Dec. 29 (UPI) — President-elect Joe Biden said Monday his incoming administration would focus on the defense implications of the massive cyberattack that swept through U.S. government agencies and businesses.
In a press conference in Wilmington, Del., after a series of transition briefings, Biden said his administration would concentrate on modernizing U.S. defense priorities to address growing threats in “new realms like cyberspace” as opposed to “over-investing in legacy systems designed to address threats of the past.”
“We need to deter, detect, disrupt and respond,” to secure the United States against “malign cyberactors,” Biden said. “We’re still learning about the extent of the SolarWinds hack and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed.”
A cyberbreach accredited to Russian intelligence service, SVR, was concealed for months in software from the Austin, Texas, firm.
The hack exploited a patch to breach emails and computer systems of the departments of the U.S. Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security, among others, as well as compromising thousands of U.S. business computers, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned earlier in December.
Biden has called the breach a “grave risk” to national security.
U.S. President Donald Trump has not publicly addressed the massive hack, but tweeted that he had been “fully briefed and everything is well under control” last week.
“Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens,” Trump wrote, raising the possibility that “it may be China (it may!).”
Biden also complained Monday that his transition team has been obstructed by political leadership in the Department of Defense and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, calling the roadblocks “nothing short of irresponsibility.”
He said his administration would have a task ahead to rebuild agencies “critical to our security [which] have incurred enormous damage,” Biden said.
Under the Trump administration, many agencies have been “hollowed out in personnel, capacity and morale,” Biden added.
“My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world,” he said, to avoid a “window of confusion or catch up our adversaries may try to exploit.”
Seemingly in response to Biden’s claim, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller issued a statement detailing the department’s efforts to aid the presidential transition, describing the number of documents they have handed over as being “far more than initially requested by Biden’s transition team.”
“DOD’s efforts already surpass those of recent administrations with over three weeks to go and we continue to schedule additional meetings for the remainder of the transition and answer any and all requests for information in our purview,” he said.
The statement contains bullet points listing that since Nov. 23 the department has conducted 164 interviews with more than 400 officials, responded to 188 requests for information and provided more than 5,000 pages of controlled non-public and classified information.
Miller said department staff “have been working with the utmost professionalism to support transition activities” in a compressed schedule and that they will continue to schedule interviews with senior staff for early January.
“The American people expect nothing less and that is what I remain committed to,” he said.