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Graphic: CNN

The U.S. government, and America’s largest companies, are scrambling to understand and protect against the "grave risk" to American security from a massive hack that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now says was a Kremlin op. President Trump's public response: Mostly silence.

Why it matters: People across the government say we've seen the mere tip of this international intrusion — a stunning, dangerous breach that requires infliction of real pain on the perpetrator, now confirmed as Russia.

What's new: It's now clear it'll take months just to kick these elite hackers out of U.S. networks — let alone discern what they've rifled and captured, AP reports.

  • The only way to be sure a network is clean is "to burn it down to the ground and rebuild it," said Dmitri Alperovitch, former CTO and co-founder of the leading cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. "Cleanup is just phase one."

Experts say the hackers may have been seeking nuclear secrets, blueprints for advanced weaponry, COVID-19 vaccine-related research, and information for dossiers on key government and industry leaders.

  • Bruce Schneier, security expert and Harvard fellow, said: "We don't know what networks they are in, how deep they are, what access they have, what tools they left."

Late Friday — five days after the hack was revealed — Pompeo became the first administration official to tie the Kremlin to the security debacle, telling conservative radio host Mark Levin:

  • "[W]e can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity."

A twist: The Russian intelligence service apparently can watch in real time as governments and corporations try to discover and patch the damage.

  • Jeremy Bash of Beacon Global Strategies — former Pentagon and CIA chief of staff — said on MSNBC that the hackers "poisoned our own medicine."
  • Bash told Andrea Mitchell: "[T]hey're going to be reading the emails of the I.T. and security professionals who're responsible for kicking the Russians out."

Go deeper:

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Go deeper

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.

Jan 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Pompeo to stay in DC and join Hudson Institute

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on January 12, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will join the Hudson Institute, giving him a platform to stay active in policy discussions and potentially run for president in 2024.

Why it matters: By aligning himself with the conservative think tank, Pompeo will keep close to the debates — and donors — that matter to the Republican Party.

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.