U.S. federal agencies and ministries, including the Treasury and Commerce departments, were spied on by hackers suspected to work for the Russian government, officials acknowledged on Sunday after Reuters first revealed the incident.
- The hackers had free access to internal email traffic and the breach was serious enough to prompt a meeting of the National Security Council at the White House on Saturday, Reuters said.
- According to U.S. officials quoted by The Wall Street Journal, the breach may be related to the hacking earlier this year of cybersecurity firm FireEye FEYE, +0.26%, a company with major business and government contracts.
- The New York Times said government sources fear that the hack might be “one of the most sophisticated, and perhaps among the largest, attacks on federal systems in the past five years.”
- The hackers may have infiltrated the U.S. government’s systems by tampering with the update of software from SolarWinds SWI, -4.51%, a network-management company with extensive contracts with the U.S. military and intelligence services.
- The Russian foreign ministry has denied the allegations as “unfounded attempts of the U.S. media to blame Russia.”
The outlook: Russian hacking, what to do about it, how to defend against it and how to counterattack, is confirmed to be one of the most serious strategic challenges western democracies are facing. And it is likely to become one of the top intelligence priorities of the new U.S. administration.