On Wednesday morning, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, called the Russian cyberattack “practically a declaration of war”.
So far, however, President Trump has said nothing, perhaps knowing his tenure is coming to an end as it began, with questions about what he knew about Russian cyber operations, and when. The National Security Agency has been largely silent, hiding behind the classification of intelligence. Even the Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security, the Department of Homeland Security’s group responsible for defending critical networks, has been visibly silent on the Russian mega-hack.
Mr Blumenthal’s Twitter post was the first official acknowledgment that Russia was behind the intrusion.
Trump administration officials have acknowledged that several federal agencies – the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, parts of the Pentagon as well as the Treasury and Commerce Department – have been compromised. Investigators are struggling to determine how affected the military, intelligence community, and nuclear labs are.
The same questions are asked in many Fortune 500 companies that use the network management tool, called Orion and manufactured by the SolarWinds company, based in Austin, Texas. The Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons are designed, uses it, as do major defense contractors.
“How is it not a massive intelligence failure, especially since we were supposed to be actors of the Russian threat everywhere before the elections,” Robert Knake, an Obama administration cyber official, asked Wednesday on Twitter. “Did the NSA fall into a giant honeypot while the SVR” – Russia’s most sophisticated spy agency – “quietly looted” government and private industry?
Of course, the NSA doesn’t see everything, even after placing its probes and beacons in networks around the world. But if there is a major investigation – and it’s hard to imagine how one could avoid it – the agency’s responsibility, led by General Paul M. Nakasone, one of the most experienced cyber warriors of the country, will be in the foreground.