Federal Bureau of Investigation points finger at Russian Federation over 'ongoing' SolarWinds hack

The FBI seal is seen before a news conference at FBI headquarters in Washington

"We have so far identified fewer than ten USA government agencies that fall into this category, and are working to identify and notify the non-government entities who also may be impacted".

Following the reports, US President Donald Trump, who was "fully briefed" on the matter, said that the attacks were exaggerated by "Fake News Media", alleging that China could have been responsible for the hack, and suggesting alleged election fraud was much of a bigger issue for the United States. It said the hacks appeared to be intended for "intelligence gathering", suggesting the evidence so far pointed to a Russian spying effort rather than an attempt to damage or disrupt US government operations.

FireEye said that hackers broke into SolarWinds' network and pushed a tainted software update to its customers, allowing the hackers to easily break into any one of thousands of companies and agencies that installed the backdoored update.

The task force also confirmed that the Treasury, the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy were breached in an "intelligence-gathering effort".

But it does arrive weeks after President Trump casted doubt on Russia's suspected role in the hack.

The hacking campaign was notable for its scale and stealth, with the attackers leveraging the trust associated with SolarWinds Orion software to spy on government agencies and other companies for at least nine months, including viewing source code and stealing security tools, by the time it was discovered.

Officials also announced the creation of a new task force from the U.S. National Security Council, the Cyber Unified Coordination Group (UCG), which will be responsible for investigating the hack while also leading remediation efforts.

US officials had previously said the hack had impacted the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Energy, Treasury and Commerce, as well as state and local governments.

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

The Kremlin itself has denied any involvement in SolarWinds breach. The executive, Charles Carmakal, would not name the targets. "Malicious activities in the information space contradict the principles of the Russian foreign policy", the Russian embassy said in a statement last month.

The extent of affected targets remains unknown.

As for the number of federal agencies compromised, he said it's hard to know "from the outside how they've evaluated this".

In response, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russian Federation had no part in the hacking operations and that the accusations were "unfounded" and the result of "blind Russophobia".

The agencies said that the actor, "likely Russian in origin, is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered, ongoing cyber compromises of both government and non-governmental networks".

The wording in the attribution, that it was "likely" a breach by Russians, came under fire from a senior lawmaker who had already been briefed by USA intelligence in December on it. "We are taking all necessary steps to understand the full scope of this campaign and respond accordingly", the agencies added.

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