The cyber breaches this week at the US Departments of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security and Treasury were described as one of the most serious and comprehensive series of attacks in American history. The cyber security systems designed to protect the American infrastructure were so compromised that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency joined with the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence to release a joint statement to immediately instruct all “federal civilian agencies to immediately disconnect or power down affected SolarWinds Orion products from their network.” These products were part of a suite of software hacks that represented an extremely broad and successful espionage-based assault on confidential information of the United States Government.
It would be naïve not to realize that all governments spy on one another, but this instance of espionage was taken to a new level with the use of a sophisticated and all but undetectable malware. Malware is a short-hand term for malicious software used to wreak destruction and gain access to sensitive information. This malware used the SolarWinds Orion software as the host that was installed as part of a usual upgrade. When federal employees upgraded their software thinking it would improve its performance by eliminating the bugs that inevitably come with the use of any software, the cyber-attack was launched. It spread rapidly. The speed shocked cyber-security experts as they quickly realized a foreign power was attacking the United States.
The scope of this attack could be likened to an act of war. Malware can shut down entire networks across the nation and cripple the supply chain at a particular time when medications and vaccines need to be coordinated and distributed in the most efficient ways possible. This also includes the ability these attackers showed in their knowledge of America’s nuclear arsenal and stockpiles of weapons for missile defense.
In March of 1863, 18-year-old Charles Appleton Longfellow left his family’s house on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts and boarded a train bound for Washington, D.C., to join the Union army to fight in the Civil War.
Charles was the oldest of six children born to Fannie Elizabeth Appleton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the great literary critic and poet. Less than two years earlier, Charles’s mother Fannie had tragically died after her dress caught on fire. Henry tried to save her, but she later died from the burns on her body. His own burns were so severe that he was unable even to attend her funeral.
On December 1, 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was eating lunch when a telegram arrived with the news that his son, Charles, had been severely wounded. His wounds were so severe that he was sent home and his recovery was long and difficult.
Reflecting on the sorrow of his life and the war that consumed the nation, Longfellow stepped outside and heard bells on Christmas Day. He wrote a poem that spoke to the dissonance he felt in his own heart about the promise of redemption in Christmas and his very personal experience of grief. With the Civil War raging and his own life reeling from sorrow he penned a poem – I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day – that was later set to music.
This beloved Christmas hymn honestly admits the sorrow of life on earth with a look toward God who promises to make all things right in his perfect time. Facing Christmas in 2020 no doubt will be difficult for many, but take heart - God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”