The Cybersecurity 202: Senate panel delves into SolarWinds hack

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Lawmakers want to know just what is being done within the federal government to prevent the likelihood of another such attack.

Three witnesses — the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA); the acting assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division’ and the chief information security officer from the Office of Management and Budget, will field questions from the panel. 

Those questions are likely to focus on specific changes the government is implementing to better guarantee the security of contractors, as well as the progress of internal audits in cases where agencies were compromised; and which entities are responsible for coordinating a government-wide response.

The Biden administration has promised a more aggressive stance against foreign hackers, especially those backed by Russian government entities. Last month, the administration signaled it was planning to sanction Moscow for the SolarWinds hack, alongside the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which the United States has also blamed on the Kremlin. While the administration has announced sanctions against Russia for Navalny’s poisoning, sanctions for the SolarWinds attack have yet to materialize.

Since the revelation of the SolarWinds hack late last year, tech giant Microsoft has admitted that its email systems — which are also used by U.S. government agencies — were subject to their own hacking, likely by China. The disclosure of that hack has raised new questions about how the Biden administration will implement a policy of cyber deterrence against a range of adversaries and threats — many of them state-sponsored — with varying motivations.

For example, earlier this week, two of the agencies whose representatives will face senators on Thursday released a declassified report showing while Russia and Iran were among the countries trying to influence the outcome of the 2020 election, China was not. 

The report — which determined that Vladimir Putin directed the Kremlin to carry out influence operations against President Biden and Democrats during the 2020 election — also repudiated many of the conspiracy theories former…

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