Welcome to MeriTalk News Briefs, where we bring you all the day’s action that didn’t quite make the headlines. No need to shout about ‘em, but we do feel that they merit talk.

Senate Committee Pushes Bill to Reinstate Top State Department Cyber Post

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would bolster State Department cybersecurity leadership by establishing an Office of Cyberspace and the Digital Economy with a director appointed by Congress. The Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2018 would effectively reinstate the position of State Department cyber coordinator–previously held by Chris Painter–which was abolished by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and later reinstated in combination with a different position with limited oversight of national cybersecurity issues. The new director would “serve as the principal cyber policy official within the senior management of the Department of State and as the advisor to the Secretary of State for cyber issues,” the bill states. A similar bill passed the House in January, and there is yet no official timeline for when the Cyber Diplomacy Act will hit the full Senate floor. MeriTalk previously reported on the pending Senate legislation in the wake of other shakeups to top cybersecurity posts in the Trump administration.

Deasy to Lead DoD Cloud Initiative

The Defense Department announced June 25 that Dana Deasy, the agency’s chief information officer, will lead DoD’s cloud initiative. “Under Deasy’s leadership, the department will gradually consolidate its disparate networks, data centers and cloud efforts to manage them at the enterprise level,” DoD said. “This initiative is part of a larger effort to modernize information technology across the DOD enterprise.  A modern digital infrastructure is critical to defending against cyber attacks as well as enabling machine learning and artificial intelligence,” it said.

Rep. Connolly Presses on Compromised Data from OPM Breach

Following a Justice Department (DoJ) disclosure that data stolen from the 2015 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach was used to secure fraudulent loans–the first reported criminal case involving OPM data–Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is demanding answers. The congressman, in a June 26 letter to DoJ, requested further details about how the defendants acquired the data and wants a meeting with DoJ to discuss how to deal with prosecuting further crimes. “The Department of Justice has declined to disclose how the defendants in that case obtained the personally identifiable information (PII) of victims of the 2015 OPM data breach,” Connolly wrote. A day prior, in a June 25 letter to OPM, Connolly requested a “detailed summary of the actions taken by OPM” in response to this criminal case. The initial press release from DoJ has since been updated, saying, “numerous victims of the LFCU identity theft fraud also identified themselves to DoJ as victims of the OPM Data Breach. The Government continues to investigate the ultimate source of the PII used by the defendants and how this PII was obtained.”

Senators Press Trump on ZTE

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged President Trump in a June 26 letter to reconsider his decision to lift economic and trading sanctions imposed in April on China-based telecommunications equipment maker ZTE, and to lend his support for a measure in the Senate to ban Federal agencies from buying equipment from ZTE and Huawei, another China-based comms gear maker. “We strongly believe that the April sanctions order–which would have threatened ZTE’s survival–should not be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with China on unrelated matters,” the senators said.

Senate Committee Approves Intel Authorization Act

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 15-0 yesterday to approve the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.  Committee leaders said the bill contains provisions to counter and deter aggression from state actors including Russia and China, protect the U.S. government supply chain from sabotage and counterintelligence threats, improve Federal government security clearance processes, and improve protections for federal and state election systems.

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