US says recent hacking campaign hit government networks

U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. government confirmed on Wednesday that a recent hacking campaign affected its networks and said the attack was “significant and ongoing.”

Hackers believed to be working for Russia have been monitoring internal email traffic at the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, Reuters reported earlier this week, citing people who said they feared the hacks uncovered so far may be the tip of the iceberg.

“This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government,” said a joint statement issued by the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Technology company SolarWinds Corp, which was the key stepping-stone used by the hackers, said up to 18,000 of its customers had downloaded a compromised software update that allowed hackers to spy unnoticed on businesses and agencies for almost nine months.

FILE PHOTO: SolarWinds Corp banner hangs at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the IPO day of the company in New York, U.S., October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

“Over the course of the past several days, the FBI, CISA, and ODNI have become aware of a significant and ongoing cybersecurity campaign.”

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI), THE CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY (CISA), AND THE OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE (ODNI)

“The FBI is investigating and gathering intelligence in order to attribute, pursue, and disrupt the responsible threat actors,” the joint statement said.

The FBI, CISA and ODNI have formed a Cyber Unified Coordination Group to coordinate the U.S. government’s response, it said.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien cut short a European trip on Tuesday and returned to Washington to deal with the attack.

National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien speaks to reporters outside the West Wing at the White House on November 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Full Statement from FBI, CISA and ODNI

Over the course of the past several days, the FBI, CISA, and ODNI have become aware of a significant and ongoing cybersecurity campaign. Pursuant to Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 41, the FBI, CISA, and ODNI have formed a Cyber Unified Coordination Group (UCG) to coordinate a whole-of-government response to this significant cyber incident. The UCG is intended to unify the individual efforts of these agencies as they focus on their separate responsibilities. This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government.  

As the lead for threat response, the FBI is investigating and gathering intelligence in order to attribute, pursue, and disrupt the responsible threat actors. The FBI is engaging with known and suspected victims, and information gained through FBI’s efforts will provide indicators to network defenders and intelligence to our government partners to enable further action.  

As the lead for asset response activities, CISA took immediate action and issued an Emergency Directive instructing federal civilian agencies to immediately disconnect or power down affected SolarWinds Orion products from their network. CISA remains in regular contact with our government, private sector and international partners, providing technical assistance upon request, and making needed information and resources available to help those affected recover quickly from this incident. CISA is engaging with our public and private stakeholders across the critical infrastructure community to ensure they understand their exposure and are taking steps to identify and mitigate any compromises. 

As the lead for intelligence support and related activities, ODNI is helping to marshal all of the Intelligence Community’s relevant resources to support this effort and share information across the United States Government. 

To report suspicious or criminal activity related to information found in this statement, contact your local FBI field office at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field. To request incident response resources or technical assistance related to this statement, visit https://www.us-cert.gov/report or email Central@cisa.gov

Joint Statement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)

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