Cybersecurity News in Review

Robert DuPree
February 19, 2021 • 7 min read

This week’s cybersecurity news in review includes a number of articles on the continued fallout from the SolarWinds breach, FBI warnings following a cyber attack against a Florida water treatment plan, and suggestions at a congressional hearing for giving CISA greater responsibilities in the fight against hackers.  There is also coverage of the latest developments regarding DoD’s CMMC cybersecurity certification program, including its use by GSA, how the Pentagon’s acting CIO isn’t holding back on taking action regarding pressing issues, favorable IG reports on DoD’s cybersecurity for critical weapons systems and its IT services purchases during the pandemic, moves by Space Force to grow its cadres of cyber pros, warnings about the cybersecurity of the Pentagon’s DEOS and JRSS initiatives, and the Navy’s quest for industry ideas on cyber warfare R&D. Finally, there are stories about the White House’s concerns regarding a Senate-confirmed cyber position now required by law, the growing diversity of ransomware attack vectors and targets, and a report on how greater threat ransom threat information sharing may be preventing damage to the financial sector.

SolarWinds, pandemic alter cybersecurity spending patterns

Silicon Angle cites cybersecurity experts as saying cyber spending has been impacted by the SolarWinds hack and COVID-19 pandemic, as organizations seek to deal with teleworking vulnerabilities and supply chain issues.  Read more…

White House cyber lead says full SolarWinds assessment will take time, number of impacted orgs will grow

CyberScoop quotes a key White House official as warning it will take a long time to determine the full damage of the SolarWinds breach, which she says to date has compromised nine federal agencies and approximately 100 private sector entities, and those numbers will likely continue to grow.  Read more…

Biden Administration says it will take months to fully evaluate SolarWinds impact, plans executive order in response

According to Nextgov, Anne Neuberger, the White House’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies, who warns it will take several months for the Biden Administration to full determine the impact of the SolarWinds hack, says the Biden Administration is working on an executive order to focus the federal response to the attack.  Read more…

CISA seeks ways to deter future hacks through supply chains

FCW quotes the acting director of CISA as acknowledging that the Einstein cybersecurity program, which is focused on monitoring the perimeter, could not stop the SolarWinds hack because that was a supply chain attack from inside  of the network.  He also indicated CISA is looking to monitor activities internally for “anomalous activities,” and that work needs to be done on software assurance. Read more…

FBI issues security warning in aftermath of Florida water system cyber attack

ZDNet says the FBI has sent out a Private Industry Notification, warning of three security issues that have been identified in the recent cyber attack against a Florida water treatment facility.  Read more…

House committee hears suggestions for beefed up  CISA role in managing federal infosec and threat sharing

Nextgov reports that expert witnesses at a recent House hearing told panel members that CISA should play a more hands-on role managing the federal government’s information security, and that government contracts also need to change in order to facilitate cross-agency cyber threat information sharing. Read more…

GSA will make CMMC requirements order-level

FedScoop is reporting that plans to utilize language from DoD’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) as part of future GSA contracts will not impose cybersecurity requirements at the contract level, but rather at the level of the specific order in question in order to ensure agencies’ mission requirements are met. Read more… 

Industry input leading to modifications of CMMC top tier

FedScoop reports DoD officials are confirming changes will be made to the highest level of the five-tier Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) acquisition rule following feedback from defense contractors.  Read more…

CMMC reciprocity with FedRAMP is in the works

FCW cites a key official with DoD’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) effort as saying they are working with GSA to align the requirements, methodologies, and levels of the CMMC and FedRAMP programs, providing the reciprocity critics have said is needed. Read more

Defense Dept acting CIO moving ahead on cyber, cloud, software development issues

According to CRISRNet, the acting Pentagon chief information officer is not waiting for a permanent CIO to be appointed and confirmed, and is proceeding to deal with cybersecurity matters in the aftermath of the SolarWinds breach, as well as possible action vis-à-vis the JEDI cloud contract and improving software development.  Read more…

IG report finds DoD is maintaining cybersecurity best practices for critical weapons systems

FedScoop says a new Inspector General report has found that the Department of Defense has mostly followed cybersecurity best practices for keeping critical weapons systems secure.  Read more…

IG: Pentagon IT services purchases during pandemic were at reasonable prices, reduced cyber risks

Nextgov looks at a DoD inspector general report that found the Pentagon’s IT services purchases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were done “at reasonable prices and at a reduced risk of cybersecurity vulnerabilities.” Read more…

Space Force begins pulling Cyber Guardians from other services

According to FedScoop, in early February the Space Force began receiving its first cybersecurity personnel from other military services, mostly from the Department of Air Force, which oversees the Space Force. Read more…

DoD testing office issues cyber warnings on DEOS, JRSS

The Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) has issued a report on the serious cybersecurity concerns it has vis-à-vis using commercial cloud offerings, including the massive DEOS contract. FCW says the report made six recommendations, called for updating DEOS’ testing and evaluation master plan for classified and unclassified networks, and also expressed security concerns regarding the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) initiative. Read more…

Navy asks industry for ideas on cyber warfare R&D gaps

C4ISRNet reports the Naval Air Systems Command Cyber Warfare Detachment is seeking industry R&D white papers on resilient cyber warfare capabilities to fill gaps in specific areas of interest.  Read more…

White House looking to circumvent congressional desire for cyber policy oversight

The Washington Post reports the Biden White House is concerned about a new congressional mandate to require Senate-confirmed (and congressionally accountable) national cyber director as the president’s lead advisor on cyber policy and strategy.  Administration officials are conducting two-month review of how the position  should be structured, and would prefer making the primary cyber advisory person an official within the National Security Council, who would not need Senate confirmation and would not be subject to congressional oversight. Read more…

Study shows growing diversity of ransomware attack vectors

Dark Reading cites a new study that shows ransomware attacks are now targeting software applications, open source tools, and Web and application frameworks as attackers.  Attackers are reportedly moving “up the stack” to target software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and remote technology, and such ransomware attacks are now taking over the application layer.  Read more…

Report: Ransom DDoS attacks largely thwarted through swift information sharing

Dark Reading cites a report by the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) that over 100 financial services firms worldwide were targeted last year by ransom distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks by the same threat actor, but the impact was largely mitigated by the willingness of members to share information about the unfolding threat, as it happened, via the FS-ISAC Threat Intelligence Exchange. Read more…

Robert DuPree
Manager of Government Affairs
Robert DuPree is the manager of government affairs at Telos Corporation. Follow him on Twitter: @RFDuPree
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