By Stefan J. Bos
Speaking about the massive cyberattack, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Russia. "We can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity," Pompeo told the Mark Levin radio show. He added that they were still "unpacking" what it was.
He called it a "significant effort" to use a piece of third party software "to essentially embed code inside U.S. government systems. And it now appears in systems of private companies and companies and governments around the world as well. This [hacking] was a very significant effort."
Officials believe the hacks go back to as early as March. But it was only discovered this month. Using software from the internet technology form Solar Winds, the hackers could spy on its customers, such as tech giant Microsoft.
Through these methods, potential Russian spies hit the Department of Energy, including its National Nuclear Security Administration responsible for overseeing the nuclear weapons stockpile. It later claimed that the hack appeared to have been limited to "business networks."
Hackers were also able to target other government agencies such as the U.S. treasury and commerce departments. The suspected Russian hackers who broke into American government agencies also spied on less high-profile organizations.
Hack spreading globally
But the hack spread beyond the United States, affecting organizations including in Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, Britain, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.
Back in Washington, lawmakers expressed outrage about the perceived reluctance by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to share information earlier.
The U.S. Congress gathered behind closed doors to discuss the scandal, explained a clearly frustrated Congressman Stephen Lynch, who heads the House of Representatives' oversight and reform committee.
"Cybersecurity experts don't have a real sense yet in the terms of the breadth of the intrusion itself," Lynch added after attending a classified briefing.
Lynch warned that "there are as many as 18,000 individual entities, both private and government, that have been compromised here and that had the defective software." He cautioned that vetting would take time.
Russia denies involvement
However, speaking at his annual press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that his government was involved in malicious hacking.
The U.S. accusations were untrue, he insisted, with Moscow once again a victim of internal American politics.
There was a silver lining for some investors amid the turmoil.
Shares in several cybersecurity companies rose on Friday as investors bet that the spate of disclosures from Microsoft Corporation and others will boost security technology demand.