The United States’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and US senators described the attack that Russian hackers perpetrated against computer systems as a “serious threat”. Such is the alarm that the action was considered a “declaration of war.”
A report by ABC News revealed that federal authorities showed great alarm after discovering the vulnerability of the US computer system, which had been attacked by Russian hackers.
The hack compromised federal agencies and “critical infrastructure” in a sophisticated attack that was difficult to detect and will be difficult to undo, according to CISA.
The computer attack was such that Joe Biden announced that he would take action against those responsible: “We need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place,” he said.
“We will do that by, among other things, imposing substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks, including in coordination with our allies and partners.”
Microsoft, which helped respond to the breach, revealed Thursday night that it had identified more than 40 government agencies, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and technology and computer companies infiltrated by hackers.
“This is looking like it’s the worst hacking case in the history of America,” an intelligence official told ABC News on condition of anonymity. “They got into everything,” he said.
Thomas Bossert, a former national security advisor to Trump, said in an opinion piece in The New York Times that the United States should now act as if the Russian government had gained control of the networks it has penetrated.
“The actual and perceived control of so many important networks could easily be used to undermine public and consumer trust in data, written communications and services,” he said.
For his part, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said the Russian attack is “virtually a declaration of war”:
““We can’t be buddies with Vladimir Putin and have him at the same time making this kind of cyberattack on America (…) This is virtually a declaration of war by Russia on the United States and we should take that seriously,” Durbin said.
Reuters reported Sunday that Russian-backed hackers infiltrated the internal e-mail systems of the U.S. Treasury Department and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, spying on communications for months.
Government intelligence officials fear that the hackers have entered the records of other federal agencies.
Russian hackers: «hard to stop»
It is not clear exactly what information was accessed during the most recent attacks, but the cyber raids seemed so serious that last Saturday the National Security Council met at the White House to discuss them.
Chris Krebs, who served as the Department of Homeland Security’s top cyber security official before being fired by President Trump, said that “hacks of this type take exceptional tradecraft and time.”
“If this is a supply chain attack using trusted relationships, it’s really hard to stop,” he said.
“I suspect this has been underway for many months. Need good detections to find victims and determine scope.”
According to the information revealed, hackers were able to infiltrate the systems of government agencies and FireEye, a cyber security company, through a malware update introduced in a product of SolarWinds Inc., a US network management company.
FireEye did not identify Russia as the suspect, but said that the hackers were very sophisticated, prioritized stealth, patiently performed victim recognition, and used difficult to attribute cyber tools.
FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia explained that the main target of these attacks would be the theft of information from the company’s government clients.
In addition, Microsoft researchers said in a blog that they had first seen malicious copies of the SolarWinds software deployed by hackers in March.