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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

After assembling a team of tough-minded regulators to take on big technology companies, the Biden administration on Wednesday called on many of those same companies to work with the federal government to address a growing wave of cyberattacks.

Driving the news: A White House summit between President Biden and tech leaders Wednesday, including the CEOs of Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM, concluded with a raft of announcements of new cybersecurity projects and spending plans.

  • Microsoft said it would spend an additional $20 billion over five years on "security by design" and offer $150 million in technical services to federal, state and local governments.
  • Google plans to spend $10 billion over five years on zero-trust programs and other measures to bolster software supply chains and open-source security.
  • Amazon said it would offer the public free access to the same "security awareness training" it provides its employees.
  • IBM said it would train 150,000 people in cybersecurity skills over three years and partner with 20 historically Black colleges and universities to create cybersecurity leadership centers.
  • Apple said it was starting a new program to enhance supply chain security.

Why it matters: Defending the U.S. against cyberattacks and cybercrime is too big a problem for either government or industry to solve on their own.

Yes, but: It's an awkward moment for the White House to be trying to partner with tech companies that the executive branch is also pursuing with antitrust lawsuits and investigations.

Of note: Facebook was the one tech giant without a seat at the White House table Wednesday.

  • The company is fresh off a confrontation with the Biden administration over the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.
  • But Facebook is also the primary online touchpoint for tens of millions of Americans in their personal lives, and any broad cybersecurity project might benefit from the company's participation.

Between the lines: Some observers saw the White House meeting as a signal from Washington to the industry that it needed to take strong voluntary action or face a new wave of regulatory or legislative mandates.

  • Many in industry believe that baked-in government rules could hamstring companies trying to adapt to a rapidly changing cybersecurity environment.
  • But others view some additional regulation as inevitable.
  • IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Axios Today he supports new cybersecurity disclosure requirements for private companies. "Disclosures will go a long way because once it's transparent, everyone will improve," he said.

Our thought bubble: This needn't be an either/or scenario. Rules can help set minimum security standards, while direct action against cyberattacks will likely need both the industry's technical prowess and the government's international reach and offensive capabilities.

The summit also covered ways to protect supply chains and critical infrastructure, cyber insurance for businesses, and a pressing shortage of workers in the sector, where "nearly half a million public and private cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled," according to a White House statement.

The bottom line: The most successful cyber defense plans are the ones you don't hear much about, because the attacks and disasters they foil never become news. That's why it will take a while before we know whether this week's announcements have any impact — and the less news you see, the more you can assume they're working.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 19, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A Hard Truths event on the tech industry

On Tuesday, October 19th, Axios Editor-in-Chief Sara Kehaulani Goo and chief technology correspondent Ina Fried examined the current inequities within hiring practices, workplace culture and development in the tech industry today, featuring Girls Who Code CEO Dr. Tarika Barrett and TechEquity Collaborative founder & CEO Catherine Bracy.

Dr. Tarika Barrett explained how to engage and empower young girls to learn tech skills, how the pandemic exacerbated access to educational tools, and how big tech companies can address the industry’s gender gap.

  • On empowering the next generation of tech leaders: “Having more representation of women and people of color in tech in particular, can actually be the difference we need to empower a pipeline of young people and girls of color to pursue the tech careers of the future.”
  • On the gender gap in the tech industry: “As we are simultaneously addressing this growing gender gap in tech and trying to prepare our girls and young women for these thriving, exciting careers of the future, we also know that it’s within an industry that continues to sometimes be the source of negative news and troubling instances of discrimination.”

Catherine Bracy highlighted how tech platforms and their business models affect the broader economic well-being of a community, and the importance of improving working conditions for different tiers of workers at tech companies.

  • On inequities for contracted employees at tech companies: “We have done research that shows that not only are they treated differently because of labor laws and whatever else, but they are also more likely to be members of underrepresented minority groups.”
  • On how tech companies can better support contracted workers: “We do think that if they’re going to contract out, that they should ensure with the vendors that they’re using to provide this workforce, that those workers have an equal level of protection, benefits, stability as their full-time workforce. I feel like that’s the least that they can do.”

Axios Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with Goldman Sachs Chief Operating Officer for Global Investment Research Gizelle George-Joseph, who spoke about how structural barriers affect labor market opportunities for minority communities.

  • “We talk about education, and six decades after Brown vs. Board of Education, 70% of Black students still attend a school where the majority of students are non-white. All of these have really broad repercussions for Black women and very large negative impacts on college graduation rates, on the labor market, and ultimately on our life outcomes.”

Thank you Goldman Sachs for sponsoring this event.

Updated Oct 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.

Oct 20, 2021 - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5–11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11, pending authorization from the FDA of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, and tens of thousands of pharmacies to administer the shots.