“I agree with Secretary Pompeo’s assessment. It certainly appears to be the Russians, but I’m not going to discuss it beyond that,” Barr said at a news conference, referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments last week that “we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
Barr’s comments also underline Trump’s extraordinary willingness to dispute top officials in his own administration who have pointed to Russia as a suspect when condemning nefarious activity.
The statement, the people said, placed blame on Russia for orchestrating the attack but left open the possibility that other actors were involved.
Officials in the Trump administration have said the cyberattack “poses a grave risk” to networks across both the public and private sector. At least half a dozen federal agencies — including the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber arm and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and State — were known to have been targeted in the attack, which impacted a third-party software’s vendor system.
Investigators are still trying to determine what, if any, government data may have been accessed or stolen in the hack.
Kevin Mandia, the CEO of FireEye, the cybersecurity firm that discovered the breach, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that the sophistication of the SolarWinds operation meant there was “definitively a nation behind this,” adding that US investigators were working to attribute the hack with 100% certainty.
Mandia said the hackers conducted a “dry run” in October 2019 to change code in the SolarWinds Orion platform, but it was innocuous. Then, in March, the attackers put in the malicious code into the supply chain.
“It was a backdoor into the American supply chain that separates this from thousands of other cases that we’ve worked throughout our careers,” he said.
Mandia said while 18,000 companies had the malicious code in their network, there are about 50 organizations or companies that were impacted by the threat.
This story has been updated with additional background information.
CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Veronica Stracqualursi, Kevin Liptak, Jennifer Hansler, Allie Malloy, Devan Cole, Christina Carrega and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.