Russia acted with impunity when it hacked U.S. government servers in a global cyber-espionage campaign and could do far more damage next time — like cutting off the nation’s water and electricity supply, GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said Sunday.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Utah senator said the massive cyberattack discovered earlier this week, which officials say could be the biggest hack on the American government ever, must be met with a vigorous response and without delay.
“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,” said Romney.
“They potentially have the capacity to cripple us economically, they went to our businesses. They have the potential to also cripple us with regards to our water and electricity and so forth.”
Romney added: “They don’t need rockets to take those things out.”
Among the federal agencies hacked in the massive cyberattack include The Defense and Homeland Security Departments, the Energy Department, and the Treasury and Commerce Departments. Hackers targeted state and local governments too, as well as several Fortune 500 companies.
After investigators discovered the Treasury and Commerce departments had been hacked in the sweeping intrusion undertaken by a hostile foreign government, authorities ordered agencies to scan networks for potentially compromised servers and malware.
The breach came in the form of an update for network-monitoring software by a company called SolarWinds, infected with Russian malware. When users downloaded the update, it let hackers bypass a security hole.
Officials say the breach could potentially endanger American security for years to come.
While President Trump surmised the attack might have come from China, security officials in his administration pointed directly to Russia.
“We can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians who were responsible,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
Saying the outgoing president has a “blind spot” when it comes to Russia, Romney said those in the know are not operating under any uncertainties.
“And the reality here is that the experts, the people who really understand how our systems work and how computers work and software and so forth, the thousands upon thousands at the CIA and the NSA and the Department of Defense, have determined that this came from Russia,” Romney said.