Biden faults Trump administration on cybersecurity following massive hack

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of failing to prioritize cybersecurity in the wake of a far-reaching breach of private and government systems and promised a serious response when he takes office.

“This attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security. It was carefully planned and carefully orchestrated. It was carried out by using sophisticated cyber tools. The attackers succeeded in catching the federal government off guard and unprepared,” Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Del. “The Trump administration failed to prioritize cybersecurity.”

Biden said that the attack had the hallmarks of Russian cyber operations but called on the Trump administration to make a formal attribution in order to hold the actors accountable. His remarks came after President Trump downplayed the hack and questioned whether Russia was behind it, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attributed the hack to Moscow.

“It certainly fits Russia’s long history of reckless disruptive cyber activities, but the Trump administration needs to make an official attribution,” Biden said. “This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch when he wasn’t watching. It’s still his responsibility as president to defend American interests for the next four weeks.”

Biden would not say whether he considered the breach an act of war when questioned by a reporter, saying that the damage needed to be assessed. Biden said, however, that he saw “no evidence that it is under control,” contradicting Trump’s tweet over the weekend on the matter.

“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,” Trump tweeted Saturday, raising the prospect that the hack could have been perpetrated by China.

No U.S. official has said that Beijing was responsible for the hack. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr said that Russia appeared to be behind the attack, siding with Pompeo and contradicting Trump.

Biden said Tuesday that his administration would “probably respond in kind” after assessing the damage of the attack, though he declined to discuss specific response options. Biden also said that he wants the United States and its allies to agree on international rules of responsible behavior in cyberspace.

Hackers breached third-party IT contractor SolarWinds and made their way into some government networks, including those of the Treasury and Commerce departments. The breach is said to have dated back several months and was revealed in the press just over a week ago.

Biden said last week that his transition team had been briefed on the hack by career officials, but said Tuesday that the Defense Department has withheld information about various matters.

The massive hack will hang over Biden’s first months in office, as his administration takes over from the Trump administration in less than a month.

Tags China Donald Trump Joe Biden Mike Pompeo Russia SolarWinds hack William Barr

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