Home PoliticsDiplomatic Relations Billions Spent on U.S. Defenses Failed to Detect Giant Russian Hack

Billions Spent on U.S. Defenses Failed to Detect Giant Russian Hack

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President Trump has said nothing, perhaps aware that his term in office is coming to an end just as it began, with questions about what he knew about Russian cyberoperations, and when. The National Security Agency has been largely silent, hiding behind the classification of the intelligence. Even the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the group within the Department of Homeland Security charged with defending critical networks, has been conspicuously quiet.

Mr. Blumenthal’s message on Twitter was the first official acknowledgment that Russia was behind the intrusion.

Curiously, the Russian attack barely featured as a footnote at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, which featured testimony from Christopher Krebs, the cybersecurity chief who was fired last month after refusing to back Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud. The hacking took place during Mr. Krebs’s tenure as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, but senators did not ask him about it at the hearing, instead focusing on the hacking that wasn’t: baseless allegations of fraud in the November election.

Some Trump administration officials have acknowledged that several federal agencies — the State, Homeland Security, Treasury and Commerce Departments, as well as parts of the Pentagon — were compromised in the Russian hacking. But investigators are still struggling to determine the extent to which the military, intelligence community and nuclear laboratories were affected.

The hacking is qualitatively different from the high profile hack-and-leak intrusions that the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence division, has carried out in recent years. Those G.R.U. intrusions, like the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee, were intended to be short term — to break in, steal information and make it public for a geopolitical impact.

The S.V.R., a stealthier secret-stealer believed to be behind the new hacking, broke into the D.N.C. systems too, and those of the State Department in 2015, but the intent was not to release the information they found or damage systems they entered. Instead it was hoping for long-term access, able to slowly monitor unclassified, but sensitive, government deliberations on a range of topics.

Inside banks and Fortune 500 companies, executives are also trying to understand the impact of the breach. Many use the network management tool that the hackers quietly bored into in order to carry out their intrusions, which is called Orion and made by the Austin, Texas-based company SolarWinds. Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons are designed, also uses it, as do major military contractors.

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