President Donald Trump played down the SolarWinds breach and shifted blame to China in his first public remarks on a cyberattack that’s crippled numerous federal agencies.
“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality,” Trump tweeted at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday. “I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).”
Trump’s remarks around attribution contradict what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday in an interview with conservative talk radio program “The Mark Levin Show.”
“There was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of U.S. Government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well,” Pompeo told Levin, according to a transcript produced by the State Department. “This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
With his remarks, Pompeo became the first administrative official to blame Russia for injecting malicious code into updates of the SolarWinds Orion network monitoring platform and using that to infiltrate U.S. government agencies, critical infrastructure entities and private firms. The U.S. Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Energy, Homeland Security and Commerce have all been breached, Reuters reported.
The Washington Post was the first to attribute the SolarWinds attack to hackers affiliated with the Russian intelligence service, also known as APT29 or Cozy Bear, in an article Sunday. Then on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., backed the Post’s assertion, tweeting “Stunning. Today’s classified briefing on Russia’s cyberattack left me deeply alarmed, in fact downright scared.”
No cybersecurity vendors have formally attributed the months-long campaign to Russia yet. Microsoft President Brad Smith came the closest when he noted in a blog post Thursday that the malicious SolarWinds Orion updates reached organizations in “many major national capitals outside Russia.”
APT29 first made a name for itself by hacking the State Department and White House during the Obama years. The hacking group also compromised the Democratic National Committee servers in 2015 but didn’t end up leaking the hacked DNC material. Instead, the Russian military spy agency GRU separately hacked the DNC and leaked its emails to WikiLeaks in 2016, The Post said.
The Washington Post said that APT29 hacks for traditional espionage purposes, stealing secrets that can be…
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