WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is working on an executive order aimed at trying to prevent digital breaches like the massive SolarWinds hack, which affected government and private networks, a senior official said Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Biden’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, Anne Neuberger, acknowledged the government realizes it does not have “years” to address the problem. “The fix and the cleanup work is underway already,” she said.
The breach, which affected thousands of public and private sector individuals and entities, was discovered in December when the private cybersecurity company FireEye uncovered a malicious software update for the popular IT monitoring tool SolarWinds that allowed Russian hackers to infiltrate sensitive corporate and government networks undetected for months, likely accessing large amounts of private data.
Newberger appeared at a daily White House press briefing with Jane Sasaki, the daily's press secretary, to provide an update on the administration's investigation into the recent massive digital breach that is credited to Russia and how it affects the wider influence of public and private entities.
She said the administration had "addressed the differences we found in the review of the incident" as well as working closely with allies around the world from Russian cybersecurity and espionage, she said.
"Solarwinds violations are more than just a case of espionage," Neuberger said, referring to the scope and timing of the violations.
In a press briefing, Neuberger said the government planned to address the agreement and launch a series of plans to prevent similar activity in the future, including "finding and expelling the enemy." Perhaps those efforts are complicated by Russian hackers trying to block their trail rather than determining which government agencies or private companies were using specific solarwinds products as the attackers may have found additional doors in other parts. Network after receiving an initial step.
Neuberger said the National Security Council is coordinating responses with relevant federal agencies, private sector companies with access to technology and data that "need to understand the criteria and scope of the agreement", and Capitol Hill partners, where Neuberger said d will meet next week.
The White House expects the investigation to take "months."
Neuberger could not immediately estimate the monetary cost of the intruders but said the government should focus on investing in securing federal networks as many government agencies keep outdated hardware and software for lack of updates.
Cybersecurity experts have debated in recent weeks how to react to this breach, confirming that criminals plan to do more than use their access to the system for espionage purposes - the activities of the United States and most other nations. The Biden administration's definition of attack has a profound effect on how it ultimately chooses to respond to activity.
Newberger said the government knows espionage is certainly a "target" given that "there are many [agencies] targeted" with a foreign government with high foreign intelligence interest. "
However, he told reporters that the White House did not rule out the possibility of sophisticated artists deleting data or carrying out other destructive attacks.
"It's worrying to be disruptive," Neuberger said. "We have not ruled out the possible additional activity, but we are focused on taking this step-by-step carefully."
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