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Russia ‘acted with impunity’ in huge hack on US, Romney says

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) arrives at the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

Russia “acted with impunity” in enacting a massive, months-long hack on U.S. federal agencies and private companies, and President Donald Trump has a “blind spot” about it, said Sen. Mitt Romney.

Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Utah Republican said the action attributed to Russia “demands a response, and the response you’d expect to occur would be a cyber response.”

It’s unclear, though, if the U.S. has the capacity to do that in a way that would be of the same scale, he said.

Trump on Saturday contradicted top U.S. intelligence officials and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in suggesting the hack, first reported a week ago, may have been the work of China.

“I was disappointed with the president’s comment. But I think we’ve come to recognize that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia,” Romney said, adding that Trump may feel that criticizing Russia “reflects poorly on him.”

The attack attributed to Russia targeted updates in widely-used software from Austin, Texas-based SolarWinds Corp.

The company sells technology products to entities including the State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, the FBI, the U.S. military, and 425 corporations out of the Fortune 500, according to the company’s website and government data.

So far, a number of state governments, the city network in Austin, the U.S. nuclear weapons agency and software giant Microsoft Corp. have reportedly had their systems exposed by the attack.

The U.S. Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the country’s nuclear stockpile, said on Thursday that the malware was isolated to business networks and didn’t affect national security functions.

Still, it appears that no one — including the highest reaches of the U.S. government — is sure of exactly what the hackers had infiltrated, let alone the full extent of what was taken. A Kremlin official has denied the allegations.

Pompeo on Friday linked Moscow to the attacks, saying in a radio interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin “remains a real risk to those of us who love freedom.


© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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