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Illustration: Axios Visuals

The Department of Homeland Security has identified 16 critical parts of our infrastructure that are at risk for a cyber attack — energy, financial services, transportation, water, and defense, to name a few.

But, but, but: Adam Meyers, vice president of Intelligence for cyber security company CrowdStrike, told Axios that the focus on critical infrastructure is misplaced; he argues there are smaller hacks occurring every day "that are laying the groundwork" for even bigger attacks in the future.

Why it matters: When it comes to cyber-security vulnerabilities, the U.S. has "unlimited risk, limited resources, and a thinking enemy," according to the Director of George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, Frank Cilluffo.

Recent attacks on everyday items:

  • The Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, was the biggest U.S. hospital hack in 2017, per CBS News. The computer system of the level one trauma center was down for six weeks. The head of the cyber security firm that got the hospital back online told CBS this hints at other major concerns: "Imagine that physicians, clinical staff, nurses came in one day and...all of the data in the EMR [electronic medical records] was actually just wrong and you didn't know which data was wrong."
  • 500,000 pacemakers were recalled in August by the FDA due to fears of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. While there were no reports of hacks, the FDA recognized the weak-spot in pacemakers that could allow hackers to "deliberately run the battery flat," or alter its pacing, the Guardian reports.
  • The Equifax security breach earlier this year compromised the personal data of over 140 million people, exposing extremely sensitive information for everyday Americans.
  • More than 30 schools in a Montana school district were targeted in a cyber hack in October, CNN reports. Hackers demanded money, or threatened to release private records on students and staff. The Department of Education warned parents and teachers that these extortion attempts have "included threats of violence, shaming, or bullying the children unless payment is received."
  • North Korea, Russia, or China aren't as likely to go for a massive critical infrastructure attack just yet, because "the U.S. has articulated there will be significant consequences," according to Will Carter, deputy director at the Technology Policy Program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. So instead, they're aiming to gather data on Americans with the goal of manipulating people into stealing intellectual property, spying for them, and furthering their "espionage goals."

One last thing: A Pew Research survey shows that awareness of cyber vulnerabilities has grown among Americans. 70% of Americans expect a major cyberattack on infrastructure in the next five years, and 62% believe the government can handle it.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump-backed Perdue says he wouldn’t have certified Georgia 2020 results

Perdue at a December 2020 campaign event in Columbus, Ga. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue wouldn’t have signed the certification of the state’s 2020 election results if he had been governor at the time, the former Senate Republican told Axios.

  • “Not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. They had plenty of time to investigate this. And I wouldn’t have signed it until those things had been investigated and that’s all we were asking for," he said.

Why it matters: There has been no evidence widespread fraud took place in Georgia's elections last year and the November results were counted three times, once by hand.

Beijing Olympics: These countries have announced diplomatic boycotts

Photo: Zhang Qiang/VCG via Getty Images

Several countries, including Canada and Australia, have announced they will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest human rights abuses committed by China's government.

Driving the news: Leaders have faced pressure from human rights groups and others to boycott the Games, pointing to the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang region and other abuses.

Biden directs federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Dec. 8.

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that requires the federal government achieve multiple goals related to reducing its carbon emissions, including achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: Meeting the objectives of the order would require a massive investment by the federal government to buy electric vehicles, upgrade buildings and change how it procures electricity.

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