ways in which companies can use telecommunications to contact consumers, including limiting automated calling systems (robocalls) and expectations from phone solicitors. The FCC teamed up with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create the national Do-Not-Call list.
    Accessibility: Through continued growth and regulation, the FCC also makes sure that telecommunications technologies are available to underserved populations, such as people with disabilities, rural communities, the poor, and small businesses.

    how many of these have been in the news recently?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tanj, 11 Jun 2021 @ 3:04pm

    Dingo

    Bring back the dingo!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jun 2021 @ 3:31pm

    The companies typically have fewer than 100 employees — some fewer than 10 — and often cannot afford dedicated cybersecurity personnel or cutting-edge defensive technology."

    This is a red herring. Any company that can't afford at a minimum, the services of an MSP targeted at the SMB sector can't afford to exist at all. These companies can afford an MSP contract -- it's just that to win their bids, they cut the "extras" like MSP offerings. It makes them irresponsible first, victims later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pseudonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2021 @ 12:38pm

    And just like that, the world learned Captain Obvious' secret identity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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