We're Back: Congressional Shadowban Edition

After an 11-day shadowban by the House of Representatives, Members of Congress and their staff are now free to use Capitol Bells and Cloakroom on the House network again.

On Thursday, May 5th the House of Representative's Information Resources office (HIR) shadowbanned Capitol Bells and Cloakroom and every other Google AppSpot app on the House network in response to an 11-month old public intelligence FBI report. on Monday, May 16th, House IT laconically lifted the block:

From: Technology Service Desk
Date: May 16, 2016 at 1:35:21 PM EDT
To: "System Administrators, All"
Subject: System Advisory - Google's appspot.com is now accessible on the House Network

Based on Google’s corrective actions of removing suspicious applications from appspot.comInfoSec has unblocked access to appspot.com on the House Network.

If you have any questions, please contact the CAO Technology Service Desk at 5-6002 or 1-800-HIR-USER.

Our users in the House of Representatives were blocked from checking into Capitol Bells and Cloakroom through the wifi network they are logged onto all day at work. Because it was blocked, the app would appear to be broken when users tried using it to track votes, review legislative proceedings, share news, or, yes, goof around with one another. As a result we had to cancel two important policy Q&A's last week: the first with Emily Martin of the National Women's Law Center on fairness and justice for women in the workplace; the second with Julie Samuels of Engine Advocacy and Tech:NYC on catalyzing innovation through tech and startup policy reforms. 

The House of Representatives faces cyber attacks more than most institutions, and while their cyber security team must be able to use their discretion accordingly to address extant threats, they should do so consistently and openly when possible. On April 30th, HIR announced that they had discovered a ransomware attack originating from Yahoo Mail (which is still blocked), and that they were moving to block Yahoo Mail until the threat could be resolved. Less than a week later they blocked our apps without any notification. We only discovered the ban when our users started reporting widespread connection issues, and we went to Capitol Hill to check the network onsite.

This was an 11-month old threat, so why wasn't there time to warn us before the block was implemented? And why wasn't any explanation sent to the employees who use the House network to access AppSpot apps like Cloakroom? Keep working to keep the House network secure, but please let us know what's going on if you're going to block us.