After members of Congress were criticized as “disorganized” by the U.S. response to a massive violation of government departments and private corporations uncovered late last year, the White House announced Wednesday that a senior national security official has been leading Biden’s first day administration.
Ann Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emergency technology, has been tasked with removing the hack, identifying problems with the federal government’s response and launching a study aimed at preventing such incidents, the White House said.
Intelligence and law enforcement officials are still trying to unite the cyber espionage campaign accused of Russia, which has shaken the US government and private sector. The hack associated with tainted software from the American company SolarWinds, was publicly disclosed in December, but is thought to have started more than a year earlier.
The intruders have been stealing secretly for months, carefully selecting targets from thousands of customers infected with malicious code, which they activated after inserting it into a network management software update first pushed out last March by Texas-based SolarWinds. The company produces popular software that monitors the computer networks of businesses and governments.
So far, the list of agencies known to be affected includes the ministries of finance, trade and justice, along with several private companies, including cybersecurity companies. The Russian government has denied any role in the hack.
In a letter released Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders blew up Biden the administration for what they said was a grim reaction to SolarWinds hacking.
“The briefings we received convey a disjointed and disorganized response to the opposition,” said Senator Mark Warner, D-Va. And Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Warner, the committee’s new Democratic chairman, and Rubio, the Republican vice president, called on the Biden administration to “name and empower a clear leader” who has the authority to “coordinate the response, prioritize and direct resources to where they are needed. “
The White House response Wednesday highlighted Neuberger’s role after Biden’s inauguration. The reply to the letter was reported for the first time from The New York Times.
“During the first weeks of the Biden administration, DNSA Neuberger held a series of consultations with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress on our approach to SolarWinds in particular and our cybersecurity strategy in general,” said Emily Horn, spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on these issues.”
A joint statement by Warner and Rubio acknowledged the White House’s confidence and suggested that Neuberger’s role was unknown.
“The federal government’s response to the SolarWinds breach has lacked the leadership and coordination justified by a significant cyber event, so the news is welcome that the Biden administration has chosen Ann Neuberger to lead the response,” the statement said.
Also Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing with cybersecurity experts to discuss SolarWinds hacking and other issues.
“In the not-so-distant past … most of us had never heard of SolarWinds, but now it dominates cybersecurity talks,” said Benny Thompson, a spokeswoman for the committee.
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