Hillicon Valley: Senate report finds major cyber shortcomings in federal agencies | Gig firms seek Mass. ballot question to classify workers as contractors | Blizzard’s president steps down after workplace protests | #microsoft | #hacking | #cybersecurity

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Welcome and Happy Tuesday! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

A new Senate report is casting further doubt on U.S. cybersecurity, detailing “stark” shortcomings in the federal government’s posture. Bipartisan leaders of the panel behind the report are pushing for more action following recent major cyber incidents, including the SolarWinds hack and vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Exchange Server.

Meanwhile, a coalition of gig companies are seeking a ballot measure in Massachusetts that would define their workers as independent contractors, and the president of the company behind hit video game World of Warcraft will step down following allegations of discrimination at the organization.


BAD REPORT CARD: A bipartisan report released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday found “stark” shortcomings in the cybersecurity posture of many major federal agencies in the midst of escalating cyberattacks against both the U.S. government and private sector. 

The report, compiled by the leaders of the panel, found that seven federal agencies “have not met the basic cybersecurity standards necessary to protect America’s sensitive data.” According to data from each agency’s inspector general, the average grade for information security maturity among large federal agencies was a C-.

The new report was released two years after the committee’s subpanel on investigations, at the time headed by current full committee ranking member Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Graham’s COVID-19 ‘breakthrough’ case jolts Senate Key Senate Republican praises infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ohio), found that eight federal agencies had failed to update system vulnerabilities and left the personal information of Americans open to theft by hackers.

The report released Tuesday built on the 2019 findings and concluded that out of the eight agencies studied, only the Department of Homeland Security had implemented an “effective security program for 2020,” while the other seven “still fail at effectively securing data.”

Read more about the report’s findings here.


PROP 22, v2: A coalition of gig economy companies including Uber, Lyft and Doordash is looking to replicate its success in California by seeking a ballot measure in Massachusetts that would define their workers as independent contractors.

The proposal from the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work is expected to be filed Wednesday and would give rideshare and delivery drivers some perks including guaranteed pay and health care stipends but would also lock them out of full employment status.

The ballot measure comes as Uber and Lyft face a lawsuit from the Massachusetts attorney general attempting to compel the companies to comply with state law that would reclassify drivers as employees with rights like a minimum wage and the right to organize.

Gig companies have said that reclassifying their drivers as employees would make it too expensive for their businesses to keep operating.

The companies also insist that reclassification would rob the workers of flexibility, an argument Lyft made in an email to drivers in Massachusetts on Tuesday morning reviewed by The Hill. It was unclear how full employment status would preclude flexibility.

Once the ballot measure is proposed it will face a legal review. If the review is passed and its backers collect enough signatures, the measure will appear on the November 2022 ballot.

The proposal faces opposition from labor and civil rights groups that formed a coalition earlier this summer against any measure similar to Proposition 22, the ballot measure backed by gig companies in California.

Read more.


STEP ASIDE: The president of Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind popular video games such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch, is stepping down after workers at the video game developer walked out in protest over allegations of harassment and discrimination. 

The company announced Tuesday that J. Allen Brack will be leaving the top spot, roughly a week after workers staged the protest

The protest followed a lawsuit California filed against Activision Blizzard alleging it fostered a “frat boy” culture that subjected women to sexual harassment and lower pay than their male peers. 

Brack will be replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra as co-leads of the company moving forward, according to the announcement

Read more here


TWITTER’S ‘TRUSTED SOURCES’: Twitter is partnering with The Associated Press and Reuters as part of an initiative to help combat misinformation on the platform. 

Through the program, Twitter’s curation team will work with the outlets to provide more context on emerging news stories, according to the Monday announcement

For example, users on Twitter can expect to see more “Trends” on the platform that include “contextual description and links to reporting from trusted sources more frequently.” 

Through the program, Twitter also aims to “proactively” provide context on topics that are garnering widespread interest. 

Read more about the announcement


GOP’S PAUL HAS CONCERNS: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFive things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday criticized YouTube for removing a video he posted to his channel on the social media platform.

Paul’s office said YouTube took down a video of him being interviewed by a Newsmax journalist on the science behind wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The senator also posted a video, on YouTube, bashing the company.

“YouTube said the video violated their policy, because of my comments on masks, and they don’t allow videos that contradict government’s guidance on COVID. YouTube may be a private entity, but they’re acting like an arm of the government, censoring those who present an alternative view to the science deniers in Washington,” Paul said.

Read more here.


ICYMI: NEW ELECTION: The election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) should be held again, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing officer recommended.

The officer’s report concludes that the e-commerce giant interfered with the election by having a mailbox installed outside of the facility just after mail-in voting kicked off.

“It is clear that the sole reason the Employer sought to have a mailbox installed was the possibility that the Acting Regional Director would order a mail ballot election,” hearing officer Kerstin Meyers wrote.

The recommendation also faults Amazon for polling employees by distributing vote no paraphernalia around senior staff.

Read more here.


What we’re watching this week:

— The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday to examine Chinese national security threats, including recent Chinese-linked cyber incidents. 

— The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday will markup several pieces of cybersecurity-related legislation, including bills to help state and local governments defend themselves and another addressing threats from deepfakes. 

— The Senate Commerce Committee will consider a bill Wednesday to address concerns over security risks potentially involved with Chinese telecommunications companies. 

— CISA Director Jen Easterly will give a keynote address at the Black Hat conference on Thursday, while Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley: Social media giants fail to block 84 percent of antisemitic content: report | White House cyber chief backs new federal bureau to track threats Bipartisan governors press Biden administration on Canadian border restrictions Graham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar MORE will speak at the conference later the same day. 


An op-ed to chew on: Privacy or security is a false choice. 

Lighter click: That’s fishy



Training self-driving cars for $1 an hour (Rest of World / Vittoria Elliott)

Suspected Chinese hackers took advantage of Microsoft Exchange vulnerability to steal call records (CyberScoop / Tonya Riley) 

My Phone Doesn’t Realize My Mother Is Dead (BuzzFeed / Karolina Waclawiak)

Activision Blizzard employees say HR department failed them (Axios / Megan Farokhmanesh)

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