Dozens of U.S companies and government agencies have been, and potentially continue to be, the subjects of a serious cybersecurity assault. In December 2020, it was discovered that a so-called “supply chain attack” against SolarWinds, a company that specializes in network tools, gave hackers access to potentially thousands of targets. Around 18,000 clients are thought to have received the malicious code. The intelligence community suspects that the breach had gone undetected for over eight months, and are just beginning to discover how massive the breach is. Hackers were able to compromise Microsoft, Google, and at least 100 other private companies, as well as at least nine U.S. federal government entities, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons. U.S. national security authorities believe the hack was of Russian origin.
Understanding how hackers were able to compromise so many U.S. customers and government agencies is of particular interest to U.S. cybersecurity experts. President Biden will soon take executive action in response to the alleged Russian hack, according to a White House briefing last week. The intelligence community’s review of the SolarWinds breach stated that the executive action will address “gaps” in federal government cybersecurity identified in the review.
Cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent, not only in the U.S., but internationally. For instance, France uncovered a Russian-based cyber-attack on two hospitals – and nearly a third – in one week. In the same week, the U.S. Justice Department accused three North Korean military intelligence officials of a campaign of cyber-attacks designed to steal $1.3bn in crypto and traditional currencies from banks and other victims. Many nations, including the U.S. and the U.K., also employ cyber-attack strategies as a tool of their espionage and military operations.
This week’s Current Event resources allow you to explore and promote meaningful discussion with your students about cybersecurity threats and attacks, and their implications for our government and all citizens.
- What is a cyber-attack and how does it affect individuals, businesses, and governments?
- Why are cyber threats and attacks happening with increasing frequency?
- What is cybersecurity and how can it protect governments and businesses from such attacks?
- What was the SolarWinds breach and why has it been called the “Biggest Hack of 2020″?
- How is cybersecurity becoming a more and more important facet of national security?
- How have cyber-attacks been used in countries’ espionage and military operations around the world?
Audio & Podcasts:
Hard Lessons of the Solar Winds Hack (57 mins)
White House now says 100 companies hit by SolarWinds hack, but more may be impacted, The Verge, Feb. 18, 2021
- Biden to take ‘executive action’ to address SolarWinds breach, The Hill, Feb. 17, 2021
Biden administration says investigation into SolarWinds hack is likely to take “several months,” CNN, Feb. 17, 2021
White House Names Cybersecurity Expert to Lead Response to SolarWinds Hack, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 10, 2021
US charges three North Korean hackers over $1.3bn cryptocurrency attacks, The Guardian, Feb. 17, 2021
- Justice Department Charges 3 North Korean Hackers For Global Cyberattacks, NPR, Feb. 17, 2021
Cyber attacks hit two French hospitals in one week, France 24, Feb. 16, 2021
Exclusive: U.S. carried out secret cyber strike on Iran in wake of Saudi oil attack: officials, Reuters, Oct. 15, 2019
US and Russia clash over power grid ‘hack attacks’, BBC, June 18, 2019
After the SolarWinds Hack, We Have No Idea What Cyber Dangers We Face, The New Yorker, Jan. 25, 2021
The US has suffered a massive cyberbreach. It’s hard to overstate how bad it is, The Guardian, Dec. 23, 2020
Computer Fraud and Security Editorial, Science Direct, Jan. 2021
- US Cyber-attacks on Iran May Change the Rules of War, China-US Focus, July 5, 2019
Resources for using Political Cartoons in the Classroom:
- Cartoons for the Classroom– Understanding Political Cartoons
- How To Analyze a Political Cartoon
- Political Cartoon Analysis
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, February 17, 2021 — The White House
- NOVA Cybersecurity Lab Lesson Plan — PBS Learning Media, high school
- The Security Mindset, Lesson 1 — Teaching Security, middle/high school
- Lesson Plan 5: Cybersecurity — CyberSensibility, middle/high school
What do good hackers do? (+cybercrime vocabulary) — ESL Brains, ESL resource
Articles for Younger Grades:
Kids show how easy it is to hack websites, affect U.S. elections — Newsela
Beware that teddy bear! Fifth-grade “cyber ninja” takes on toy hackers — Newsela
Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):
Media Literacy Resources – Newseum
News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense
Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming
Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons