Today's D Brief: Another vice chief has COVID; New warnings for hospitals; Anti-ISIS air strikes; Mass shootings, up; And a bit more.

Space Force’s vice chief has COVID. Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations, took a test after learning that a family member tested positive. He’s now working from home in accordance with established policies, Air Force officials said. Read more at Air Force Times.

How to reduce risk when meeting with others: Here is a series of useful graphics from El Pais that helps illustrate how the coronavirus spreads in homes, bars, and schools — and also offers a few ways to reduce the chance of infection.

Slow down those vaccine expectations. “The ambitious drive to produce Covid-19 vaccine at warp speed seems to be running up against reality,” writes Helen Branswell of STAT News. “Pauses in clinical trials to investigate potential safety issues, a slower-than-expected rate of infections among participants in at least one of the trials, and signals that an expert panel advising the Food and Drug Administration may not be comfortable recommending use of vaccines on very limited safety and efficacy data appear to be adding up to a slippage in the estimates of when vaccine will be ready to be deployed.” More, here.

Infections and deaths continue to rise across the U.S., according to the New York Times COVID tracker. Wednesday brought at least 1,016 coronavirus deaths and 81,457 new cases; and the past week has seen an average of 786 COVID-related deaths each day.

New: America’s healthcare IT systems are under attack from cybercriminals, the FBI warned CEOs Wednesday in a conference call and in an alert co-signed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Credible chatter. The warning came less than 24 hours after cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs “received a tip from Alex Holden, founder of Milwaukee-based cyber intelligence firm Hold Security,” Krebs writes on his website. “Holden said he saw online communications this week between cybercriminals affiliated with a Russian-speaking ransomware group known as Ryuk in which group members discussed plans to deploy ransomware at more than 400 healthcare facilities in the U.S.”

The agencies said they wanted “to provide warning to healthcare providers to ensure that they take timely and reasonable precautions to protect their networks from these threats.” So what does that mean? “They didn’t share any IoCs [indicators of compromise], so it’s just been ‘patch your systems and report anything suspicious’,” one industry veteran who sat in on the discussion told Krebs, who rounded up several instances around the country where healthcare IT systems seem to have been hit with ransomware (at bottom of his post, here).

Other inter-agency recommendations include:

  • “Regularly change passwords”;
  • “Use multi-factor authentication where possible”;
  • “Audit logs to ensure new accounts are legitimate”;
  • “Set antivirus and anti-malware solutions to automatically update,” and more here.

ICYMI: “In September, a ransomware attack hobbled all 250 U.S. facilities of the hospital chain Universal Health Services, forcing doctors and nurses to rely on paper and pencil for record-keeping and slowing lab work,” AP reports, and adds, “Also in September, the first known fatality related to ransomware occurred in Duesseldorf, Germany, when an IT system failure forced a critically ill patient to be routed to a hospital in another city.”


From Defense One

Is Iraq’s Military Good Enough for US Troops to Leave? // Katie Bo Williams: After 17 years of fighting Saddam, AQ, and ISIS, officials say support for Baghdad and its security forces remains key to fending off Iran.

No Need To Federalize State's National Guards, Leaders Say // Katie Bo Williams: “I cannot think of any scenario where we would recommend or ask for being federalized,” Tennessee’s adjunct general told reporters.

What the Army's Next App Reveals About Defense Innovation // Patrick Tucker: A major wins an innovation award by proposing to bring hotel-style booking to training ranges.

Will COVID-Stressed Countries Slow Their Arms Buys? // Marcus Weisgerber: State Department’s political-military leader sees mixed signals from abroad.

The West Is Surprisingly Well-Equipped for Gray-Zone Deterrence // Elisabeth Braw: Authoritarian officials and oligarchs interact with Western nations in ways that give democratic governments leverage.

The Plot to Kidnap Me // Gretchen Whitmer, The Atlantic: Every time the president ramps up his violent rhetoric, every time he fires up Twitter to launch another broadside against me, my family and I see a surge of vicious attacks sent our way.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1963, U.S. Special Forces officer 1st Lt. James “Nick” Rowe was captured in Vietnam. He would spend the next five years in captivity before escaping during a trip to execute him in a secluded location among the forest near his POW camp. Nearly 15 years after his escape, he was recalled to active duty to help build what we now know as the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape course. 


The U.S.-led coalition still fighting ISIS across Iraq and Syria carried out 15 airstrikes last month, officials from Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve announced this morning.
That includes seven strikes in Iraq, which “resulted in 18 enemy killed, six cache sites destroyed, and four tunnels destroyed,” the coalition said.
It also includes eight strikes in Syria, which “resulted in seven terrain denial operations.”

Another littoral combat ship has broken down while deployed, Defense News reported Wednesday. This time it’s the USS Detroit (LCS-7), and the problem is reportedly in its “combining gear, which is a complex transmission that connects power from two large gas turbine engines and two main propulsion diesel engines to the ship’s propulsion shafts, which propels the ship through the water with water jets.”
Other breakdowns have included the LCS Milwaukee, which broke on its maiden voyage in late 2015. "Early the next year, the littoral combat ship Fort Worth suffered a casualty to the combining gear in port when sailors accidentally ran the system without lube oil running through it," Defense News's David Larter reports. More here.

Light punishment for Iran-linked Turkish bank reportedly shows Erdogan’s sway over Trump. The bank is Halkbank, a state-owned Turkish bank that the New York Times reports is “suspected of violating U.S. sanctions law by funneling billions of dollars of gold and cash to Iran.” Last year, Attorney General William Barr directed an unusually light settlement to U.S. criminal charges after Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed President Trump to drop them.
Why this matters: “The president was discussing an active criminal case with the authoritarian leader of a nation in which Mr. Trump does business; he reported receiving at least $2.6 million in net income from operations in Turkey from 2015 through 2018,” according to tax records obtained by the Times.
Conflict of interest: “Mr. Trump’s sympathetic response to Mr. Erdogan was especially jarring because it involved accusations that the bank had undercut Mr. Trump’s policy of economically isolating Iran, a centerpiece of his Middle East plan,” the Times writes. More on all that, here.

France just suffered its third knife attack in two months. The latest attacker used his knife to kill three people at a church today in the Mediterranean city of Nice, AP reports. The incident prompted “the prime minister to announce that France was raising its security alert status to the highest level.”
Meanwhile, mass shootings are up in the U.S. From January to July, the country suffered 305 mass shootings, which are incidents in which four or more people were shot, according to researchers at the Gun Violence Archive. That’s up from 232 over the same period last year, and more than 2013 or 2014. This June alone saw 95 mass shootings, breaking the previous record of 51. 

President Trump is campaigning in Florida and North Carolina today, with a rally planned in Tampa and in Fayetteville, N.C., five hours later.
He’ll drop by Fort Bragg for a “troop engagement” between those two stops. Vice President Mike Pence is spending the day in Des Moines, Iowa, and Reno, Nev.
Meantime, Joe Biden is campaigning in Florida (including, like POTUS45, in Tampa), while Sen. Kamala Harris campaigns virtually in a rally hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Lastly today: The dangerous convergence of Trump’s rhetoric and his followers’ reality. “Trump’s attacks on political adversaries are often followed by threats to their safety,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday after the list of Trump targets requiring security recently grew to include Fauci and Michigan’s governor. Already, that list included multiple Democratic lawmakers, as well as a CIA whistleblower and Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
See also: The Plot to Kidnap Me, a first-person account by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “When I put my hand on the Bible at my inauguration, it did not occur to me that less than two years later, I would have to tell my daughters about a plot against me. But earlier this month, I learned that a multistate terrorist group was planning to kidnap and possibly kill me. Law-enforcement announced charges against 14 people as part of the plot. As jarring as that was, just over a week later, President Donald Trump traveled to Michigan, and when a crowd chanted ‘Lock her up’ after he mentioned me, he said, ‘Lock them all up.’ Read on, here.

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