By Tom Still

MADISON, Wis. – Some updates on past missives:

  • Several columns of late have highlighted cybersecurity challenges to businesses and national defense. A recent development will put the UW-Madison closer to the search for solutions.

Led by the new School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences, the university has been selected to join the U.S. Cyber Command’s Academic Engagement Network. The network consists of 70 universities, four military service academies, four military war and staff colleges and other educational institutions spread over 34 states and the District of Columbia.

The goal of the CYBERCOM network is to boost the number of qualified cyber professionals who can help advance critical national information networks, thus strengthening the nation’s ability to withstand and respond to cyberattacks.

It’s a timely initiative, given the rise in cyberthreats around the world, but the effort didn’t materialize overnight.

The Wisconsin Security Research Consortium was launched in the mid-2000s with help from the UW-Madison, the UW System and the Wisconsin Technology Council to prepare what was already a predicted onslaught of cyberattacks. Support waned under then-Chancellor Biddy Martin but was reborn in recent years, in part because CDIS was created with the backing of Chancellor Rebecca Blank and the university hired software entrepreneur Tom Erickson as its first director.

The next round of applications for the CYBERCOM network opens this summer. It should draw interest from other Wisconsin schools with cybersecurity expertise.

  • I wrote last year about the Epic Games (no relation to Verona’s Epic) anti-trust suit against Apple, which claimed Apple runs its App Store as an illegal monopoly. That is because Apple only allows in-app purchases on iPhones to be processed by Apple’s own payment system on its more than 1 billion iPhones around the world – typically adding a 30% commission on every purchase.

Apple countered the fee is necessary to safeguard the privacy and safety of all apps across all Apple devices and platforms and doesn’t shut out competitors. It basically prevailed in court, but now an appeal request is gathering support from a formidable list of players.

Attorneys general in 35 states, from ultra-red Utah to blue bastions such as New York, have filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of Epic Games. So have 52 law professors and economists in two separate briefs, as well as Microsoft and some consumer organizations.

Among the law professors who joined in one of the briefs is UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Peter Carstensen, a former U.S Justice Department anti-trust attorney who is a senior fellow of the American Antitrust Institute. Interviewed this week, Carstensen said he thinks Apple “has a real history” of market-bending behavior that can shut out young, innovative companies that can’t afford to pay the so-called Apple tax.

The Wisconsin Justice Department is not listed among the 35 states on the amicus brief at this point.

  • A January column on the Epic Health Research Network focused on the results of a nationwide study that used digital health records to pinpoint “hotspots” where children are a greater risk of being exposed to high levels of lead. The Epic study helped trigger a community-wide response in Cleveland, Ohio, where 12 of the top 30 lead zones were located.

In response to the column, a spokeswoman for Epic’s top competitor – Cerner – wrote to note the Kansas City-based company is doing much the same through its Cerner Learning Health Network, a nationwide network of 81 health systems that contribute de-identified data to help power clinical research and trials.

She said use of the Cerner data is “free for (Cerner) members to use for their research,” which is true. However, free use doesn’t necessarily extend beyond those members and there are reports that Oracle hopes to help pay for its proposed $28 billion acquisition of Cerner by monetizing such data over time.

  • Another recent column explained why the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest can help young businesses with feedback, advice and contacts. There were scores of entries by the Jan. 31 deadline.

Roughly two-thirds of all entries fell into the Business Services and Information Technology categories, with the other third in entering in either Advanced Manufacturing or Life Sciences. Nearly 30% of the entrants are women. Nearly half of Wisconsin’s counties are represented by at least one entry. Nearly 30% of entrants identified themselves as something other than white. About 7% of the entrants are military veterans. Now comes the fun part: Seeing how business plan abstracts submitted by entrants stack up under review by the contests’ volunteer judges.

Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He can be reached at