Dec 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pompeo says Russia is "pretty clearly" behind cyberattack on U.S.

Picture of Mike Pompeo
Mike Pompeo. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Friday evening interview that "we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians" behind a massive cyber attack that breached dozens of government agencies, think tanks and companies.

Driving the news: Pompeo's comments on "The Mark Levin Show" are the first from a Trump administration official publicly linking Russia to the hack. President Trump has yet to address the issue.

  • The State Department is one on a list of federal agencies found to have been attacked, per the Washington Post.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency said Thursday that the breach was "a grave risk to the federal government."
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied involvement in the hacking, the Post writes.

What he's saying: "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," Pompeo said.

  • [T]here 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," he continued.
  • "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."

Catch up quick via Axios' Ina Fried: The attack, attributed to Russia, began with the targeting of security firm SolarWinds. Gaining access there allowed the nation-state hackers access to information from a variety of high-profile agencies and companies, including the Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security departments.

  • CISA issued an "emergency directive" last Sunday requiring all federal civilian agencies to review their networks and immediately disconnect SolarWinds Orion software products, following a suspected Russian hack on the Treasury and Commerce Department.

Of note: President-elect Biden released a statement saying his administration "will make cybersecurity a top priority" and he "will not stand idly by in the face of cyber assaults on our nation."

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