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The News And Times: 9:30 AM 12/15/2020 – “The scale of the operation is still unknown but “is probably going to be one of the most consequential cyberattacks in US history … That’s the view from inside government …” | News – December 2020 – Selected Art

9:30 AM 12/15/2020

“The scale of the operation is still unknown but “is probably going to be one of the most consequential cyberattacks in US history … That’s the view from inside government …”

Early Edition: December 15, 2020 

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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.


The scope of the Russian hack on US federal agencies has broadened  with the State Department, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and parts of the Pentagon now also reported as having been compromised, following yesterday’s news that the Treasury and Commerce Departments had been the target of the largescale Russian espionage operation. Hackers were reported to have infiltrated federal systems via a widely used network-management software, SolarWinds, which reported yesterday that around 18,000 private and government customers may have been affected. SolarWinds’ customers span some 230,000 and include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State Department, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Security Agency (NSA), other parts of the Pentagon, and many utility companies. David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is also among those affected by the hack. Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg report for the Washington Post.

The scale of the operation is still unknown but “is probably going to be one of the most consequential cyberattacks in US history … That’s the view from inside government  that we’re dealing with something of a scale that I don’t think we’ve had to deal with before,” one U.S. official said. The hack is expected to intensify attention on the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which since mid-November has been without a permanent leader following President Trump’s firing of CISA director Chris Krebs, and which CNN reported to have also been compromised by the attack. The National Security Council (NSC) yesterday held its second emergency meeting of its Cyber Response Group to discuss the matter and set a plan for assessing the damage, and is said to be assembling a subsidiary body, the Unified Coordination Group, to lead a collaborative approach by affected agencies. Reports indicate email accounts could have been breached from as far back as June. Eric Geller reports for POLITICO.

Lawmakers have called for action to understand the full scope of the cyberattack. The breach is “serious and disturbing … Congress must understand the scope of what happened and what resources Federal agencies will need to secure their networks,” House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told The Hill. “While many details are still unknown, the attack emphasizes the importance of strong cybersecurity protections and rapid incident responses across all federal agencies,” Senate Commerce Committee Chair Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Republican Sens. John Thune (SD) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) said in a joint statement. Thompson has called for CISA to brief his committee, with Rep. John Katko (R-NY), the panel’s new ranking member, calling for a “coordinated and cohesive national strategy” to fight these types of attacks. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) described the attack as “devastating,” and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a statement that “we should make clear that there will be consequences.” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.


The Electoral College yesterday affirmed President-elect Joe Biden as victorious in the US election, receiving 308 votes, topping the 270 he needed. Elise Viebeck, Dan Simmons, Amy Worden and Omar Sofradzija report for the Washington Post.

Biden unleashes a verbal attack on President Trump following the Electoral College’s affirmation, describing Trump’s attacks on the election and election officials as “simply unconscionable” and his attempts to overturn the results as an “abuse of power.” Rebecca Shabad, Dareh Gregorian and Dartunorro Clark report for NBC News.

Multiple senior Republican senators yesterday acknowledged Biden’s win following the College’s affirmation, rejecting the prospect of Congress vetoing the decision on Jan. 6. Those senators who publicly recognized Biden include: John Thune (R-SD), the No. 2 Senate Republican; Trump loyalist Lindsey Graham (SC); Rob Portman (OH); Roy Blunt (MI), the Senate’s No. 4 Republican; and Shelley Moore Capito (WV). Patricia Zengerle and Tim Reid report for Reuters.

Four takeaways from Biden’s Electoral College victory are provided by Shane goldmacher and Adam Nagourney for the New York Times.

Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is expected to visit the State Department Thursday, where he will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the first time since Biden’s victory, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The meeting is scheduled for 15 minutes. Kylie Atwood reports for CNN.

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday recognized Biden’s win for the first time. “In his message Vladimir Putin wished the president-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today,” the Kremlin said in a statement. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports for the Washington Post.