For months now, Russian government hackers have been monitoring email traffic at the Departments of Commerce and Treasury, a massive escalation of cyber warfare that suggests the Kremlin has no fear of retribution as long as President Donald Trump is in office, according to the Washington Post:
“Russian government hackers breached the Treasury and Commerce departments, along with other U.S. government agencies, as part of a global espionage campaign that stretches back months, according to people familiar with the matter.
“The Russian hackers, known by the nicknames APT29 or Cozy Bear, are part of that nation’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, and they breached email systems in some cases, said the people familiar with the intrusions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”
The response to the hacking by Russia from the White House has been silence. President Trump has issued no statements or posted any tweets regarding the disturbing breach of U.S. national security.
Another troubling aspect of the hack is how massive it turns out to be:
“The scale of the Russian espionage operation appears to be large, said several individuals familiar with the matter. ‘This is looking very, very bad,’ said one person. SolarWinds products are used by more than 300,000 organizations across the world. They include all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, State Department, Justice Department, NASA, the Executive Office of the President and the National Security Agency, the world’s top electronic spy agency, according to the firm’s website.”
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, noted that such a large intrusion into U.S. agencies suggests a long-term negative impact on national security:
“This is a big deal, and given what we now know about where breaches happened, I’m expecting the scope to grow as more logs are reviewed. When an aggressive group like this gets an open sesame to many desirable systems, they are going to use it widely.”
In the past, the Trump administration has been reluctant to criticize or punish the Russians for actions against the United States. That may well have contributed to the recent attack. It remains unclear how the incoming Biden administration will react to this latest attack on the national cyber infrastructure.
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