My intention this week was to gather all the info I could about the cracking of Zodiac’s 340 cipher. And then the US was hit with the worst cyber-attack ever. Considering this is the industry my best friend works in (cyber security), I’ve been following the cyber attack quite closely.
In the first 24 hours, we knew hackers had gotten into several federal agencies using the backdoor they’d created in a trusted software platform called Solarwinds. The US Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security were among the first. We also knew that nearly every Fortune 500 company in the US also uses Solarwinds and were in danger as a result. However, it oddly didn’t seem like the hackers were interested in these Fortune 500 companies, they seemed focused on US government agencies.
From the very beginning, it was obvious the attack was coming from Russia. It had started Sunday night and Tuesday both CNN and the BBC ran news articles about the attack coming from Russia. This doesn’t surprise me, Putin came to power thanks to the Cold War and he’s never been a huge fan of the US. Since he managed to become president of the Russian Federation until 2036, I’ve been expecting the Cold War to start back up.
By the end of Tuesday, we knew the hackers had accessed Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as the Department of Homeland Security, Treasury, and a half dozen other agencies. Then Thursday came the scariest news yet, they had accessed the National Nuclear Safety Administration and the Department of Energy. In case you are unfamiliar with the NNSA they are the agency in charge of our nuclear arsenal. Also, if someone were to sell some of the classified information held by the Department of Energy to terrorists, it could easily lead to the worst terrorist attack ever as they gain blueprints to our largest powerplants (both nuclear and hydro-electric).
In short, claiming our national security has been compromised in this attack is the worst understatement of 2020. I live about an hour and a half from the majority of the US’s nuclear arsenal, which is interesting: I have not worried about Russians blowing up nuclear bombs in the US since I was about 9, but I admit I am wondering about it again. I am also overwhelmed with a sense of surrealism. I remember President Regan’s vehement rhetoric against the Soviet Union and yet, those in highest seats of power in the US have not even issued a statement about it. The acting Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s CISA did issue a statement laying the responsibility for it at Russia’s doorstep and warning it wasn’t even close to over, but he’s the only one.
Historically speaking, this also isn’t a huge surprise. In the months after the attacks on September 11, 2001 several agencies released findings from investigations that stated quite plainly the contested election from 2000 played a key role in the terrorist attacks. 20 years later, we have another contested election and as a result the head guy in charge of our nation’s cyber-security was fired. And now the Russians have committed an act of cyber-warfare.
At which point, the solving of the 340 cipher took a backseat to the ongoing cyber war.