Pompeo: Pretty Clear Russia Behind SolarWinds Cyberattack

Pompeo: Pretty Clear Russia Behind SolarWinds Cyberattack
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 9, 2020. (John Bazemore/AP Photo)
Zachary Stieber

U.S. officials believe Russia is behind the cyberattack against SolarWinds, which led to a number of government agencies becoming compromised, a top official said Friday.

“I can’t say much more as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified. But suffice it to say there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of U.S. government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Mark Levin’s radio show.

“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”

Up to 18,000 customers of Texas-based SolarWinds were using the compromised Orion network, the company said in a recent filing. The company boasted of serving some 300,000 customers around the world in a partial customer listing it has since taken down. Customers include all five branches of the U.S. military and hundreds of the top businesses.

Hackers used malicious code, or malware, to infiltrate systems that had uploaded updates to Orion earlier this year, according to the company and cyber experts.

Institutions suffering breaches include Microsoft, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy, spokespersons confirmed to The Epoch Times. Experts say the breaches started months ago.

Optical fiber cables are seen in a telephone exchange in Italy in a file photograph. (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)
Optical fiber cables are seen in a telephone exchange in Italy in a file photograph. (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

SolarWinds recommended customers move to patch the infected software and assume any affected devices were compromised. The Department of Homeland’s cybersecurity agency told government agencies to cut off Internet access to affected devices.

Legislators are trying to figure out the extent of the problem. House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), one of those briefed behind closed doors on Friday, said the attack was “very broad.”

“They don’t even know how broad it is; it’s very serious. The response is going to take weeks or months. It’s a top national security concern,” she said.

Pompeo said President Donald Trump’s administration sees Russia as a threat, but China as a bigger problem.

“Vladimir Putin remains a real risk to those of us who love freedom, and we have to make sure that we prepare for each of them,” he said. “Today, I rank China as the challenge that truly presents an existential threat, but I don’t minimize the risk that having hundreds and hundreds of nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States imposes—an enormous risk on us as well.”