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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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Chinese Spy Balloon: Tensions rise between the U.S. and China

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A strange object was spotted Wednesday over Billings Montana. The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the strange object was, in fact, a Chinese spy balloon. According to a report from KPAX, a western Montana news outlet, the balloon had been on the governments radar for days.

On Friday, the Chinese government released a statement saying that the balloon spotted in Billings is a “civilian airship” that’s sole purpose is used to collect research on weather and that it had just blown off course. The balloon was not shot down by orders of the Pentagon due to the risk of falling debris injuring people on the ground.

Sara Carter, who has spoken frequently on the Chinese government’s threat and expansion to the West, stated on Twitter that the United States has failed to stop China from purchasing land near military installations, vital agricultural land, as well as, allowing Chinese linked companies, such as Huawei, to install technology in cellular towers. Those cellular towers are located in Montana, along side more than 150 ICBM nuclear silos.

China said, “The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure.” Majeure meaning that it was out of there control. It blew off course due to limited “self-steering” capabilities according the Ministry. The ministry also stated that the balloon, “deviated far from its planned course.”

This incident is adding fuel to the fire of what is already a tense relationship between the worlds two largest economies. China already lays claim to approximately 80% of the South China Sea, and is seeking full control over Taiwan after assuming full control of Hong Kong. China’s belt and road initiative has invested copious amounts of money into building infrastructure in other countries and uses it as economic blackmail. China’s transportation of fentanyl into Mexico is yet again another example of how they are seeking to damage the US.

Is this just a weather ballon that blew off course? US officials at the White House seem to be unconvinced and will continue to monitor the balloon, as reported.

UPDATED: Statement from the Pentagon was jaw dropping when a reporter asked if the public has a right to know about Beijing’s balloon.

“The public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky and see where the balloon is,” a DOD official responded.

 

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