Russia likely behind huge hack on US government, say security services

Russia was likely behind a hacking spree targeting the US federal government last month.

That”s according to a joint statement by security agencies over what was one of the worst cyber compromises the US government has faced. Officials say the hackers appeared to want to gather intelligence rather than cause disruption.

A corrupted software update has been identified as the source of the problem at the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security.

The agencies made it clear the Russian operation was “ongoing” and indicated the hunt for threats was not over.

“This is a serious compromise that will require a sustained and dedicated effort to remediate,” said the statement, distributed by the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

It was not clear why the statement was issued on Tuesday, especially since government officials and cybersecurity experts have for weeks believed that Russia was responsible. Even so, the announcement puts the imprimatur of national security agencies, albeit belatedly, on information that members of Congress had clamoured for the White House to make public.

The Associated Press reported last month that officials at the White House had been prepared to issue a statement that accused Russia of being the main actor in the hack but were told at the last minute to stand down. The day of that report, Dec. 19, Trump tweeted that the “Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality” and suggested without any evidence that China could be to blame.

Euronews spoke to Bryan Seely, a cybersecurity expert and ethical hacker, who rose to prominence after wiretapping the US Secret Service.

What’s so unique about this hack and what were they trying to get to here?

Seely: “Well, it’s very hard to determine someone’s intentions, but the fact that they didn’t go after money, they didn’t go after sabotage shows that they have a lot longer of a game sort of planned. And the fact that it tapped into 250 different federal agencies is staggering. When you’ve got people like Bruce Schneider weighing in. It’s this is unlike anything we’ve ever…