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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A U.S. task force responsible for investigating the massive cyberattack that breached the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security — among others — identified the hack as "likely Russian in origin," per a joint statement on Tuesday.

Why it matters: This is the first time the federal government has formally named Russia as the likely origin of the attack.

Catch up quick: The attackers targeted SolarWinds, the globally used network-management software that serves major companies and governments.

  • The FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and other agencies gathered under the National Security Council have so far "identified fewer than ten U.S. government agencies" that were affected by the breach.
  • Roughly 18,000 people and private sector companies are known to have been impacted overall, the agencies noted.

Of note: President Trump responded to the cyberattack in mid-December, claiming the "Fake News Media" exaggerated the extent of the hack, and claimed that China may be responsible, contradicting other government officials who attributed the breach to Russia.

What they're saying: "This work indicates that an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actor, likely Russian in origin, is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered, ongoing cyber compromises of both government and non-governmental networks," the agencies said.

  • "At this time, we believe this was, and continues to be, an intelligence gathering effort."

Go deeper

Biden appoints swath of acting agency leaders

Joe Biden in the White House on Jan. 20. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday appointed acting leaders to federal agencies to temporarily hold the posts until the Senate can confirm his nominees.

Why it matters: The impeachment trial for former President Trump will prevent the chamber from confirming Biden's nominees and may inhibit his efforts to heal the country and its economy.

China sanctions top Trump alumni one day after Uyghur genocide determination

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday it would sanction 28 "anti-China" U.S. politicians, including a slew of top officials from the outgoing Trump administration such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser John Bolton and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Between the lines, via Axios China expert Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: Chinese government officials have traditionally decried the use of unilateral sanctions by Western countries, even though China regularly blocks foreign companies and individuals from its markets for perceived political slights.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
22 mins ago - Economy & Business

First glimpse of the Biden market

Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

Investors made clear what companies they think will be winners and which will be losers in President Joe Biden's economy on Wednesday, selling out of gun makers, pot purveyors, private prison operators and payday lenders, and buying up gambling, gaming, beer stocks and Big Tech.

What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.