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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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Historic House Vote Expels Rep. George Santos Amidst Scandal



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In a turn of events, the House of Representatives made history on Friday with a vote to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), marking the first such expulsion in over two decades. A moment fraught with gravity unfolded as Speaker Mike Johnson wielded his gavel to formalize Santos’ removal, setting a precedent in congressional annals.

Santos, indicted on 23 counts related to wire fraud, identity theft, and other charges, has not faced conviction but stands accused of misusing campaign funds for opulent purchases. The bipartisan vote, tallying 311 to 114, signaled robust support for expulsion, with a marginally higher number of Republicans opting to retain Santos.

Questions loomed as Speaker Johnson left the chamber, his silence leaving the fate of the ongoing government spending battle uncertain. According to reports from Fox News, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer emphasized the non-partisan nature of the decision, asserting that members concluded Santos had tarnished the House’s reputation and was unfit for representation.

Within the GOP, conflicting opinions emerged, with Rep. Darrell Issa arguing against expulsion, citing the presumption of innocence. The tight-lipped stance of the House Ethics Committee played a pivotal role in the deliberations.

Conversely, members of the New York Republican delegation, led by Rep. Marc Molinaro, asserted Santos’ commission of crimes, justifying expulsion based on a comprehensive investigation.

Santos himself predicted the outcome in an exclusive morning interview on “FOX & Friends.” This vote not only underlines the House’s rare use of expulsion powers but also sets a critical precedent in handling members facing severe legal challenges.

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