- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2020

House lawmakers on Friday chastised federal officials for failing to provide Congress with sufficient details on the ongoing cyber hack of federal networks and large corporations.

The House Homeland Security Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which have launched an investigation into the hack, received a closed-door briefing about the cyber breaches on Friday and described the briefing as insufficient.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat and chair of the oversight committee’s national security subcommittee, said getting any level of specificity about the breach from cyber officials was like “pulling teeth.” Mr. Lynch said as many as 18,000 entities in the private sector and government appear to have been compromised by hackers.

“It is a diverse universe of entities going from nuclear agencies to private firms that deal with finance as well,” Mr. Lynch told reporters after exiting the briefing. “This is very very serious obviously and I don’t think we have our arms around this yet in terms of the potential impact.”

A full list of the federal government agencies affected by the hack remains unknown. On Thursday, federal cybersecurity officials said it discovered hackers used multiple ways to breach computer networks beyond the SolarWinds hack. SolarWinds is a Texas-based software company that counts many government agencies as customers.

Among the agencies that are believed to have been breached are the Treasury Department, Commerce Department, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health and parts of the Pentagon, according to a letter from Senate Finance Committee leadership requesting a briefing with IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on the hack.

Many other details about the hack remain uncertain, including what hackers took, when the hacking began and whether the hack was limited to data theft or included any damaging cyberattack.

As he strode past reporters outside the briefing room, Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, said there was more information in news reports than in the closed-door briefing.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said the meeting was telephonic and lawmakers plan to invite the officials to provide an in-person briefing on Saturday morning. Mr. Thompson said the briefing was “incomplete to say the least.”

“We know we have a very deep problem,” Mr. Thompson told reporters. “The length of the problem is still being identified and so it’s a work in progress. Attribution is still a concern of ours.”

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat and chair of the oversight committee, told reporters she thought an in-person briefing would be better on Saturday, in part, because of the technical issues they encountered during Friday’s briefing.

“When you’re in person, it’s always better. It’s easier to hear. Half the time, you can’t even hear,” Ms. Maloney said of Friday’s briefing. “We had to have them repeat things because the technology wasn’t working.”

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