Romney critical of US response, while Biden’s vows action against hack

Dec 20, 2020, 2:57 PM
Romney critical Russian hack...
FILE - This June 6, 2013 file photo, shows the sign outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Once in office, President-elect Joe Biden will punish Russia for its suspected cyber espionage operation against the United States with financial sanctions and measures to hobble the Kremlin’s ability to launch future hacks, his chief of staff said Sunday, as a GOP senator criticized President Donald Trump for having a “blind spot” when it comes to Moscow.

“Those who are responsible are going to face consequences for it,” said Biden chief of staff Ron Klain. “It’s not just sanctions. It’s also steps and things we could do to degrade the capacity of foreign actors to repeat this sort of attack or, worse still, engage in even more dangerous attacks.”

RELATED:  EXPLAINER – How bad is the hack that targeted US agencies?

The head of the cybersecurity firm FireEye, which disclosed that it had been targeted by the spying attempt, said it was clear the foreign intrusions were not “one and done” and suggested there was little time to spare before the next one.

“These attacks will continue to escalate, and get worse if we do nothing,” said CEO Kevin Mandia.

President casts doubt on Russian involvement

Cybersecurity experts and U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been clear over the past week that they believe Russia was behind the massive hack that infiltrated over 40 federal agencies, including the departments of Treasury, Energy and Commerce, as well as government contractors.

But Mr. Trump over the weekend cast doubt on that assessment, suggesting without evidence that China may be behind the cyber intrusions and minimizing the impact. “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,” Pres. Trump tweeted, contradicting his own cybersecurity agency, which described the hacks as a “grave” threat.

Sen. Romney critical of U.S. response

On Sunday, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, blasted Pres. Trump for putting the U.S. at continuing risk.

“Russia acted with impunity,” he said. “They didn’t fear what we would be able to do from a cyber capacity. They didn’t think that our defense systems were particularly adequate. And they apparently didn’t think that we would respond in a very aggressive way.”

“I think we’ve come to recognize that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia,” Romney added, urging an immediate response and calling cyberspace the “warfare of the future.”

Other critical infrastructure involved in hack

While Mr. Trump downplayed the impact of the hacks, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has said it compromised federal agencies as well as “critical infrastructure.” Homeland Security, the agency’s parent department, defines such infrastructure as any “vital” assets to the U.S. or its economy, a broad category that could include power plants and financial institutions.

It’s not clear exactly what the hackers were seeking, but experts say it could include nuclear secrets, blueprints for advanced weaponry, COVID-19 vaccine-related research and information for dossiers on government and industry leaders.

RELATED:  US agencies, companies secure networks after huge hack

Still, it may take months to kick elite hackers out of the U.S. government networks they have been quietly rifling through since as far back as March. Christopher Krebs, former director of CISA, highlighted the challenges ahead as Pres. Trump dismisses the threat and Biden prepares for his Jan. 20 inauguration.

“The federal civilian agencies, the 101 civilian agencies, are not really optimized for defense right now,” Krebs said. “And what that means is, there’s a lot of old antiquated, legacy IT systems that are hard to defend. Plus, the authorities are not in place for teams like CISA to really get out there and aggressively root out adversaries.”

Hack response slowed by Trump – Biden transition

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump has refused to blame Russia for well-documented hostilities, including its interference in the 2016 election to help him get elected. He blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has endorsed allowing Russia to return to the G-7 group of nations, and has never taken the country to task for allegedly putting bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Klain said the incoming administration was still learning information about the purpose, nature and extent of the hacks and faulted the confused messaging from the Trump administration on who’s to blame.

Klain and Mandia spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Krebs was on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Romney was on CNN and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Today’s Top Stories

United States

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
1 day ago
A Rite Aid logo is displayed on its store...

Amazon, Rite Aid cap purchase of emergency contraceptives

Retailers limiting purchases is standard practice that helps retailers prevent stockpiling and reselling at higher prices.
1 day ago
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul stands with Lieutenant governor Antonio Delgado during their primary ele...
STEVE PEOPLES AP National Politics Writer

Takeaways from first primaries since Roe v. Wade overturned

The abortion debate consumed the nation this week, but there was no race where it mattered more than Colorado's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, where businessman Joe O'Dea became one of the only abortion-rights-supporting Republicans in the nation to win a statewide primary this year.
2 days ago
Freshly pressed vinyl records are produced in a stamper at the United Record Pressing facility Thur...
DAVID SHARP Associated Press

Manufacturers struggle to keep pace with vinyl record demand

The Recording Industry Association of America says record album sales grew 61% last year — and reached $1 billion for the first time since the 1980s.
4 days ago
U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) speaks during the fifth of eight planned public hearings ...
Annie Grayer, CNN

January 6 committee unexpectedly adds new hearing for Tuesday

The announcement came as a surprise to many as the committee had said it was not going to resume its hearings until mid-July.
4 days ago
Bodycam footage from the Moab Police Department that shows them talking with Brian Laundrie is seen...
Jamiel Lynch and Chenelle Woody, CNN

Lawyer releases pages from Brian Laundrie’s notebook in which he admits to killing Gabby Petito

Eight pages of Brian Laundrie's notebook were released Friday by the Laundrie family attorney. The notebook was found near Brian Laundrie's remains.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Romney critical of US response, while Biden’s vows action against hack