Sen. Mitt Romney said Russia acted with “impunity” when it hacked a number of federal agencies and scores of private companies worldwide — a cyber attack that must be met with a response from the US.
“This invasion underscores that Russia acted with impunity. They didn’t fear what we would be able to do from a cyber capacity. They didn’t think that our defense systems were particularly adequate. And they apparently didn’t think that we would respond in a very aggressive way,” the Utah Republican said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
Romney said Russia’s apparent lack of concern about the US’ ability to retaliate must be address and the government has to become “more serious” about “our cyber capabilities — offensive and defensive.”
“I think we have to have a very clear-eyed approach to how we deal with Russia going forward. This demands a response and the response you’d expect to occur would be a cyber response,” said Romney, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012..
“I don’t know if we have the capacity to do that in a way that would be of the same scale or even greater scale than what Russia has applied to us, but this is something we have to address as soon as possible,” he continued.
The senator added that he was “disappointed” about President Trump’s pushing against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s conclusion that Russia was behind the intrusion, which left the federal government reeling over how to contain the damage from the hack.
“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality,” Trump tweeted Saturday in his first public comments on the crisis. “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens,” he said, adding, “it may be China (it may!).”
A day earlier, Pompeo pinned responsibility directly on Moscow.
“This was a very significant effort,” Pompeo said. “I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
The country’s top diplomat said the damage done is still unclear and may not be known for months as the Department of Homeland Security continues to untangle just how deeply the hack penetrated the computer systems hacked and what information Russia was able to pilfer.
“We’re still unpacking precisely what it is,” Pompeo said.
Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service was able to access the computer systems of the government agencies — including the Treasury, Energy, Commerce and Homeland Security departments, the Pentagon and private companies Cisco Systems and Cox Communications and others — by slipping malware into SolarWinds server software.
The intrusion, revealed on Dec. 13, began last spring.