On Sunday, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) warned another foreign hack like the recently discovered SolarWinds hack — that breached U.S. government agencies and companies — could shut off the U.S. electrical grid and water supply.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” with Chuck Todd, Romney attributed the mass U.S. hack to Russian state-backed hackers, and said the U.S. needs to take seriously the threat a hack of that magnitude could pose to U.S. infrastructure. “They potentially have the capacity to cripple us economically, they went to our businesses. They have the potential to also cripple us with regards to our water and electricity and so forth.”
Romney’s comments come a week after it was first discovered that hackers had inserted malware into widely used software developed by U.S. software firm, SolarWinds. Initial reports indicated the U.S. Treasury Department was targeted, but SolarWinds and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have since determined up to 18,000 users of SolarWinds Orion software could have been exposed to hackers. The list of alleged victims of the attack has since grown to include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, and parts of the Pentagon. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the U.S. agency that manages the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, is also believed to have been hacked.
In his comments Sunday, Romney pointed to the U.S. invasion of Baghdad, Iraq in 2003, when the U.S. targeted critical Iraqi infrastructure ahead of the invasion.
“You saw the videos of the rockets going across the city and then slamming into various buildings,” Romney said of the invasion of Iraq. “The places they attacked of course were the communication centers and the utility centers, because you can bring a country to its knees if the people don’t have electricity, don’t have water and can’t communicate. And basically, what Russia appears to have done is put themselves in those systems in our country, they don’t need rockets to take those things out, they potentially have the capability to take out all those things and doing it remotely at very small cost.”
During his interview, Romney also criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the hacks. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “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!). There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA.”
Trump also questioned Russia’s alleged responsibility for the attack, while raising China as a potential perpetrator. “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!).”
Responding to Trump’s comments suggesting the hack may have actually been carried out by China, Romney said “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.”