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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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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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