Intelligence officials blame Russia for major hack that targeted U.S. government

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Trump has blamed the attack on China—but Tuesday’s statement is the latest contradiction of his assessment, putting the blame squarely on Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI said a major hack of the federal government and some corporations was likely undertaken by Russia — contradicting President Donald Trump’s efforts to suggest China might be responsible — and “will require a sustained and dedicated effort to remediate.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still focused on identifying victims, collecting and analyzing evidence and sharing information about the sophisticated hack, according to a joint statement on Tuesday from the FBI, National Security Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The cyber-attacks are ongoing, according to the agencies.

The hack targeted updates in widely used software from Austin, Texas-based SolarWinds Corp., which has said as many as 18,000 of its customers may have received the malicious code. According to the statement, the agencies believe that “a much smaller number has been compromised by follow-on activity on their systems.” That means the hackers left most of the SolarWinds’s customers who received the malicious update alone but pursued further attacks against a smaller number of them.

“We have so far identified fewer than 10 U.S. government agencies that fall into this category, and are working to identify the nongovernment entities who also may be impacted,” according to the statement.

Russia has rejected accusations it was behind the hack.

However, in the statement, the agencies said the attacks were likely “Russian in origin” and are believed to be “an intelligence gathering effort.”

Tuesday’s statement is the latest contradiction of Trump’s assessment of the hack. Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have previously said Russia was likely responsible.

“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. 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 wrote in a series of tweets on Dec. 19.

In a statement Tuesday, Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized the Trump administration for waiting for more than three weeks after the hacking campaign was revealed to “finally issue a tentative attribution.”

“We need to make clear to Russia that any misuse of compromised networks to produce destructive or harmful effects is unacceptable and will prompt an appropriately strong response,” he said.

–With assistance from Gregory Korte.

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