The Big Hack … and Other News

We are all so wrapped up in the election, in Donald Trump’s utterly ridiculous behaviour, his inane ramblings and threats, the surging number of daily new cases and deaths from the pandemic, and the upcoming runoff elections in Georgia, that few seem to be paying attention to what would ordinarily be the biggest story of the day:  The Big Hack.

Thus far, hackers working for a Russian intelligence agency have breached the following:

  • Department of Energy (including Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of State
  • National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • Commerce Department’s telecommunications policy agency

Officials have spent days scouring federal networks for more information about the breaches but are still unsure of what the hackers took.  Federal agencies were not the only victims, as at least three states were also breached.  The true scale of the breach is still unknown but looks to have extended beyond the US government. On Thursday, Reuters reported that Microsoft was also hacked as part of the suspected Russian campaign.

The hack began as early as March, when malicious code was snuck into updates to Orion, a network safety tool used extensively by government agencies.  So far, the hackers are known to have at least monitored email or other data within the US departments of defense, state, treasury, homeland security and commerce.

Now, I don’t pretend to understand the mechanics here, but I know that anytime such agencies as Homeland Security, the Nuclear Security Administration, and Department of Energy are compromised, there is a very real threat to our nation, to our safety, to our very lives.  This is too important to ignore … yes, folks, it’s even more important than Trump’s babbling rants.

There are far more questions than answers:

  • What are they seeking?
  • What have they already obtained?
  • Why?
  • How?
  • Why now?

The timing … I’m not given to conspiracy theories, and frankly don’t have a theory about it, but I have to be suspicious of the timing.  We are very vulnerable right now in many ways, given that we essentially have no coherent leadership, and given that we are largely distracted by the surging pandemic and the post-election chaos.  There is some reason for these hackings, and some reason for the timing … but what?  Former homeland security advisor Tom Bossert chillingly predicts …

“It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy.”

The FBI and other agencies have scheduled briefings for members of Congress today, and we may learn more after that, though I’m not holding my breath.  Not surprisingly, Trump has been too busy making threats and accusations to be bothered commenting on the situation.  This must not turn into a political game … our members of Congress must all pull together to give the agencies involved the tools they need to figure out the what, why, when, where and how of the breaches, and to minimize the damage.  My hope is that once Joe Biden takes office in 33 days, our security will once again be considered a top priority.

For now, however, it is important that we keep our eye on this ball.  People refusing to wear masks because they say it violates their civil rights, a lame duck president acting like a toddler, political arguments and name-calling should fade into the background until we understand just what the threat here is and how dangerous it is.


In other news …

  • In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear issued an order requiring all K-12 institutions to temporarily cease in-person classes because of rising coronavirus cases. A religious school, Danville Christian Academy, joined by Kentucky’s attorney general, said it should not be subject to the order, and they took their case to the Supreme Court.  The Court, in an unsigned order noted that schools are about to begin their holiday breaks, and Governor Beshear’s mandate expires before schools reopen Jan. 4. If Beshear reissues the restriction, the court said, the plaintiffs could return to court.  My thoughts?  A school is a school is a school.  Why should a religious school be exempt from a mandate that is intended to protect teachers, students, and their families.  Good grief, people … do we have to tie you to a tree to make you understand that these mandates are for your own protection?

  • This morning at 8:00 a.m., Mike Pence and his wife Karen are scheduled to receive the coronavirus vaccine … live on television.  Ho hum.  First of all, who really wants to see somebody’s bare arm have a 4-foot long needle plunged into it?  Seriously?  Secondly, to what purpose?  Allegedly, it is to assure the people that the vaccine is perfectly safe, so that more people will be willing to take it.  But … since 90% of us will not even be able to receive it until next autumn, it really doesn’t matter, does it? And anyway, the after-effects that worry me most, given the haste with which the vaccine was developed, may well be long-range, such as people developing cancer 3-4 years from now.  And what if Mike or Karen have an anaphylactic reaction like the nurse up in Alaska … on television?  Then how assured are we going to feel?  Nice try, Mikey, but keep your arms to yourself and stop the voyeurism, please.

14 thoughts on “The Big Hack … and Other News

  1. Pingback: The Big Hack — Update | Filosofa's Word

  2. Something seems fishy here (my apologies to all fish everywhere). If these hacks started in March, and are still going on, why are we only hearing publicly about them now? Was Trump covering them up? Or was Trump providing Vlad with the passwords? I would not put it past him.
    Or is this false news being disseminated to scare us into believing only Trump (who knows how?) can prevent this raid, so he has to stay president. Laugh out loud.
    Definitely something fishy here, but what, and at whose orders?
    As for stupid school administrators, close all schools immediately, and give students a long vacation. So they miss a year or so of learning, that’s way better than dying, or having coronavirus attack their bodies in ways we won’t know for years. What the hell is wrong with people? Protect the lives of the young, or they may never grow up to be wage-slaves.

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  3. Jill, the scary part of the hack is the low key professionalism. They quietly went about garnering information, I am sure seeking both intellectual capital and komprament on key people to coerce later. Keith

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    • Indeed, the fact that they had been about it since March and it was only discovered is very frightening! There is speculation that they may also have hacked the IRS and gotten access to people’s personal information. Somehow, though, that doesn’t worry me as much as the hacking into DOE records … sigh.

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  4. It’s a sad state of affairs when a government is so inept and disinterested in its national security. Maybe Trump is just doing Putin’s bidding and throwing out a smokescreen to cover it all up?

    With the loss of European collaboration we will incur post-Brexit I would imagine that we are equally vulnerable – if we haven’t already been hacked. Most of our government are too thick to notice.

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    • Indeed it is, Clive. The people of this nation, our best interests and security have been pushed into the background amid the power struggles in Washington. I think there is likely a connection between the election and the hacking, but I’m in the dark about what was trying to be accomplished and whether it was accomplished or not, for information is sketchy. I just have an uneasy feeling …

      Perhaps you are equally vulnerable … I can’t say, for I’m not familiar with your systems … but I do think this was targeted toward the U.S., so hopefully you guys dodged the bullet this time. Hopefully this will be a lesson to ALL nations to tighten their cyber-security.

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  5. I suppose no country can be sure it’s cybersecurity is effective when the Russians are willing to pay experts to hack systems like this. Hopefully these are fishing expeditions that don’t net them ant vital information. I hope the US is able to repel this and fix the breaches. I hope my lot is on the ball and checking our systems too.
    Cwtch.

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    • True … I suppose it’s a matter of where the Russians think there is an advantage to be had. This latest hack seems to be confined to the U.S., from what I’ve read, but we aren’t being told much, so who knows? I have questions, though … given that Putin had every reason to want to keep his puppet in office …
      Cwtch

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