Secretary of State
explicitly blamed Russia for the
hack that compromised numerous federal agencies and U.S. corporations, while President Trump said he was skeptical of the country’s role.
“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,” Mr. Pompeo said in a Friday night interview with radio host Mark Levin.
Mr. Trump in Saturday tweets played down the link to Russia, differing with his top diplomat, who has been a loyal ally.
“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,” Mr. Trump said, adding there was the “possibility that it may be China (it may!)”
In addition to Mr. Pompeo, U.S. intelligence officials speaking privately, experts investigating the hack and lawmakers briefed on it have said it was very likely conducted by Russia.
Some U.S. officials and experts suspect Russia’s foreign-intelligence service, known by the initials SVR, was behind the breaches, but other security experts involved in probing the hack believe a previously unknown Russia cyber espionage group may be responsible.
Russia has denied responsibility. There is no known evidence pointing to China.
The breach appeared to have begun when hackers compromised systems belonging to SolarWinds Inc., a U.S. network-management company that counts national security agencies, local governments, large corporations and defense contractors among its 300,000 customers.
The hacks, which are ongoing, have hit at least six Cabinet-level departments, including the Treasury, Commerce, State, Energy and Homeland Security departments, as well as the National Institutes of Health, which is part of the Health and Human Services Department.
It also has affected an unknown number of
“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,” Mr. Pompeo said.
The secretary of state earlier in the week suggested that U.S. officials held Russia responsible for the intrusions. His remarks on Friday were more explicit.
He didn’t provide specific evidence of Moscow’s role.
Government officials and cybersecurity experts have concluded that Russia is likely responsible for the hack in part due to the extreme skill involved as well as other classified clues, according to people familiar with the matter. A handful of senators who have received briefings in recent days have openly referred to it as a Russian operation.
As the investigation continues, security specialists are uncovering new evidence that indicates the operation is part of a broader, previously undetected cyber espionage campaign that may stretch back years.
—Dustin Volz contributed to this article.
Write to Warren P. Strobel at Warren.Strobel@wsj.com
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