FILE PHOTO: SolarWinds Corp banner hangs at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the IPO day of the company in New York, U.S., October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo


Lawmakers are debating whether a cyberattack on the federal government attributed to Russia constitutes an act of war. But the upcoming presidential transition and the no clear cyber warfare strategy complicates the question. 

Numerous government agencies were impacted, including the Commerce Department, Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. Microsoft stated in a blog post that it identified victims of the cyberattack in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Spain, the U.K., Israel and the U.A.E. Affected sectors included software firms, IT services, equipment providers, government agencies and defense and national security contractors.

Hackers known by the nicknames APT29 or Cozy Bear are part of Russia’s foreign intelligence service and are to blame for the breach, according to anonymous sources. President Donald Trump has remained silent regarding the cyber attack. The Russian Embassy in Washington called the accusations “unfounded attempts” to place blame.

Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., members of the Senate Finance Committee, asked the Internal Revenue Service to brief them about whether taxpayer information was stolen. Briefings to members of Congress have not outlined what information was stolen. 

The attack began in at least March 2020 and is still ongoing, according to a report published by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency. The agency first learned of the breach on Dec. 13 and directed government agencies to disconnect SolarWinds’ Orion products from their network to mitigate the security breach’s spread. The incident is being jointly investigated by the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, explained in a blog post that hackers broke into SolarWinds‘ network, planted a backdoor in its Orion software and then pushed it to customers inside a compromised software update. SolarWinds said 18,000 customers downloaded the update.


This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Biden vows to make cybersecurity ‘imperative’ following massive hack – The Hill – 12/17/2020
“I want to be clear: My administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government — and we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office,” Biden said in a statement. “We will elevate cybersecurity as an imperative across the government, further strengthen partnerships with the private sector, and expand our investment in the infrastructure and people we need to defend against malicious cyberattacks.”

Microsoft unleashes ‘Death Star’ on SolarWinds hackers in extraordinary response to breach – GeekWire – 12/16/2020
Through four steps over four days, Microsoft flexed the muscle of its legal team and its control of the Windows operating system to nearly obliterate the actions of some of the most sophisticated offensive hackers out there. In this case, the adversary is believed to be APT29, aka Cozy Bear, the group many believe to be associated with Russian intelligence, and best known for carrying out the 2016 hack against the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

SolarWinds hack that breached gov networks pose a “grave risk” to the nation – Ars Technica – 12/17/2020
Thursday’s CISA alert provided an unusually bleak assessment of the hack, the threat it poses to government agencies at the national, state, and local levels, and the skill, persistence, and time that will be required to expel the attackers from networks they had penetrated for months undetected.

House committees launch investigations into hack of federal government networks – The Washington Times – 12/17/2020
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee, announced the investigation in a letter written with their fellow Democrats to the heads of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence.

Feds Had Years of Warnings About Potential Nuclear Hack – The Daily Beast – 12/17/2020
Officials have raised concerns for years about the potential that networks associated with the Department of Energy were susceptible to cyber breaches from foreign adversaries, according to four current and former officials. Now such a breach has taken place.

The U.S. Government Spent Billions Failing To Defend Its Own Agencies From Cyberattacks – Reason – 12/18/2020
Regardless of who’s responsible, this hack has exposed some embarrassing security vulnerabilities for both SolarWinds, and particularly the U.S. government. […] One option policy makers should consider is just abolishing the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Homeland Security, and other compromised agencies we can make do without. An agency can’t be hacked if it doesn’t exist.


This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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