Pro-Russian hacktivists have breached American critical infrastructure networks

CISA said the hackers have compromised operational technology connected to water systems, dams, energy networks, and the food and agriculture sector.

  • Federal agencies are reporting that pro-Russian hacktivists have broken into American and European critical infrastructure networks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the hackers have compromised operational technology connected to water systems, dams, energy networks, and the food and agriculture sector. In a new advisory, CISA and other agencies said the hacking group has mostly been a nuisance, but warn that the hacktivists are capable of causing physical damage to misconfigured and unsecured networks. CISA is encouraging operators in the critical infrastructure sectors to apply cybersecurity mitigations to defend against the hacks.
  • Expanded data on the federal workforce is opening the door for better planning and hiring, as agencies have more tools than ever to hire new employees. For example, there's an ongoing effort to hire 180 data scientists across the government using shared certificates and pooled hiring. But the Office of Personnel Management said those tools depend on data. Margot Conrad, the deputy chief of staff at OPM, said the data doesn't give you all the answers, but helps you to know what questions to ask."I think understanding holistically the composition of what your workforce is, how it's changing over time and being able to predict it — that's the future, it's how can we predict the future state, so that we can plan for it and be ready."
  • Certain members on the Hill continue to pressure feds to return to the office. Their latest efforts are directed at the Education Department. Senate Republicans are pressing for details on the Education Department’s current telework policy. A letter that two lawmakers sent this week to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona comes shortly after the department announced an increase in its in-office requirements for all employees — including unionized workers. But the pair of lawmakers is calling for an even bigger in-office presence. Their push on Education is the latest in a long line of pressure from Republicans aiming to get feds back in the office.
    (Inquiry into Department of Education’s reported lax telework policies - Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.))
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency is building a data-literate workforce to harness more open-source information. DIA’s analysis is now 85% open-source intelligence. That’s according to Greg Ryckman, DIA’s deputy director for integration. “When I joined the intelligence community 20-plus years ago, open source was that salt you sprinkled on your meal. ... It's now the main course,” Ryckman said during a webinar hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. But Ryckman said DIA needs to do a better job giving its younger analysts the tools and environment they need to analyze a crushing amount of data. DIA’s new Open Source Intelligence Integration Center is helping to lead efforts to collect and analyze public and commercial data.
  • The Marine Corps has completed its servicewide barracks inspection and is now asking Congress for $274 million to repair and modernize those barracks. It is a $65 million increase from last year’s request. Marine Corps officials also put several barracks initiatives at the top of the unfunded priority list. During its wall-to-wall inspection, the service found that lack of heating and air conditioning, moisture issues and problems with running water are the top issues for junior Marines. The service recently set a goal to fix its barracks by 2030.
  • Federal employees will see few changes if the Biden administration downgrades marijuana. The Associated Press is reporting that the Drug Enforcement Agency is preparing to downgrade cannabis from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Ryan Nerney is a managing partner at the law firm Tully Rinckey. He said this reclassification could potentially have some impact on pre-employment screening and drug testing of candidates applying for federal jobs. But he said marijuana use will still have a “significant impact” on most federal employees and security clearance holders, because it would still be illegal at the federal level. “It would still be along the lines of federally illegal, and anything that’s federally illegal, it doesn’t even matter if somebody’s employed in California or Colorado, because it’s a federal security clearance, that still is a concern,” he said.
  • The Justice Department has fired another shot across the bow of vendors who are not living up to their cybersecurity responsibilities. DoJ's Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative won a settlement from Insight Global LLC, headquartered in Atlanta, after a whistleblower brought a False Claims Act lawsuit against the company over it allegedly failing to implement cybersecurity data protections. Insight Global agreed to pay $2.7 million to resolve allegations that it didn't do enough to protect health information obtained during COVID-19 contact tracing. The whistleblower, a former Global Insight employee, will receive almost $500,000 as part of the Qui Tam provisions of the False Claims Act.
  • Army employees working overseas have officially voted to unionize. With the new tally of votes this week, the American Federation of Government Employees is further expanding its presence in Europe. The new local union groups cover Army IT workers, and employees serving in various hospitality jobs in Germany. In total, that is about 200 employees who will now be represented by AFGE.
    (U.S. Army employees in Germany vote to join AFGE - American Federation of Government Employeez)
  • The Pentagon is asking Congress for $17.2 billion to fund its science and technology initiatives in 2025. It is a 3.4% decrease from last year’s request. Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu said the department wants to focus on transitioning technology from the laboratory and into the hands of warfighters. Most of the funding would go toward artificial intelligence and autonomy efforts, space technology projects and integrated sensing and cyber efforts.
  • A top ethics official is one step away from taking office. President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Government Ethics, David Huitema, is headed for a Senate floor vote. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee just advanced his nomination. Huitema previously served as an ethics official at the State Department. If confirmed, he will serve a five-year term as director of the Office of Government Ethics. The last permanent director, Emory Rounds, stepped down last summer.
    (Business Meeting - Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee )


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