On Thursday, after an attack on the US and other computer networks around the world that officials believe was carried out by Russian hackers, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden vowed to make cybersecurity a top priority of his incoming administration.
In its most comprehensive comments yet the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency said that the intrusion had breached all federal agencies and “critical infrastructure” in a complex assault that was difficult to detect and would be difficult to reverse.
CISA did not state which institutions or facilities had been breached or what information had been collected in an assault that it previously reported seemed to have started in March.
Earlier, the cybersecurity department said the attackers had used Texas-based SolarWinds network management tools to hack computer networks.
CISA ordered all civilian federal government agencies to delete SolarWinds from their servers over the weekend, in the wake of rumors that the Treasury and Commerce departments had been violated.
Similar warnings were provided by Britain and Ireland’s cybersecurity agencies.
The Associated Press news agency was previously told by a US official that Russia-based hackers were suspected, but neither CISA nor the FBI officially said who was thought to be liable.
The official said the administration is operating on the premise that most, if not all, government agencies have been compromised, but that the magnitude of the damage has not yet been determined.
CISA officials did not respond to inquiries, so what a “serious threat” or vital infrastructure meant was unclear.
Such infrastructure is described by the Department of Homeland Security, its parent agency, as any “vital asset to the US or its economy, a wide category which may include power plants and financial institutions.