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U.S. agencies say Russia ‘likely’ behind massive government hack

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In a joint statement Tuesday, a group of U.S. intelligence agencies blamed Russia for the hack discovered last month of federal agencies through software from the IT firm SolarWinds, stating the nation was “likely” the origin of the massive breach.

This joint statement from a group of intelligence agencies contrasts what President Donald Trump has been saying about the hack, which he has blamed on China while questioning reports pointing the finger at Russia. The New York Times reported Tuesday that, according to people briefed on the material, none of the information gathered about the cyberattack thus far indicates that China was the culprit.

The list of agencies that placed the blame on Russia included the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). After the hacking of SolarWinds was learned last month, the agencies had organized a cyber unified coordination group.

“This work indicates that an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actor, likely Russian in origin, is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered, ongoing cyber compromises of both government and non-governmental networks,” the agencies said in a joint statement relating to their probe into the compromising breach of U.S. cybersecurity.

Furthermore, the agencies underlined that “at this time, we believe this was, and continues to be, an intelligence gathering effort. We are taking all necessary steps to understand the full scope of this campaign and respond accordingly.”

Back in December, Reuters first reported that the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury had been breached as part of the hack of SolarWinds, customers of whom include a majority of federal agencies and American Fortune 500 companies are customers of the IT firm.

RELATED: Russian government hackers reportedly compromised U.S. agencies as part of global espionage campaign: report

Following those initial reports, other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversee the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile, have said they were impacted by the cyberattack too. Notably, hackers were possibly active in these systems since March.

RELATED: Nuclear weapons agency hacked amid barrage of cyber attacks on U.S. government: report

In a December filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), SolarWinds stated that as many as 18,000 of its customers had possibly been compromised by the breach.

Of those 18,000 public and private entities that used SolarWinds’s Orion software, which the hackers exploited in order to breach networks, “fewer than ten U.S. government agencies” had been “compromised by follow-on activity in their systems,” the agencies stated Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—while also saying the U.S. routinely receives cyberattacks from nations like Iran, North Korea, and China—told Bloomberg News Tuesday that the attack “was in fact a Russian operation”.

Since last month’s revelations of the hack, President-elect Joe Biden has claimed that Russia was likely behind it.

“It certainly fits Russia’s long history of reckless disruptive cyber activities, but the Trump administration needs to make an official attribution,” Biden said in December. “This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch when he wasn’t watching. It’s still his responsibility as president to defend American interests for the next four weeks.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Shanghai: China’s Potemkin Village

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Following a recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imposed a month-long draconian lockdown on the residents of Shanghai. The CCP has used the outbreak to persecute its own citizens, including through forced evictions and quarantines, and placing alarms on doors to prevent COVID-19 people from leaving their homes. The harsh measures have resulted in food and healthcare shortages and separation of families.

But of course, we wouldn’t know that by reading the CCP-run press readily available in the United States. Instead of presenting the facts, the CCP engages in a comprehensive propaganda campaign that props up Shanghai as a Chinese Potemkin village. The CCP media asserts that China’s actions in Shanghai are benevolent and wise, while Western criticism is a product of malice. Chinese state-run media also insists that the Shanghai lockdown promotes economic stability in China and the world.

Claim 1: China Has the Best Policy for Combating COVID-19

The CCP media portray the Shanghai lockdown as the best and ideal policy. As cited by a XinhuaNet editorial, “China’s dynamic zero-COVID approach” is “the best option to save lives,” according to a “Rwandan researcher and publisher,” “…a miracle for us to learn,” according to a Kenyan scholar, and “a very ideal response,” according to Ethiopia’s National COVID-19 Response Task Force Coordinator. According to CCP media, Chinese citizens have greeted the Shanghai lockdown warmly, even with “[a] mixed sense of intensity, unity and hopefulness,” according to China Daily.

Claim 2: The West Hypocritically Defames China

The CCP press also accuses the West of lying about the Shanghai lockdown, and using COVID policies for nefarious ends. According to XinhuaNet, “Shanghai…has never imposed what Western media described as a ‘lockdown.’” Other CCP editorials actually accuse the West of malice. One Global Times editorial claims that the lockdown “has been deliberately exaggerated by the West.” Another Global Times editorial asserts that the Western approach of “coexisting with the virus” amounts to a way “…to drive out a large number of the vulnerable people with low immunity,” and a form of “cruel social Darwinism.”

Claim 3: China’s COVID Policies Result in an Economic Windfall to China and the World

The CCP also portrays the lockdown as necessary to achieve great economic growth in China and beyond. One Global Times editorial, while conceding that the lockdown amounted to a “sealing-off,” it is “a temporary measure to better resume work and production and to make the economy and society function more effectively. Its effectiveness has been proven.” According to another Global Times editorial, China’s policy is “widely considered to be the best strategy…to both contain the epidemic and ensure stable economic development.”

In an Orwellian fashion, Chinese press claims that China is solving, not causing, the world’s economic problems. According to XinhuaNet, “China has played a decisive role in stabilizing the global economy and resuming the supply chain disrupted by COVID-19.” Citing a Bloomberg article, the same XinhuaNet editorial claims that China “has prevented a huge number of deaths at home and ensured that everything from iPhones and Teslas to fertilizer and car parts continues to flow to the rest of the world.” Chinese citizens, of course, are collateral damage: Ji Qiwei, vice-general manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle, stated that “The domestic market may be impacted a little by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, but our export market will continue to see strong growth,” according to China Daily.

While the world continues to suffer economic and human damage as a result of COVID-19, China continues to revise history regarding its role. Through its propaganda in its English publications of Xinhua, China Daily, and Global Times, China seeks to portray itself as a benevolent force in the fight against the virus.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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