Trump downplays the seriousness of cyberattacks and avoids blaming Russia

In contrast to his foreign minister and other senior officials, President Donald Trump on Saturday proposed without proof that China – not Russia – could be behind the serious cyber attack on the United States and tried to minimize its impact.

In his initial comments on the violation, Trump mocked the focus on the Kremlin and downplayed the intrusion, which the nation’s cyber security agency has warned of posing a “serious” risk to the government and private networks.

…. discusses the possibility that it could be China (it can!). It could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, which made it an even more corrupt embarrassment for the United States. @DNI_Ratcliffe @SecPompeo

– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2020

The cyber hack is much bigger in Fake News Media than in reality. I have received complete information and everything is under control, “Trump tweeted. He also claimed that the media is “petrified” to “discuss the possibility that it may be China (it may!).”

There is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Friday that Russia was “quite clear” behind the cyber attack on the United States.

White House officials had been prepared to make a statement Friday afternoon accusing Russia of being the “main actor” in the hack, but were told at the last minute to stand down, according to a U.S. official familiar with the talks. on condition of anonymity.

It is not clear if Pompeo received that message before his interview, but officials are now climbing to find out how the various accounts will be squared.

Pompeo said the government was still “unpacking” the cyberattack and that some of it would likely remain classified.

“This was a very significant effort and I think it is so that we can now say quite clearly that it was the Russians who engaged in this activity,” he said in the interview with radio host Mark Levin.

Russia has said it had “nothing to do” with the hacking.

Experts point to Russia

Throughout his presidency, Trump has refused to blame Russia for well-documented hostilities, including his involvement in the 2016 election to help him get elected. He blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has approved Russia’s return to the G7 group of nations, and has never taken the country to task for allegedly rewarding US troops in Afghanistan.

Cyber ​​security experts and other US officials have been clear over the past week that the operation appears to be Russia’s job. There has been no credible suggestion that any other country – including China – is responsible.

Democrats in Congress who have received classified reviews have also publicly confirmed that Russia was behind it.

It is not clear exactly what the hackers were looking for, but experts say it may contain nuclear secrets, drawings for advanced weapons, COVID-19 vaccine-related research and information for documentation on government and industry leaders.

Serious hack that could have endangered financial institutions and power plants

While Trump downplayed the effects of the hacks, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has said it is jeopardizing federal agencies as well as “critical infrastructure.” Homeland Security, the agency’s parent division, defines such infrastructure as all “vital” assets to the United States or its economy, a broad category that may include power plants and financial institutions.

“Worst hacking case in American history”

A US official who spoke on Thursday on condition of anonymity to discuss an issue that is under investigation described the hack as serious and extremely harmful.

“This looks like it’s the worst hacking case in America’s history,” the official said. “They got into everything.”

Trump had been silent about the attacks before Saturday.

White House Deputy Secretary of State Brian Morgenstern on Friday refused to discuss the matter, but told reporters that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had sometimes led several daily meetings with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence services and looked for ways. to soften the notch.

“Make sure we have the best and brightest thing to work hard on every day,” he said.

The Democratic leaders of four House committees that gave classified reviews of the administration about the hack issued a statement complaining that they “had more questions than answers.”

“Administrative officials were reluctant to share the full extent of the victims and the identity,” they said.

Pompeo, in an interview with Levin, said that Russia was on the list of “people who want to undermine our way of life, our republic, our basic democratic principles. […] You see today’s news regarding their cyberspace efforts. We have seen this for a very long time using asymmetric features to try to place themselves in a place where they can incur US costs. ”

An extensive, prolonged attack

What makes this hacking campaign so extraordinary is its scale: 18,000 organizations were infected from March to June with malware piggybacked on popular network management software from an Austin, Texas, company called SolarWinds.

It will take months to fire elite hackers from the US government network that they have been quietly groping through as far back as March.

Experts say there are simply not enough skilled threat hunting teams to properly identify all government and private systems that may have been hacked. FireEye, the cyber security company that discovered the intrusion into US agencies and was among the victims, has already gathered dozens of victims. It’s racing to identify more.

Many federal workers – and others in the private sector – have to assume that unclassified networks full of spies. Agencies will be more likely to engage sensitive authorities on Signal, WhatsApp and other encrypted smartphone apps.

The only way to secure hacked networks is to restart from scratch

If the hackers really come from Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service, as experts believe, their resistance may be resilient.

The only way to make sure a network is clean is to “burn it to the ground and rebuild it,” said Bruce Schneier, a prominent security expert and Harvard Fellow.

Florida became the first state to admit to being a victim of a SolarWinds hack. Officials told the Associated Press that hackers apparently infiltrated the state health service and others.

SolarWind’s customers include most Fortune 500 companies, and its US government customers are rich in generals and spymasters.

( Jowharwith AP)