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US cites Russia as likely hack culprit, bucking Trump

Gregory Korte and Alyza Sebenius

U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI said a major hack of the federal government and some corporations was likely undertaken by Russia – contradicting President Donald Trump’s efforts to suggest China might be responsible – and “will require a sustained and dedicated effort to remediate.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still focused on identifying victims, collecting and analyzing evidence and sharing information about the sophisticated hack, according to a joint statement on Tuesday from the FBI, National Security Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The cyber-attacks are ongoing, according to the agencies.

The hack targeted updates in widely used software from Austin, Texas-based SolarWinds Corp, which has said as many as 18,000 of its customers may have received the malicious code. According to the statement, the agencies believe that “a much smaller number has been compromised by follow-on activity on their systems.”

“We have so far identified fewer than 10 U.S. government agencies that fall into this category, and are working to identify the nongovernment entities who also may be impacted,” according to the statement.

Russia has rejected accusations it was behind the hack.

However, in the statement, the agencies said the attacks were likely “Russian in origin” and are believed to be “an intelligence gathering effort.”

Tuesday’s statement is the latest contradiction of Trump’s assessment of the hack. Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have previously said Russia was likely responsible.

“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!),” Trump wrote in a series of tweets on Dec. 19.