At a glance.
- Incident reported at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility.
- Developing US cyber policy toward Russia, and China.
- US Administration makes senior cybersecurity appointments.
Jerusalem is neither confirming nor denying its role in yesterday’s Natanz blackout, apparently caused by an explosion, the New York Times reports, but according to CNN, unnamed intelligence officials are pointing at Mossad. Tehran is calling for justice, but must walk the line between imposing consequences and spiking US nuclear deal talks.
While Washington and Jerusalem have a track record of teamwork against Iranian armament, featuring the 2010 Stuxnet virus deployed at Natanz, for example, the Times says it’s unclear whether President Biden received a heads up about this operation, which could weaken Tehran’s negotiating position. (Natanz also suffered a “mysterious fire” last year.) US Defense Secretary Austin arrived in Israel on Sunday to discuss “regional security challenges,” according to Voice of America.
Iran is claiming no injuries, leaks, or damage, but intelligence officials say the event took out the centrifuges’ power supply and could set uranium enrichment efforts back by nearly a year. The day before the blast, Iran trumpeted its new and improved (but “peaceful”) centrifuges in National Nuclear Day festivities. Some officials suspect “physical infiltration” leading to the “detonation of explosives,” not a cybersecurity breach, while SecurityWeek says Israeli media are “nearly uniformly” reporting a cyberattack.
Discussions aimed at reinstating the 2015 nuclear accord—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, exited by President Trump in 2018—are scheduled to pick up this week. Israel is publicly opposed to the deal.
Developing US policy with respect to Russian and Chinese operations in cyberspace.
Bloomberg reports that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s mammoth bill introduced last week would accomplish the following as part of a larger drive to address China’s strategic threat:
- Encourage technology and infrastructure investments
- Boost arms-control conditions
- Mandate reports on Chinese military and space capabilities
- Tackle Beijing’s human rights abuses and regional incursions through multilateralism
- Protect intellectual property, in part via export controls and domestic monitoring
- Allow the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to scrutinize institutions of higher education that receive large foreign donations
A Chinese spokesperson urged members of Congress to “abandon their Cold War, zero-sum game mentality…and stop pressing ahead with the negative” Strategic Competition Act. The Endless Frontier Act, which would bolster semiconductor R&D, is next on the horizon.
Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber Neuberger addressed the Council on Foreign Relations on the need for greater visibility into domestic systems, and the pending “aggressive, but achievable” Biden Administration executive orders on cybersecurity, according to FCW. She reiterated another line from previous engagements that Holiday Bear’s activities may not have been limited to espionage, but could also entail “disruption or degradation.”
US expected to fill senior cyber positions shortly.
President Biden will appoint NSA alumni to senior cybersecurity posts, the Washington Post reports: Chris Inglis will serve as National Cybersecurity Director, and Jen Easterly will serve as CISA Director.
Easterly was among the NSA officials involved in establishing US Cyber Command almost ten years ago.
Inglis had served for eight years as NSA Executive Director, the second-ranking official in the agency. As the first national cyber director, a role created late last year by Congress in response to recommendations developed by the Cyberspace Solarium. His role will be coordination of civilian agencies’ cyber defense, and review of the relevant portions of their budgets. The position is outside the National Security Council, and so Inglis will not be responsible for overseeing offensive cyber policy as executed by military services and the Intelligence Community