Cybersecurity Threats and Attacks

Dozens of U.S companies and government agencies have been, and potentially continue to be, the subjects of a serious cybersecurity assault. In December 2020, it was discovered that a so-called “supply chain attack” against SolarWinds, a company that specializes in network tools, gave hackers access to potentially thousands of targets. Around 18,000 clients are thought to have received the malicious code. The intelligence community suspects that the breach had gone undetected for over eight months, and are just beginning to discover how massive the breach is. Hackers were able to compromise Microsoft, Google, and at least 100 other private companies, as well as at least nine U.S. federal government entities, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons. U.S. national security authorities believe the hack was of Russian origin. 

Understanding how hackers were able to compromise so many U.S. customers and government agencies is of particular interest to U.S. cybersecurity experts. President Biden will soon take executive action in response to the alleged Russian hack, according to a White House briefing last week. The intelligence community’s review of the SolarWinds breach stated that the executive action will address “gaps” in federal government cybersecurity identified in the review. 

Cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent, not only in the U.S., but internationally. For instance, France uncovered a Russian-based cyber-attack on two hospitals – and nearly a third – in one week. In the same week, the U.S. Justice Department accused three North Korean military intelligence officials of a campaign of cyber-attacks designed to steal $1.3bn in crypto and traditional currencies from banks and other victims. Many nations, including the U.S. and the U.K., also employ cyber-attack strategies as a tool of their espionage and military operations.

This week’s Current Event resources allow you to explore and promote meaningful discussion with your students about cybersecurity threats and attacks, and their implications for our government and all citizens.

Essential Questions:

    • What is a cyber-attack and how does it affect individuals, businesses, and governments?
    • Why are cyber threats and attacks happening with increasing frequency?
    • What is cybersecurity and how can it protect governments and businesses from such attacks?
    • What was the SolarWinds breach and why has it been called the “Biggest Hack of 2020″?
    • How is cybersecurity becoming a more and more important facet of national security? 
    • How have cyber-attacks been used in countries’ espionage and military operations around the world?



Audio & Podcasts:

Hard Lessons of the Solar Winds Hack (57 mins)


Recent Articles:


Recent Editorials:


Resources for using Political Cartoons in the Classroom: 

Primary Sources:


Lesson Plans:


Articles for Younger Grades:


Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):

Media Literacy Resources – Newseum

News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense

Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming

Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons