Trump downs Russia in first comment on hacking campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) – Opposing his secretary of state and other top officials, President Donald Trump suggested without evidence that China – not Russia – could be behind the cyber espionage operation Tried to reduce its influence against and against the United States.

In his first comment on the breech, Trump focused on the Kremlin and removed the intrusion, which has been warned by the country’s cyber security agency A “serious” risk to government and private networks.

“Cyber ​​hack is more in the fake news media than in reality. I have been fully informed and everything is fine. He also claimed that the media is “discussing the possibility that he is” nervous “of China (it could be!).

There is no evidence to suggest what the matter is. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Friday that Russia was “very clear” behind the operation against the United States.

Pompeo said in an interview with radio talk show host Mark Levine, “It was a very important effort and I think that is the case now that we can clearly say that it was the Russians who were engaged in this activity . ”

White House officials set out to make a statement Friday afternoon accusing Russia of being the “lead actor” in the hack, but said in the final moments that a US official was familiar with the conversation, Talked on private discussions on condition of anonymity.

It is unclear whether Pompeo received that message before his interview, but officials are now scrambling to figure out how to square disparate accounts. The White House did not immediately respond to questions based on statements or Trump’s claims. The State Department also did not respond to questions asked about Pompeo’s comments.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has refused to blame Russia for well-documented hostilities, including helping him get elected by his interference in the 2016 election. He blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for the annexation of Russia on Crimea, allowing Russia to return to the G-7 group of nations, and the country for allegedly placing a bounty on US troops in Afghanistan Have never taken to work.

“The president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. He told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Trump “does not want to recognize Russia as the problem they are and the exceptionally bad actors they are on the world stage. … The reality is that Russia is actually a They are anti-geopolitical. They go against us on every front. “

In the interview Pompeo said that the government was still “unpacking” the cyberspace operation and that some of it would be classified.

“But it would suffice to say that there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside US government systems and it is now used by private companies and systems of companies and governments worldwide Appears as, “he said. .

Although Pompeo was the first Trump administration official to publicly blame Russia for the intrusion, cybersecurity experts and other US officials have clarified in the past week that Operation Russia appears to be working. There has been no credible suggestion that any country – including China – is responsible.

Democrats in Congress who received the classified briefing have also publicly confirmed that Russia, which hacked the State Department in 2014 and intervened in the 2016 presidential election through hacking, was behind it.

It is unclear what the hackers were looking for, but experts say it may include nuclear secrets, advanced weapon blueprints, research related to the COVID-19 vaccine, and dossiers on government and industry leaders.

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

While Trump downplayed the impact of the hack, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has said it has compromised federal agencies as well as “critical infrastructure”. Homeland Security, the agency’s parent department, defines such infrastructure as any “significant” asset to the US or its economy, a broad category that can include power plants and financial institutions.

A US official on Thursday discussed a case that is under investigation, on condition of anonymity, calling the hack serious and extremely damaging.

“It looks like this is the worst hacking case in US history,” the official said. “They got involved in everything.”

Trump kept silence on the hacks before Saturday.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern declined to discuss the matter on Friday, but told reporters that National Security Adviser Robert O. Bryan occasionally led several daily meetings with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence agencies Were doing, looking at the way to reduce the hack.

“Rest assured that we have the best and brightest work every single day,” he said.

Democratic leaders of the four House committees, given a classified briefing by the administration over the hack, have complained that they were “left with more questions than answers.”

“Administration officials were not prepared to share the full scope of identification and identification of the victims,” ​​he said.

Pompeo said in an interview with Levin that Russia “is on the list of those who want to undermine our way of life, our republic, our core democratic principles. … You News of the Day in relation to their efforts in cyberspace” Let’s see. We’ve seen this for a horrifically long time, using asymmetric capabilities to put themselves in a place where they can impose costs on the United States. “

What made this hacking campaign so extraordinary was that its scale: 18,000 organizations were infected with malicious code from March to June in a catapult on popular network-management software from an Austin, Texas, company called SolarWinds.

It is going to take months to kill elite hackers from the US government network, as they have been quietly passing since March.

Experts say that there are not enough skilled threat-hunting teams to be duly identified in all systems of government and private sector that have been hacked. CyberEyeer company FIREEE, which detected intrusion into US agencies and was one of the victims, has already inflicted dozens of casualties. It is racing to identify more.

Many federal activists – and others in the private sector – believe that unclassified networks are keeping pace with spies. Agencies will be more willing to operate sensitive government businesses on Signal, WhatsApp and other encrypted smartphone applications.

If the hackers are actually from Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency, as experts believe, their resistance can be tough.

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

Florida became the first state to admit to being a victim of SolarWinds hack. Officials told The Associated Press that the hackers had clearly infiltrated the state’s Health Care Administration Agency and others.

SolarWinds customers include most Fortune 500 companies, and its US government customers are rich with generals and spymasters.


Associated Press authors Frank Bajak in Boston, Eric Tucker in Washington, and Bobby Cana Callavan in Thalassi, Florida contributed to this report.


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