White House acknowledges reports of cyberattack on U.S. Treasury by foreign government
The Trump administration acknowledged reports on Sunday that a group backed by a foreign government carried out a cyberattack on the U.S. Treasury Department and a section of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“The United States government is aware of these reports and we are taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues related to this situation,” National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot wrote in an emailed statement to CNBC.
A Department of Commerce spokesperson confirmed the hack.
“We can confirm there has been a breach in one of our bureaus. We have asked CISA and the FBI to investigate, and we cannot comment further at this time,” a spokesperson for Commerce told NBC News.
The hack was first reported by Reuters.
The hackers are suspected of targeting the Treasury Department as well as the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, a U.S. agency that is tasked with crafting internet and telecommunications policy, Reuters reported.
The elaborate cyber hack that was launched on NTIA involved the organization’s Microsoft Office 365 platform, according to Reuters. Microsoft declined to comment.
It was not immediately clear what information was compromised by the cyber breach.
CNN Business/Hanna Ziady
ECB unleashes $600 billion in new stimulus to prop up Europe’s economy
The European Central Bank is expanding its huge money-printing program by hundreds of billions of euros, an attempt to prop up the economy as another wave of coronavirus rips through the region and threatens to derail its fragile recovery.
The central bank said in a statement on Thursday that it would increase its asset purchases by €500 billion ($605 billion), bringing the total stimulus program to €1.85 trillion ($2.24 trillion). It also plans to extend purchases to at least the end of March 2022 and grant more subsidized loans to banks to stimulate lending.
“The monetary policy measures taken today will contribute to preserving favourable financing conditions over the pandemic period, thereby supporting the flow of credit to all sectors of the economy, underpinning economic activity and safeguarding medium-term price stability,” the statement said.
At a press conference, ECB President Christine Lagarde said that the pandemic continues to pose “serious risks” to European economies and that renewed lockdowns heighten the risk of a delayed recovery.
While manufacturing is holding up well, services activity has been “severely curbed” by an increase in infection rates and new restrictions, she added. “An ample degree of monetary accommodation is necessary to support economic activity,” she said.
The ECB said that “uncertainty remains high” with regards to the development of the pandemic and the timing of vaccine distribution, and it therefore stands ready to adjust its tools to ensure inflation, which is currently in negative territory, moves towards its 2% target.
The bank left its deposit rate unchanged at minus 0.5% and Lagarde said she expects interest rates to remain at current or lower levels until the inflation outlook improves.
“While the main policy changes announced today were largely as expected, they underline the ECB’s commitment to using its balance sheet well beyond the end of the health emergency in order to keep bond yields exceptionally low,” said Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist at Capital Economics.
This is the second time that the ECB has expanded its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP), which it rolled out in the spring as the coronavirus swept across Europe and governments imposed tight restrictions on economic activity. In June, it increased the size of the program by €600 billion ($726 billion).
Despite a record rebound in the third quarter, the EU economy remained 4.2% smaller than its September 2019 level, according to statistics agency Eurostat. Europe is now battling another surge in coronavirus cases, prompting fresh lockdowns in major economies such as Germany, France and Italy. And GDP is expected to contract again in the fourth quarter.
“The second wave of the pandemic and the associated intensification of containment measures are expected to result in a renewed significant decline in activity in the fourth quarter, although to a lesser extent than the second quarter,” Lagarde said.
Fox Business/Tyler Olsen
Coronavirus relief deal talks sputter as McConnell pushes back on state aid
After several days of increasing optimism about the prospect that Congress could come to an agreement on a coronavirus stimulus bill, talks appeared on the edge of falling apart Thursday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrats are stuck on the point of federal aid for state and local governments.
“While Democrats hold the Paycheck Protection Program hostage over controversial state government bailouts, family businesses are closing their doors,” McConnell, R-Ky., said in floor remarks Thursday. “Our Democratic colleagues have not even let us pass non-controversial money to invest in vaccine distribution. Not unless the two parties settle a whole list of issues that are controversial the way they want.”
McConnell doubled down on his comments Friday, saying he offered to drop Republicans’ demand of liability protection for businesses in exchange for Democrats dropping their demand for “bailouts.”
The signal from McConnell, likely to tamp down on optimism congressional leaders have expressed in recent days, comes as Fox News is told that the bipartisan Senate coronavirus plan, sponsored by a group that includes Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. is just “talk.”
Fox News is told that rank-and-file Republican senators criticized the plan during a meeting earlier this week and that many in the Senate Republican caucus still oppose the “controversial” efforts to send money to state and local governments.
The logjam follows multiple “targeted” Republican proposals that have been filibustered by Senate Democrats and Republicans’ consistent refusal to significantly increase the size of the price tag they are willing to accept on the bill.