WASHINGTON — Worried about a “disjointed” response to what some experts say could be the biggest hack in American history, two congressional leaders urged the government to name a person to head the cleanup.
In a Feb. 9 letter, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida ― the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively — expressed their concern with the federal response to date.
“The federal government’s response so far has lacked the leadership and coordination warranted by a significant cyber event, and we have little confidence that we are on the shortest path to recovery,” they wrote to the director of national intelligence, director of the National Security Agency, director of the FBI, and acting head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber arm.
The U.S. government has blamed Russia for widespread breach of federal agencies and private companies. The hacking campaign, believed to have started in the spring, was executed through a variety of vectors, according to experts, but most notably by inserting malicious code in software updates provided by government supplier SolarWinds.
The senators urged the government to establish a single leader who can unify the response.
“The briefings we have received convey a disjointed and disorganized response to confronting the breach. Taking a federated rather than a unified approach means that critical tasks that are outside the central roles of your respective agencies are likely to fall through the cracks,” they wrote. “The threat our country still faces from this incident needs clear leadership to develop and guide a unified strategy for recovery, in particular a leader who has the authority to coordinate the response, set priorities, and direct resources to where they are needed.”
In her Jan. 19 confirmation hearing to become director of national intelligence, Avril Haines committed to providing open channels of communication with the committee to keep members abreast of new developments.
The Trump administration created a Unified Coordination Group at the National Security Council to respond to the infiltration.
President Joe Biden has tasked the intelligence community to develop a full assessment of the breach.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.