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Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services, which has been at the forefront of the Trump administration's coronavirus response, was hit with a cyberattack over the weekend, Bloomberg News first reported and Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The attack comes in the midst of the Trump administration's efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 4,000 people in the U.S.

What they're saying: “We are aware of a cyber incident related to the Health and Human Services computer networks and the federal government is investigating this incident thoroughly," White House National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot told Axios. 

  • "HHS and federal government cybersecurity professionals are continuously monitoring and taking appropriate actions to secure our federal networks. HHS and federal networks are functioning normally at this time.”
  • HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said: "On Sunday, we became aware of a significant increase in activity on HHS cyber infrastructure and are fully operational as we actively investigate the matter. Early on while preparing and responding to COVID-19, HHS put extra protections in place. We are coordinating with federal law enforcement."
  • It was not immediately clear who was behind the incident.

Meanwhile on Sunday, false text messages began circulating disinformation that the Trump administration was preparing for a national quarantine, something the NSC declared as "FAKE," late Sunday night.

  • It is not clear whether the messages were tied to the cyberattack, but the administration is investigating whether the two are related, according to a Trump administration official.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from HHS.

Go deeper

6 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.

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