MeriTalk News Briefs: Senate Passes Fed Pay Raise, PAWR RFP Released, Hackers Target Electric

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 Approves Federal Pay Raise

Yesterday, the Senate approved H.R. 6147, which, in addition to keeping funding for the Technology Modernization Fund at $0, also approved a 1.9 percent increase in pay for Federal employees. In a press release, the American Federation of Government Employees praised the increase. “This modest pay adjustment would help prevent Federal employees from falling further behind next year and help Federal agencies recruit and retain the high-caliber workforce that the public expects and deserves,” the group said. The bill will go to conference committee with the Senate.

PAWR Round 2 RFP Released

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a second request for proposal (RFP) for the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program on Wednesday. The second proposal is focused on vertical use cases for advanced wireless technologies. Specifically, NSF and PAWR are interested in areas such as smart agriculture, transportation, energy, healthcare, education, manufacturing, and public safety. The program will award up to $9 million in cash and $15 million in services to two local governments. Previous award winners include Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, who are deploying cutting edge radio hardware and software in a test area, and New York City, Columbia University and Rutgers University, which is deploying an advanced wireless testbed in Harlem.

New Hacking Group Targeting Electric Utilities

Cybersecurity firm Dragos identified a new activity group conducting access operations in the electric utility sector. The group, dubbed RASPITE, has targeted entities in the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East using strategic website compromises to gain access to Windows credentials. Their attacks currently focus on access without any industrial control system (ICS) attacks, but “RASPITE’s recent targeting focus and methodology are clear indicators of necessary activity for initial intrusion operations into an IT network to prepare the way for later potential ICS events,” Dragos wrote.

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