At a glance.
- Three new ONCD officials selected.
- Update on Spanish spyware scandals.
- Big Tech coalition vows to support ban on geofencing.
Three new ONCD officials selected.
Yesterday the White House announced the appointment of three new security officials to the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD). Kemba Walden has been named as principal deputy national cyber director. Walden comes from a position as assistant general counsel in Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, where, Duo notes, she played a pivotal role in the company’s anti-ransomware efforts. She also has a decade of previous experience in government, including serving as cybersecurity attorney for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). ONCD also selected two deputy national cyber directors: former Central Intelligence Agency associate deputy director for digital innovation Neal Higgins, and Rob Knake, a policy expert who previously worked at the Department of Homeland Security and in the cyber directorate at the National Security Council. Higgins will handle overall national cybersecurity while Knake will focus on strategy and budget. The Record by Recorded Future adds that when National Cyber Director Chris Inglis was appointed last July, he was authorized by Congress to hire up to seventy-five staffers, and the ONCD currently has approximately thirty personnel so far. Inglis stated, “As we continue to build this new office, the additions of Kemba, Neal, and Rob will accelerate our efforts to protect Americans in cyberspace. Each of these leaders brings impressive experience in cybersecurity policy making to our team, and their diverse perspectives will be invaluable as we strengthen our collective defense.”
Update on Spanish spyware scandals.
Spain is still dealing with recent revelations that spyware was found on the devices of over sixty members of the separatist movement in the Catalonia region, as well as the phones of several government officials, including the Prime Minister. The Guardian offers an overview of what is known about the scandal so far, up to and including Tuesday’s firing of Paz Esteban, head of Spain’s national intelligence centre (CNI). It is still unclear who is behind the surveillance. When the names of several pro-independence Catalan politicians were found to be potentially targeted by Pegasus back in 2020, Roger Torrent, then speaker of the Catalan parliament, said he believed the “Spanish state” was responsible. The Spanish government has denied any connection to the spying, stating, “This government doesn’t spy on its political opponents,” and has launched a probe to investigate the incidents. Pegasus maker NSO Group is sticking to its claim that the software is only intended for authorized use by governments investigating crimes. “While we have not seen any information related to this alleged misuse and we are not familiar with the details of this specific case, NSO’s firm stance on these issues is that the use of cyber tools in order to monitor politicians, dissidents, activists and journalists is a severe misuse of any technology and goes against the desired use of such critical tools,” NSO stated. Meanwhile, the researchers at CircleID have analyzed a number of personal email addresses used to register domains linked to Pegasus to determine if there are any patterns.
Big Tech coalition vows to support ban on geofencing.
Reform Government Surveillance, a coalition of tech companies including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have placed their support behind a New York bill aimed at banning geofence warrants and keyword search warrants. TechCrunch explains that these warrants, which are requested by law enforcement and signed by a judge, require tech companies to share data about users who might be connected to criminal investigations. According to Google, geofence warrants account for about one-quarter of all of the company’s legal demands in the US. Proponents of the legislation say the warrants are a violation of privacy rights as they include data on users who are not necessarily linked to criminal acts. The bill has stalled since it was referred to committee for discussion in January, but if passed, it would become the first state law banning such warrants.