May 22, 2024
Cyberattack: 'We can say pretty clearly' Russia was behind hack, Pompeo says

Cyberattack: ‘We can say pretty clearly’ Russia was behind hack, Pompeo says

“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,” Pompeo said in an interview Friday on “The Mark Levin Show.”

“I can’t say much more as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified,” he added.

At least half a dozen federal agencies are now known to have been targeted, including the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber arm and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and State. Investigators are still trying to determine what, if any, government data may have been accessed or stolen in the hack.

“Suffice it to say, there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of US government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well,” Pompeo said.

Early signs of a US government hack emerged months ago but were inconclusive
President Donald Trump has not said anything publicly about the hack despite it being one of the most significant breaches of the US government in years, and US officials say it “poses a grave risk” to networks across both the public and private sector.

The White House said Friday that Trump is being briefed and “working very hard” in dealing with the hack.

Asked about Trump’s silence on the matter, Pompeo noted there was work going on behind the scenes.

“There are many things that you’d very much love to say, ‘Boy, I’m going to call that out,’ but a wiser course of action to protect the American people is to calmly go about your business and defend freedom,” he said.

As the scope of the espionage campaign and its sophistication became clearer over the past two weeks, US officials had begun to believe that a Russia-linked entity or Russian individuals are responsible for the attacks. Pompeo’s comments go further than any Trump administration official yet in pinning the blame on Russia, as further evidence shows the hacking operation bears all the hallmarks of a Russian-backed actor.

The Russian embassy in Washington has denied involvement in the hack.

But Moscow has been linked to several recent breaches, including the 2016 hacking of Democratic officials during the US presidential election.

Last week, the cybersecurity firm FireEye disclosed that it had been targeted by a sophisticated, likely state-sponsored espionage attempt, and that several of its own hacking tools had been stolen.

CNN previously reported that a Russian-affiliated group known as APT29 was behind the attack on FireEye.

On Sunday, Reuters first reported that the Departments of Commerce and Treasury had been hit by hackers. The Commerce Department soon confirmed a security incident.

That same evening, FireEye identified the source of its own intrusion as malware hidden in its software updates published by the software vendor SolarWinds, which is used by a number of federal civilian agencies for network management.

As many as 18,000 SolarWinds customers, including US government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, had been sent the updates containing the malware.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Brian Fung, Kaitlan Collins, Alex Marquardt and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.