Image for Russians Blamed for ‘Pearl Harbor of American IT’ Cyberattacks

While President Trump and his loyal congressional allies are trying to overthrow an election, the news about a Russian cyberattack into US government and business computer systems is escalating. The first official response to the breach came today, months after the attacks began and weeks after they were discovered. US intelligence agencies say the attack is continuing.

Trump has ho-hummed the attack, suggesting it may be the handiwork of China, not Russia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has publicly pointed to Russia as the culprit and US Intelligence agencies confirm Russia is the “likely” perpetrator.

The scale of the attack is breathtaking, perhaps penetrating 300 government and private-sector systems. Initial assessments suggest the goal was espionage, not an act of war. US Intelligence officials speculates the Russians wanted to see sensitive material, such as background information on existing or potential sanctions. Microsoft, one of the cyber-targets, indicated hackers penetrated its software source code.

Whatever the objective, the attack sent a clear message that Russia can tweak our national nose any time it wants. Some officials now call it the Pearl Harbor of American IT.

A special US Intelligence task force was alarmed enough about the attacks that they assigned government and private-sector personnel to work through the holiday season to determine the extent of the breach. They know enough to point a finger, but they are still learning about the breadth of the breach.

Whatever the objective, the attack sent a clear message that Russia can tweak our national nose any time it wants. Some officials now call it the Pearl Harbor of American IT.

Cyber experts, with a mix of consternation and admiration, believe Russian hackers gained access to systems by sneaking in as part of network management and remote monitoring software sold by Texas-based SolarWinds. There are new concerns that SolarWinds network software is also being used as mules to install malware. The intrusions are so invasive that some experts are recommending wholesale replacement of IT systems.

Sensitive to its lack of response, the Trump administration on Monday abruptly dismissed Sara Sendek, public affairs director for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) amid disagreements over acknowledging the cyberattacks. Christopher Krebs was previously fired as director of CISA for his defense of 2020 general election security.


Meanwhile, the attention of Congress is elsewhere. The old Congress is barely history and a new Congress has been seated just in time to count Electoral College votes and engage in a last-stand attempt to upend the victory of Joe Biden as President.

In what is usually a formality to confirm the Electoral College votes from all 50 states, the ceremony will be contentious as a group of House and Senate Republicans, spurred on by Trump claims of election fraud, object to votes in six battleground states. 

The spotlight will be on Vice President Mike Pence who has the constitutional role of presiding over the vote count, but whom has been challenged by Trump to throw out state-certified Biden electors and replace them with slates of Trump electors. Constitutional experts dispute such power is invested in the vice-presidential role and a legal challenge to accomplish the same objective has been dismissed in federal court.


The coronavirus has yielded chaos and misery for almost a full year. The fight against the virus has generated intense rancor and political division.

First, there were those who thought the virus was an overblown hoax designed to allow authoritarian governors to assume emergency powers and shackle the economy. Then there were those who believed the virus wasn’t any more contagious or deadly than the annual flu bug. Many disputed or dismissed public health warnings such as wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding gatherings, especially indoors.

Now there is a brewing debate over herd immunity.

Herd immunity was introduced into the chaos of COVID-19 by Trump as a longshot and improbable strategy to bring the virus under control. With the approval of safe and effective vaccines, herd immunity has gravitated toward becoming a goal. The argument is over how many people must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and stop viral transmission.

Early projections of herd immunity were placed at 70 percent of the population. As the pandemic has persisted, those projections have slowly crept up to as much as 90 percent. That has made some politicians, such as Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, mad. He directed his anger at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases.

Fauci admits deliberately inching up the herd immunity goal. He defended moving the goal posts based on new coronavirus findings, especially with mutating versions of the virus that appear highly transmissible, and his instinct that Americans are ready to respond by getting vaccinated. Prominent epidemiologists tend to agree with Fauci that initial herd immunity estimates were too low and the winds have shifted on the importance, safety and efficacy of the vaccines that have been approved.