A closer look at the changing landscape of cyberattacks and what they mean for worldwide security

cyber security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees work during a guided media tour inside the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia June 26, 2014. Picture taken June 26, 2014.

  • President Joseph Biden’s executive order emphasizes good cybersecurity hygiene for federal contractors.
  • The executive order could increase the cost of becoming a federal contractor, pricing out small companies.
  • Third-party and supply-chain risks are increasing across enterprises, healthcare facilities, agencies, and other organizations worldwide.
  • This article is part of the “Cybersecurity Briefing” series focused on the country’s state of readiness, and what company IT leaders think are the top policy priorities.

Cybercrime means the future of international conflicts may be stealthier and quieter than battles of the past.

State-sponsored cyberattacks can take out critical infrastructure facilities and cause massive computer systems failures to information or operational technology networks. They can simply create financial chaos by deploying ransomware and encrypting data without anyone knowing about it until it is too late.

In the first seven months of 2021 alone, the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington DC-based think tank, identified 87 state-sponsored attacks worldwide. That said, some major cyberattacks are not state-sponsored. The Colonial Pipeline attack is believed to be a criminal ransomware attack designed simply to extort money – $4.4 million – by the DarkSide hacking group in Eastern Europe rather than a politically motivated incident.

President Joseph Biden’s executive order on improving the nation’s cybersecurity addresses many of the key concerns federal agencies and corporate America face today. The order requires agencies to address vulnerabilities in software and networks, and guidelines to remediating those issues. Specifically, the address calls out enhancing supply chain security – a major issue that not only influences national and corporate security but can also affect the economy.

The Biden executive order expands information sharing currently banned or restricted by contracts to agencies including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, FBI, parts of the intelligence community, as well as cloud service providers and other enterprises and agencies.

In contrast, President Barack Obama’s 2013 executive order on cybersecurity was much less comprehensive and focused mainly on critical infrastructure. Obama’s key takeaway was an order for the National Institute of Science and Technology to create a Cybersecurity Framework. Like Biden’s order, these security controls are voluntary.

That said, this action appears to only be the first warning for government contractors. “There was a lot of good intention put into the presidential executive order of May 12, 2021,” John Young, founder of Young Cyber Security and a former cybersecurity defense expert at IBM, said.

He cautions that this order could price smaller and potential new companies out of the government contractor market. “The added costs for new contractors to comply with the order could tip the balance to those that already have a compliance infrastructure,” he said. “Most government contracts are granted to the lowest bidder.”

Changing landscape

The changing landscape of cyber threats makes it imperative for companies to understand their own cyber risks. One cannot fully understand the vulnerabilities without a complete audit of their data – what it is, where it exists, how it is protected, and the data’s value in relation to other corporate data.

A full assessment of all data assets is essential before a company can begin to build defenses against different risks, whether they be criminals out to sell your data, ransomware attackers, political or social actors bent on damaging or destroying data, state-sponsored attackers, or simply newbie attackers out to make a name for themselves.

As the Biden executive order indicates, third-party risk management is becoming much more of a threat. The most recent example of a major third-party breach was SolarWinds, where a trusted third party’s software was corrupted and ultimately attacked companies, healthcare facilities, and government agencies worldwide.

In order to ensure that enterprises, healthcare facilities, agencies, and other organizations are protected from a supply chain or a business partner, security teams should perform a baseline analysis of their network and all network traffic. Then, they should immediately begin remediating the most serious potential threats identified by that analysis. Neglecting to do so could be a violation of governance and compliance regulations.

Young recommends companies conduct regular compliance and device evaluations, along with internal auditing, to ensure that potential attackers are not entering networks through third parties and supply-chain partners. “Each server will have its own data collection in a repository, and when it’s examined, will reveal if they’re compliant; if not, a close investigation will also reveal when, where, why, and how deviations occurred,” he said.

“An audit will reveal if the cybersecurity team has followed company policy. For each data point a server could fail on – and there are hundreds of them – that’s an exposure hackers could exploit if they were able to penetrate the network.”

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Biden shrugs off Sens. Sinema and Manchin’s recent encounters with protestors, saying it ‘happens to everybody’ and is ‘part of the process’

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling from the State Dining Room of the White House on October 4, 2021.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling from the State Dining Room of the White House on October 4, 2021.

  • Biden was asked on Monday about Sens. Sinema and Manchin’s recent encounters with protestors.
  • “I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody,” Biden said of the protests.
  • People followed Sinema into a bathroom at ASU and others gathered near Manchin’s houseboat on kayaks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden, speaking about the debt ceiling at the White House on Monday, dismissed aggressive protesting as “part of the process” when asked about Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema’s recent experiences.

The remarks came after Fox News White House reporter Peter Doocy noted recent confrontations between protestors and the two conservative Democrats holding up Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.

“Joe Manchin had people on kayaks show up to his boat to yell at him. Senator Sinema last night was chased into a restroom. Do you think that those tactics are crossing a line?” Doocy asked.

“I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody,” Biden responded. “The only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them. So, it’s part of the process.”

On Sunday, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and members of a grassroots nonprofit Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) confronted Sinema at Arizona State University, where she is employed as a lecturer. At one point, the activists followed her into the bathroom as the Arizona lawmaker remained in a stall.

Sinema was silent throughout the entire encounter.

And last week, protesters boarded kayaks to protest Manchin outside his houseboat in Washington, DC, holding signs that said “Don’t sink West Virginia” and “No climate no deal.”

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Biden claims the US is ‘not at war,’ despite combat deployments to Iraq and Syria, and counter-terror missions in Africa

President Joe Biden concludes his address to the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021 in New York City.
President Joe Biden concludes his address to the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021 in New York City.

  • Biden spoke before the UN General Assembly Tuesday, where he declared the US was “not at war.”
  • But the so-called “War on Terror” continues elsewhere, including troop deployments to Iraq and Syria.
  • The US also continues to engage in counter-terrorism missions in Africa.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Speaking before the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Joe Biden concluded his speech by making a bold – and ultimately false – claim about the United States’s military engagements abroad.

“I stand here today – for the first time in 20 years the United States is not at war,” Biden declared as he concluded his speech. “We’ve turned the page.”

Biden’s speech was part of a wider effort to move on from the 20-year Afghanistan war, which ended with an ignominious withdrawal at the end of August. “The President will essentially drive home the message that ending the war in Afghanistan closed a chapter focused on war and opens a chapter focused on purposeful, effective, intensive American diplomacy,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of Biden’s speech.

But Biden’s claim ignores ongoing US military engagements abroad, including in Iraq, Syria, and Africa, underscoring the difficulty of closing the chapter in the way Biden envisions.

The New York Times reported on Monday that roughly 2,500 American troops are still in Iraq right now, largely guarding US military installations, and that many of them were mere toddlers when the US first invaded the country. Those troops have become the target of rocket fire by Iranian-backed militias, triggering retaliatory US drone strikes and thereby a continuation of military activities.

Additionally, 900 American troops are currently in Syria advising the Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against the remnants of ISIS. Senior administration officials told POLITICO in July that there are no plans to change that in the near future, despite the lack of any formal declaration of war and the opposition of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government.

Beyond Iraq and Syria, US forces remained stationed in a variety of foreign countries. In a June letter to Congress required under the War Powers Resolution, including approximately 2,976 United States military personnel in Jordan, 2,742 in Saudi Arabia, and 83 in Lebanon for the purposes of counterterrorism. The letter also mentions an undisclosed number of counter-terrorism forces in the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel region, and East Africa.

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The Taliban has replaced the Afghan women’s ministry with its own ministry of virtue and vice

Women gather to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.
Women gather to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.

  • The Taliban’s “moral police” enforce its interpretation of Sharia law.
  • Although it is still unclear if they will be allowed to work, women in Afghanistan can no longer work alongside men.
  • Women can continue studying at universities in Islamic dress and segregated classrooms.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Women who were employed by Afghanistan’s women’s ministry were locked out of their former workplace in Kabul on Thursday. The next day its signs had been replaced with those of the Taliban’s moral police: “Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” Reuters reported.

The new ministry enforces the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law, which enforces a strict dress code, floggings, and public executions, according to Reuters. Although a senior Taliban figure said women shall not work alongside men on September 13, it is still unclear what capacity women will be able to work, if at all, Reuters reported.

Earlier in the week, Taliban officials said that women will be allowed to continue their studies at universities as long as they wear Islamic dress and classrooms are segregated by gender.

The group took control of the country in mid-August after taking over several major cities during the withdrawal of US military troops by President Joe Biden.

The Taliban’s interim government is comprised entirely of men, including a prime minister on a United Nations blacklist and the head of a militant group wanted by the FBI.

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Biden slams governors he says are ‘actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19’ while announcing new strategy to rein in the pandemic

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about combatting the coronavirus pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on September 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. As the Delta variant continues to spread around the United States, Biden outlined his administration's six point plan, including a requirement that all federal workers be vaccinated against Covid-19. Biden is also instructing the Department of Labor to draft a rule mandating that all businesses with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated or face weekly testing.
US President Joe Biden speaks about combatting the coronavirus pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on September 9, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Biden went ahead with a sweeping new strategy to rein in rising numbers of COVID cases in the US.
  • The president’s plan to fight the surge includes, in part, vaccine and mask mandates.
  • Biden also ripped governors he said are trying to undermine efforts to slow the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Thursday tore into governors he said are threatening the United States’ progress on stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19,” Biden said at a news conference. “Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.”

Biden announced his new COVID-19 Action Plan, “Path out of the Pandemic,” which aims, in part, to get more people vaccinated in the US, keep schools open, and protect the broader economy.

The Biden administration is also leaning in on masking and testing mandates, while waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve booster shots for people who are already fully vaccinated.

As part of the effort to keep schools open, Biden urged governors to require COVID vaccinations for faculty and staff. In the early months of the pandemic in 2020, schools nationwide shut their doors and moved student instruction entirely online.

The president has made clear that he wants to avoid retreading that territory, putting some state governors that he said have been uncooperative on notice: “If these governors won’t help us … I’ll use my powers as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said.

Insider’s Azmi Haroun and Aria Bendix reported the plan Biden announced Thursday will require companies with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or weekly testing, or face thousands of dollars in fines.

It also establishes vaccine mandates for all federal employees and contractors, and for healthcare workers employed at facilities that receive federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid.

According to the White House, there are 80 million Americans eligible to be vaccinated who have yet to receive their first dose.

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The federal government will restore ‘100%’ of pay to any school officials who are punished for defying state mask mandates, Biden says

joe biden
U.S. President Joe Biden.

  • School officials who have their pay withheld over defying state mask mandate bans will be reimbursed.
  • President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the federal government will restore 100% of pay to educators.
  • The announcement is a seeming response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ previous threats to withhold salaries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

While announcing a series of new, stricter federal COVID-19 initiatives on Thursday, President Joe Biden said the Department of Education will restore “100%’ of pay to teachers and school officials who are punished for “doing the right thing.”

The announcement is a seemingly targeted response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ongoing showdown with state school officials and educators over mask requirements in classrooms. Earlier this summer, the Republican leader signed an executive order banning mask mandates in Florida schools, setting off a battle over parents’ rights and the proven COVID-19 mitigation method.

As multiple districts throughout the state voted to flout the governor’s restrictive law, DeSantis threatened to withhold pay from school officials who defied the executive order.

During his Thursday speech, Biden said that he would use his “power as president” to get defiant governors “out of the way.”

“Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs,” Biden said. “Talk about bullying in schools.”

The president said the Department of Education has already begun taking legal action against states that are undermining coronavirus protection that school officials have ordered.

He promised that any teacher or school officials whose pay is withheld for “doing the right thing,” will be compensated by the federal government 100%.

“I promise you, I will have your back,” he said.

A representative from DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Biden also urged governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.

“Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new,” he said. “They work.”

The president’s speech comes one day after DeSantis lost his latest bid to ban mask mandates in school. On Wednesday, a Florida judge ruled that the state must stop enforcing the governor’s ban, allowing districts to require masks while the case is being appealed in a higher court.

That ruling came weeks after the same judge ruled DeSantis did not have the authority to issue the mask ban.

Following the Wednesday ruling, mask mandate bans across Florida were immediately lifted, though several schools had already defied the order, imposing mask mandates in spite of the law.

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The congressman who attempted to conduct freelance rescue missions in Afghanistan says Biden has ‘blood is on his hands’

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2021.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2021.

  • Mullin attempted to enter Afghanistan with a large sum of cash to rescue Americans who had not been evacuated.
  • The Defense Department denied Mullin permission to visit Kabul last week.
  • In an August 31 speech, Biden said that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After attempting multiple freelance rescue missions in Afghanistan, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., told Fox News’ Brett Baier that “blood is on [President Joe Biden’s] hands.”

Mullin said he attempted to enter Afghanistan via Georgia and Tajikistan with a large sum of cash to get through Taliban checkpoints and rent a helicopter for a rescue mission. The Washington Post reported that this effort failed when John Mark Pommersheim, the US ambassador to Tajikistan, declined to assist him in skirting Tajikistan’s laws on cash limits.

A similar attempt was made a week prior when Mullin traveled to Greece and the Defense Department denied him permission to visit Kabul.

Mullin said he has a list of 50 Americans trapped in Afghanistan who want out.

When Baier asked Mullin if he thinks the US will be able to get the remaining Americans out of Afghanistan, he replied: “We’re going to get some, but there’s going to be some that are going to die because of the failure from President Biden.”

In his August 31 speech about the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, Biden said that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave, despite previously saying that he would get 100% of Americans out before withdrawing forces, the Associated Press reported.

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Goldman Sachs will require US staff to take weekly COVID-19 tests even if they are fully vaccinated, a report says

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon wears a pale blue shirt and red tie while speaking on stage.
David Solomon is the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

  • Goldman Sachs will ask its fully vaccinated staff to take weekly COVID-19 tests, the NYT reported.
  • The bank will require staff returning to US offices to be fully vaccinated by September 7, per the report.
  • It will also require clients visiting its offices to be fully vaccinated, The Times reported.

Goldman Sachs will require staff in its US offices to take weekly COVID-19 tests even if they are fully vaccinated, the New York Times reported.

The banking giant told staff in a memo Tuesday that employees who were not fully vaccinated by September 7 must work from home, per The Times.

The memo said that employees should wear masks at all times at the company’s San Francisco and Washington offices unless they are eating or drinking, per The Times.

The bank also said in the memo that it would require anyone entering its US offices to be fully vaccinated, including clients, per The Times.

Read more: How to sell the vaccine to the unvaccinated, according to 6 advertising executives who are pros at persuasion

Goldman’s new rules come amid a surge in cases of the Delta variant across the country. In New York City, where Goldman has its head office, 94% of tested cases in the past four weeks were caused by the highly contagious strain, according to local government data.

Vaccines work well against the Delta variant, but some vaccinated people are still catching COVID-19. In most cases, these people have reported mild symptoms, or none at all.

Companies have grappled with whether to mandate vaccinations for their employees in recent months. Earlier in August, Citigroup announced in a LinkedIn post that it would require its staff returning to its New York City office to get vaccinated.

In July, Walmart said that its corporate workers must be jabbed by early October, but exempted frontline workers from the mandate, per the Associated Press.

The Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on August 23 may encourage more companies to follow Goldman’s example. The same day, President Joe Biden urged companies to mandate vaccines.

“If you’re a business leader, a non-profit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that – require it,” he said in a press briefing.

Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Video shared by reporter shows the reality of people trying to get through gates at Kabul airport

Kabul airport
Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul.

  • Politico reporter Alex Thompson shared a video showing the outside of the airport in Kabul.
  • Several experts have asserted that the Biden administration is “gaslighting the country.”
  • A former CIA analyst estimates that evacuations won’t be complete until September 21 at this rate.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A video posted by a Politico journalist on Twitter shows people outside the gates of the airport of Kabul holding their US passports.

President Joe Biden has reiterated that all Americans who want to leave will be evacuated from the country, but an August 31 deadline looms. So far, more than 70,000 people have been evacuated in 10 days.

Though reports from the ground have painted a more harried picture of evacuation.

The video, posted by Alex Thompson, depicts a soldier standing on a wall, seemingly giving directions or pointing, as people – including those with US passports – wait outside the gate. The video, which blurs out bystanders, was sent to Politico through a liaison.

According to a report from Politico, the makers of the video “wanted to raise awareness of the difference between the rhetoric and reality.”

On August 16, the Taliban took control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, following the US’s announcement that it would leave the country. The swift fall of the US-backed Afghan government has sparked a mass exodus of Americans living in Afghanistan as well as Afghans who fear retribution from the Taliban for working with the Americans or other foreign groups.

The Biden administration has been critiqued over the chaotic evacuations and concerns that those who helped the US would be left behind.

Chris Purdy, the project manager of the Veterans for American Ideals program at Human Rights First, told Politico that the administration’s efforts to make the chaos in Kabul appear under control is “the definition of gaslighting.”

Insider’s Bryan Metzger previously reported that Matt Zeller, a veteran and former CIA analyst, also accused the administration of “gaslighting the country” on the topic of Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans in a discussion on MSBNC on Tuesday.

Zeller told MSNBC that he had tried to give the administration a better, more organized way for the country to leave Afghanistan “as early as February.”

Zeller said he hopes that “the Biden administration finally understands that they’re going to be judged by one number and one number alone, for the rest of history: And that’s how many people did we leave behind?” Zeller estimates that September 21 would be a more likely deadline to complete evacuations at the current rate.

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Biden is set to speak Friday afternoon about the crisis in Afghanistan

joe biden holds his hands up in front of a a gold back drop and in front of a lectern with the presidential seal
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House on Aug. 18, 2021.

President Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks regarding the crisis in Afghanistan at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, the White House said.

He is supposed to address the evacuation effort after days of criticism over visa processing issues, The New York Times reported.

Watch his remarks below:

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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