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U.S. Treasury Department behind security fence. Photo: Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an "emergency directive" late Sunday requiring all federal civilian agencies to review their networks and immediately disconnect SolarWinds Orion software products, following a suspected Russian hack on the Treasury and Commerce Department.

Why it matters: It's only the fifth time since 2015 that the Department of Homeland Security has issued such a directive, per AP, underscoring the concerns officials have about an operation that one cybersecurity expert warned could turn out to be "one of the most impactful espionage campaigns on record."

The big picture: News of the hack came less than week after cybersecurity company FireEye revealed that nation-state hackers had penetrated its network and stolen its hacking its tools.

  • The Washington Post reported that the Russian hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and believed to have ties to Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), is behind the campaign.
  • SolarWinds, the company whose software is believed to have been compromised, says it has 300,000 customers worldwide, including "all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, the State Department, NASA, the National Security Agency, the Department of Justice and the White House," per AP.

What they're saying: "Based on our analysis, we have now identified multiple organizations where we see indications of compromise dating back to the Spring of 2020, and we are in the process of notifying those organizations," FireEye wrote in a blog post.

  • "Our analysis indicates that these compromises are not self-propagating; each of the attacks require meticulous planning and manual interaction.

Worth noting: President Trump fired the previous director of CISA, Christopher Krebs, last month after Krebs undermined him by calling the U.S. election "the most secure in American history."

Go deeper

Jan 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House panels reviewing what intel agencies knew before deadly Capitol siege

A man calls on people to raid the building as Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images.

The House Intelligence, Oversight, Judiciary and Homeland Security committees have opened a review of the events and intelligence surrounding the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol and other threats to the peaceful transfer of power, the panels said in a letter to federal intelligence agencies Saturday.

Why it matters: Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have faced sharp criticism for not being better prepared for the Capitol riot, despite reports that far-right Trump supporters discussed the idea of a violent protest on social media and chat platforms in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 event.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

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