Report: Hackers breached U.S. nuclear security system

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, equipped with a test reentry vehicle, is launched during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Feb. 25, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

Officials with the two agencies that maintain the nuclear stockpile, the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administrations, say hackers accessed their networks in a massive espionage operation, sources told Politico.

DOE and NNSA officials say that up to half a dozen federal agencies may have been compromised.

The report, quoting officials directly familiar with the matter, said officials are working to make the proper notifications about the breach after being briefed by DOE spokesman Rocky Campione.

The sources said there was “suspicious activity in networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington, the Office of Secure Transportation at NNSA, and the Richland Field Office of the DOE.”

At FERC, there was “highly malicious activity,” the report said, although details were not released.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, whose director, Chris Krebs, recently was fired by President Trump after claiming the 2020 election was the most secure ever, “indicated to FERC this week that CISA was overwhelmed and might not be able to allocate the necessary resources to respond,” the report said.

A priority for investigators is to determine if any information had been stolen.

“The attack on DOE is the clearest sign yet that the hackers were able to access the networks belonging to a core part of the U.S. national security enterprise. The hackers are believed to have gained access to the federal agencies’ networks by compromising the software company SolarWinds, which sells IT management products to hundreds of government and private-sector clients,” Politico reported.

In a joint statement, CISA, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said: “This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government.” reported the U.S. has an estimated 5,800 nuclear warheads, including on missiles and bombs, ready for launch from submarines, airplanes and land-based missiles.

The actual numbers and status, however, are not public.

It is the work of the Los Alamos National Laboratory to create new weapons. reported Valdimir Putin’s Russian government has denied being behind the hack “but that has been discounted by other experts, who say that the scale and precision of the hack points directly to the Kremlin.”

The report said U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien cut short a trip to the Middle East and Europe with week to deal with the fallout.

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