Rep. Pallone: GOP Playing Politics With National Security

Says Republicans blocked expert witness from cybersecurity hearing, cites inaction on prior bills

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, had a bone to pick with the Republican leadership over the witness list for Tuesday's hearing on wireless broadband cybersecurity.

Pallone said the Democrats had tried to invite another cybersecurity expert to testify and help them better understand the threats to the country, like the Russian hacking. But he said the Republicans "made up arbitrary and partisan reasons to effectively block us."

"These games have to stop because these issues are just too serious to be playing politics with our national security," Pallone said.

He said Democrats had also introduced three cybersecurity bills three months ago with no action from the majority on any of them.

But the subcommittee heard plenty from the witnesses about "major vulnerabilities" in wireless security that "we have reason to be concerned about."

Symantec director of government affairs Bill Wright said people need to start treating their smartphones like computers rather than phones, particularly in terms of protecting the information they contain.

He said only a quarter of people even use the security functions they have on their computers. He said that if there is a way to steal and monetize data, hackers will find it.

Virginia Tech professor Charles Clancy said a social, mobile internet has fundamentally changed the nature of traffic over the internet, as well as the nature of the threat. He said the Internet of Things would be another "titanic shift" given that it could increase the number of devices connected to the net by 20 billion. (The Internet of Things was the subject of a nearly contemporaneous hearing in the Communications Subcommittee June 13).

Clancy said security components are being built into the new 5G infrastructure, learning from the mistakes of 4G and 3G.

Asked how susceptible IoT devices were to ransomware attacks, Clancy said Virginia Tech had done a research project in which a Smart TV was "hacked and ransomwared." One problem with IoT devices, he said, was that most could not be patched after they were distributed.