President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday vowed his administration would retaliate in the wake of a massive cyberattack on the nation’s computer systems.
In a holiday address in Wilmington, Del., the 78-year-old former veep said the hack constituted “a grave risk to our national security” and blamed the Trump administration.
“We cannot let this go unanswered. That means making clear publicly who was responsible for this attack and taking meaningful steps to hold them to account,” Biden said.
“Initial indications, including from Secretary Pompeo and Attorney General Barr suggest that Russia is responsible for this breach. It certainly fits Russia’s long history of reckless and disruptive cyber activities,” he went on.
“But the Trump Administration needs to make an official attribution. This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch,” he said.
“It is still his responsibility as president to defend American interests for the next four weeks, but rest assured that even if he does not take this seriously, I will,” he added.
Government officials have blamed the Kremlin for the devastating attack on multiple federal agencies, including the Pentagon, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Departments of Commerce, Treasury and Homeland Security.
A number of private companies including Intel and Cisco Systems also appear to have been compromised in the cyber espionage campaign, which was carried out by hackers who slipped malware into software company SolarWinds.
In an interview on Friday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “pretty clear” that Russia was behind the attack, a belief shared by the Department of Homeland Security.
But Trump has sought to downplay the crisis in tweets where he also suggested China was to blame.
“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens,” he complained, adding, “it may be China (it may!).”
On Sunday, the former head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security accepted the blame for the hacking, saying it happened on his watch.
“So, the way I look at it is, yes, it happened on my watch at CISA. And we missed it. A bunch of other folks missed it,” said Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.