Last Sunday came word some ‘unknown’ hackers (Russians!) cracked the cyber systems of multiple US government agencies — from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Commerce — and maybe some state/city networks as well, and now today it’s been disclosed the breach is big as shit, and still going.
— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) December 17, 2020
General details from CNN this afternoon, especially on the T-Rump’s brain-dead, don’t-give-a-fuck attitude:
When President Donald Trump convened his Cabinet at the White House Wednesday as Washington absorbed news of a massive data breach, the heads of most agencies relevant to the intrusion — including the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Justice Department, the director of national intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency — were absent.
After the meeting, Trump said nothing about the attack, which went undetected by his administration’s intelligence agencies for months.
As those agencies now mobilize to assess the damage — which the government said Thursday could be more widespread than initially thought, posing a “grave risk to the federal government” — the President himself remains silent on the matter, preoccupied instead with his election loss and his invented claims of widespread voter fraud.
The massive data breach, revealed in the final weeks of Trump’s administration, amounts to a dramatic coda for a presidency clouded by questions of deference to Russia and unsuccessful attempts to warm relations with its President, Vladimir Putin.
Just as he has largely ignored the latest surge in coronavirus cases, Trump appears to have all but abdicated responsibility in his final weeks in office.
Further from the Guardian, also this afternoon:
In a statement on Thursday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa) also warned that it will be difficult to remove the malware inserted through network software.
“Removing this threat actor from compromised environments will be highly complex and challenging for organizations,” the agency said.
Thursday’s comments were the most detailed yet from the agency since reports of the hack emerged over the weekend.
The US government on Wednesday confirmed that an operation by elite hackers affected its networks and said the attack was “significant and ongoing”.
The true scale of the breach is still unknown, but looks to have extended beyond the US government.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that Microsoft was also hacked as part of the suspected Russian campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.
SolarWinds, the company behind the software targeted by hackers, said earlier this week that up to 18,000 of its more than 300,000 customers had downloaded the compromised software.
Hackers believed to be working for Russia introduced malware into SolarWind’s popular network safety tool called Orion, which is used by numerous government agencies and large corporations.
The hack began as early as March, when malicious code was snuck into updates to Orion, which monitors the computer networks of businesses and governments for outages.
That malware gave the hackers remote access to an organization’s networks, including internal emails.
The content the hackers sought to steal — and how successful they were — remains unclear.
What a freaking mess. However, this scenario is not another routine hack-and-run exercise performed by a ‘bad actor’ nation trying to probe US defenses cyber-wise, but seems to be a full-frontal assault on our computer systems, putting every-fucking thing on the line.
Richard A. Clarke, longtime terror expert under both Democratic and Republican administrations (GW Bush’s special advisor) had some pointed words during a CNN appearance this afternoon (via Mediaite):
“This is the largest espionage attack in history,” Clarke flatly opened to host Jake Tapper.
“This is as though the Russians got a passkey, a skeleton key for about half the locks in the country. Think about it that way. It’s 18,000 companies and government institutions scattered around the U.S. And the world. This is an espionage attack.”
Clarke explained how widespread this cyberattack is, saying that many American companies have been compromised as well.
Tapper asked “So, what can the Russians, assuming that it was they who are, in fact, behind this, what can they do with the information they have? What’s the risk here?”
“Well, they did not get into classified, secret, or top-secret networks yet, as far as we know,” Clarke replied.
“So they found whatever you can find on an unclassified network in the federal department. Some of that is interesting and some of that, combined with classified information, will tell you something.”
The real vulnerability, in Clarke’s esteem, is how they can use access to networks in a future crisis, and potentially blackmail the U.S. to influence foreign policy.
“They can put a knife to our throat say, ‘You want to retaliate? You want to do something in Syria? You want to do something in Ukraine? How would you like 18,000 of your companies wiped out, all of their networks wiped out?’” Clarke explained.
As for how best to handle it, Clarke offered the following reaction.
“But what we really need to do now is to say to the Russians, this is out of bounds. This is is too much. This is indiscriminate. You don’t get to do it that way.”
Before that gets dismissed as naive, Clarke added “The only way they’ll take that seriously, Jake, is if we hurt them.”
Although Clarke is a straight shooter — he was the voice of sanity and truth-telling on 9/11 — that last statement don’t sound that encouraging, especially with the malignent idiocy-incompetence of the T-Rump still in command. This is way-perilous moment.
And apparently not just on a national scale: ‘State-sponsored hackers believed to be from Russia have breached the city network of Austin, Texas, The Intercept has learned. The breach, which appears to date from at least mid-October, adds to the stunning array of intrusions attributed to Russia over the past few months.‘
“Ask them if they’re Russians…”
“Very clever little boy…very clever…”
(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Agonizing Horse,’ found here),