Vladimir Putin has personally supported the Russian secret service, which is accused of launching a massive cyberattack against the US government.
The Kremlin leader appeared on Sunday on the occasion of his 100th anniversary at the headquarters of the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service.
While Putin did not refer to hacking, he praised the work of intelligence agents in protecting Russia on an annual holiday for the country's intelligence officers.
A hatless Putin – himself a former KGB agent – stood in the freezing cold in front of the SVR headquarters and said: "I wish everyone who defends Russia, our people from external and internal threats, defends sovereignty and national interests, I wish you success.
"And for whom the safety and well-being of the motherland was, is and will be the main business of their whole life."
He stressed: "The greatest security should be devoted to information security."
Vladimir Putin personally supported the Russian secret service SVR at an event for the 100th anniversary on Sunday in Moscow (picture). The event came days after the SVR was accused of launching a massive cyber attack against the US
Putin braved freezing temperatures to deliver his speech in front of SVR headquarters. "I wish every success to all those who protect Russia, our people from external and internal threats, who defend sovereignty and national interests," he said
Putin praised young new hires, believed to include many with hacking skills, who were hired for Russia's foreign intelligence service.
"I would like to congratulate those who recently chose this fate for themselves, which sometimes comes with significant risk," he said.
The agents must "react flexibly to the high dynamics of changes in the international situation and actively participate in the identification and neutralization of potential threats to Russia," he said.
At a temperature of around minus 1 ° C, Putin praised the role of the former KGB during the Soviet era, when it was widely viewed as responsible for multiple repression, and the current role of its security organs in fighting terrorism.
"Our common task is to counter any attempt to reverse history, including suspending or distorting the role of our special services in defeating Nazism and, more generally, in ensuring our country's national security and interests," he said.
Putin spoke out in favor of the SVR as the giant agency is accused of being behind a massive data breach that has hacked the networks of government agencies, private companies and think tanks for months.
The scale of the operation, which achieved 40 different goals, has shocked experienced cyber experts with little doubt. This was a huge state-level operation to break into sensitive US facilities.
A company called SolarWinds was hacked and opened the door to public and private computer systems.
SolarWinds is behind critical network monitoring software used by both the US government and many American blue chip companies.
Putin's spokesman denied the Kremlin's involvement in the attack, and the Russian embassy said in a statement that the country "is not conducting offensive cyber operations".
Putin spoke out in favor of the SVR as the big agency is accused of being behind a major data breach that has hacked the networks of government agencies, private companies and think tanks
Government agencies known to have been previously targeted by hackers
- Foreign Ministry
- Department of Homeland Security
- Commercial department
- National Health Institute
- Energy agency
- National Nuclear Safety Authority
- Los Alamos National Laboratory
- Federal Energy Regulation Commission
- Safe transport office
Previously, the Russian state media had happily picked up on statements by President Donald Trump, in which Russia's role in hacking was downplayed.
In a tweet on Saturday, the US President accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of blaming Russia for the huge cyber attack on the US.
Trump tagged Pompeo, claiming China was behind the unprecedented hack against US government agencies and private sector companies after the Secretary of State said Friday the Kremlin was to blame.
Russian state news agency TASS wrote a story following Trump's comments: "The White House is canceling issuing a statement claiming Russia was involved in cyber attacks."
Another government agency, Sputnik, quoted US sources as saying the US government is pulling back to blame Russia.
Sputnik also reported that Trump "berated the media for ruling out China's potential involvement in the attack, which he believed could be the case."
They also took up the President's assertion that "the true extent of the recent cyberattacks on US government agencies has been greatly exaggerated".
This followed Pompeo by claiming, "it is the case that we can now say fairly clearly that it was the Russians who took part in this activity".
He also stressed that it was a direct and serious attack by Moscow on the US government.
He called it "a significant effort to use third-party software to essentially embed code in US government systems."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pictured) blamed Russia for Friday's attack
President Donald Trump reached out to Pompeo in a tweet on Saturday, downplaying the severity of the hack and shifting the blame to China
Even before Pompeo's remarks, it was believed that Russia was behind the attack.
Several private security companies said the violation bore the hallmarks of a Kremlin operation.
& # 39; Cozy Bear & # 39;: The Russian hacker cell is suspected of being attacked
Russia denies involvement in the SUNBURST attack, but US officials say the nation is behind the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) that carried out the bold breach.
Sources say a prime suspect is APT29, the Kremlin-affiliated group also known as the Cozy Bear.
Cozy Bear is best known as the group believed to be responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee servers violation.
Experts believe Cozy Bear is part of a Russian secret service.
Some question SUNBURST's attribution to Cozy Bear, noting that the tools used in the attack have never been seen before.
Some have pointed to the Russian hacking cell called "Cozy Bear" – although other experts argue that the tools and methods of the new attack are different from previous violations, making it difficult to attribute.
The wide-ranging attack put several government agencies at risk, as well as a growing list of businesses and local governments across the country.
The two US agencies responsible for maintaining the US nuclear weapons supply have already stated that they were compromised in the attack.
The attack also injured the Pentagon, the FBI, the Treasury Department and the State Department.
Other victims of the attack, according to Reuters, include the government of Pima County, Arizona and cable television company Cox Communications Inc.
Microsoft said Friday it has already identified at least 40 government agencies and companies that the hackers are targeting.
A heat map of the infections released by the tech giant that helped respond to the breach shows the individuals infiltrated by the hackers are dispersed across the United States, with agencies, corporations and think tanks in New York, Washington DC and Texas participating on the am most severely affected include hitting.
Microsoft did not disclose the names of the people infiltrated by the hackers, but said nearly half were tech companies.
Britain, Israel, Canada and the United Arab Emirates were also caught in the crosshairs.
The breach was carried out back in March and went undetected for almost nine months, raising concerns about the full amount of intelligence and top-secret information that may have gotten into the wrong hands.
This heat map of the infections created by Microsoft shows that the infections infiltrated by the hackers are spread across the United States
Trump's comments, wiping off the gravity of the hack, were in direct contradiction to concerns voiced by senior administrators, politicians, tech giants and cybersecurity experts.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the attack posed a "serious risk" to "critical infrastructure" in both the public and private sectors and at all levels of government.
"CISA has determined that this threat poses a serious risk to the federal government and state, local, tribal and territorial governments, as well as critical infrastructure companies and other private sector organizations," the agency said Thursday.
"CISA believes that removing this threat actor from vulnerable environments will be complex and challenging for organizations."
The agency also warned that the nifty attack would be difficult to detect and difficult to undo.
Trump had remained silent about the attack until his tweet in Pompeo on Saturday that followed a report from CNN alleging White House officials had prepared a statement accusing Russia and planned to release it on Friday afternoon however, were instructed not to do so.
Sources told the outlet that the statement said Russia was responsible, but the government cannot yet rule out the involvement of others.
They said they were not told why the statement was not made public.
His silence did not go unnoticed when the Democrats in Congress beat Trump for failing to address the issue and demanding a tough response to the perpetrators.
& # 39; Our nation is under attack. This cyber attack could be the biggest in our history. We don't know how big the damage is yet, but we know that we weren't prepared and that our work is cut out for us, ”tweeted Rep Jason Crow (D – Colorado) on Friday.
“We cannot wait for guidance, we need it now. @realdonaldtrump where are you? & # 39;
Crow also compared the attack to Pearl Harbor in a follow-up tweet: "The situation is evolving, but the more I learn that this could be our modern day cyber equivalent of Pearl Harbor."
Unlike Trump, President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement Thursday on the attack in which he pledged to make cybersecurity "mandatory" when he took office and said he would not "remain idle".
"I want to make it clear: my administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at all levels of government – and we will make dealing with this violation a top priority from the time we take office," Biden said in a statement.
"We will increase cybersecurity as a mandate across government, further strengthen partnerships with the private sector, and expand our investments in the infrastructure and people we need to ward off malicious cyberattacks."
Biden's team is considering options for Russia to punish hacking
President-elect Joe Biden's team will consider several options to punish Russia for its alleged role in unprecedented hacker attacks on US government agencies and companies once he takes office, from new financial sanctions to cyberattacks on the country Russian infrastructure.
The reaction must be strong enough to impose high economic, financial or technological costs on the perpetrators, but avoid an escalating conflict between two nuclear-armed opponents of the Cold War, said one of the people familiar with Biden's considerations on condition of anonymity.
The overall objective of any action, which could include increased efforts to combat cyber espionage, would be to create an effective deterrent and reduce the potency of future Russian cyber espionage, the person said.
The spreading crisis – and the lack of transparency about the extent of infiltration into the computer networks of federal agencies, including ministries of finance, energy and trade – will be high on Biden's agenda when he takes office on Jan. 20.
President-elect Joe Biden's team will consider several options to punish Russia for its alleged role in unprecedented hacker attacks on US government agencies and companies once he takes office, from new financial sanctions to cyberattacks on the country Russian infrastructure
President Donald Trump did not acknowledge the hacking until almost a week after his appearance on Saturday, downplaying its importance and questioning whether the Russians were to blame.
The discussions among Biden's advisors are theoretical at this point and need refining once they are in office and have a full view of U.S. capabilities.
Biden's team will also need a better understanding of the cyber breach by US intelligence agencies before decisions are made, said one of the people familiar with his deliberations. Biden's access to the president's intelligence about intelligence was delayed until about three weeks ago when Trump denied the November 3 election results.
With Trump doing nothing, Biden's team is concerned that there may be only one tool left for the president-elect in the coming weeks: noise, according to one of the people familiar with his options.
"You will be held accountable," Biden said in an interview that aired on CBS Thursday when asked how he would deal with the Russia-led hack. He vowed to impose financial implications on "both individuals and companies".
The answer could be an early test of the president-elect's pledge to work and consult more effectively with U.S. allies, given some proposals that are likely to be put forward before Biden could hit the financial interests or infrastructure of countries affiliated with the U.S. States are friends, a person familiar with the matter said.
"Symbolically, it won't do," for a US response, said James Andrew Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. "They want the Russians to know that we are pushing back."
A spokeswoman for the Biden transition team did not respond to a request for comment.
Reporting from Reuters
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