Russia was "pretty clearly" behind a devastating cyber attack on several US government agencies that also hit targets worldwide, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Microsoft said late Thursday that it had notified more than 40 customers hit by the malware, which security experts say could allow attackers unfettered network access to key government systems and electric power grids and other utilities.
"There was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of US government systems," Pompeo told The Mark Levin Show on Friday.
"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."
Roughly 80 percent of the affected customers are located in the United States, Microsoft president Brad Smith said in a blog post, with victims also found in Belgium, Britain, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
"It's certain that the number and location of victims will keep growing," Smith said, echoing concerns voiced this week by US officials on the serious threat from the attack.
"This is not 'espionage as usual,' even in the digital age," Smith said.
"Instead, it represents an act of recklessness that created a serious technological vulnerability for the United States and the world."
John Dickson of the security firm Denim Group said many private sector companies which could be vulnerable were scrambling to shore up security, even to the point of considering rebuilding servers and other equipment.
"Everyone is in damage assessment now because it's so big," Dickson said. "It's a severe body blow to confidence both in government and critical infrastructure."
The threat comes from a long-running attack which is believed to have injected malware into computer networks using enterprise management network software made by the Texas-based IT company SolarWinds, with the hallmarks of a nation-state attack.
James Lewis, vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the attack may end up being the worst to hit the United States, eclipsing the 2014 hack of US government personnel records in a suspected Chinese infiltration.
"The scale is daunting. We don't know what has been taken so that is one of the tasks for forensics," Lewis said.
"We also don't know what's been left behind. The normal practice is to leave something behind so they can get back in, in the future."
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