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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

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The coronavirus variants: What you need to know

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New variants of the coronavirus circulating globally appear to increase transmission and are being closely monitored by scientists.

Driving the news: The highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 originally detected in the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March if no measures are taken to control the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

11 mins ago - World

Abbas announces first Palestinian elections in 15 years

Abbas is 85 and in the 15th year of a 4-year term. Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a decree on Friday announcing the dates for parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: This is the first time in 15 years that such a decree has been published. The last presidential elections took place in 2005, with Abbas winning, and the last parliamentary elections took place in 2006, with Hamas winning.

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

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