US government blames Russia for hack of treasury department’s email accounts

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On Monday, US Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, blamed Russia for the recent hack of email accounts of the Treasury Department. The hack was said to the be the most powerful attempt made at accessing information from dozens of emails of the high-ranking officials of the US Treasury Department.In a written statement, Wyden’s office said that Senate Finance Committee staff were briefed that the hack of the Treasury Department appears to have been a significant one, “the full depth of which isn’t known.”

Wyden, the most senior Democrat on the committee, said that Microsoft informed the agency that dozens of email accounts had been compromised, belonging to top officials.“Treasury still does not know all of the actions taken by hackers, or precisely what information was stolen,” Wyden said in a statement. Though the Internal Revenue Service said there was no evidence about the information from the tax agency being compromised or that taxpayer data was affected.Wyden’s statement was more worrying than Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s, who told CNBC that “the good news is there has been no damage, nor have we seen any large amounts of information displaced.” He said, “I can assure you, we are completely on top of this.”

Treasury Department was believed to be first among the several US agencies which reported being hit by the espionage attack, though the security breach would have impacted several US agencies. Despite the ongoing investigations, the true impact and consequences of the hack are still unknown. The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm said in a statement that the cyber hack posed a “grave” risk to government and corporate networks.

Wyden in his statement said that cyber spy operation began in July, where as the experts contest it and believe that the overall hacking operation began months before when malicious code cracked into updates to popular software which monitors computer networks of various businesses and governments all across the world. The hackers targeted the US cyber security company SolarWinds Orion network monitoring platform. The hackers infiltrated the US government agencies, important infrastructure entities and private firms. Reuters reported that the US Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Energy, Homeland Security and Commerce have all been breached.

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo also suspected Russian involvement in the espionage attack. As per the transcript produced by the State Department, Pompeo said, “There was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of U.S. Government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well. This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”

On the contrary, the outgoing US President Donald Trump has been downplaying Russian involvement and has been blaming China for the hack. 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!).”

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