Australia blames Russia for SolarWinds attack

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Australia has officially attributed the SolarWinds cyber attack to Russia and has committed to helping the US in holding the nation “to account” for the incident.

Overnight US President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat of Russia’s foreign interference, including “malicious cyber-enabled activities”.

In a joint statement released late Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews condemned Moscow for a “harmful cyber campaign” against US firm SolarWinds.

“Over the past 12 months, Australia has witnessed Russia use malicious activity to undermine international stability, security and public safety. Australia condemns such behaviour,” the Ministers said.

“Russia’s campaign has affected thousands of computer systems worldwide. Australia acknowledges the high costs borne by the US private sector.”

Marise Payne joined the Defence and Home Affairs Ministers in attributing the SolarWinds attack to Russia. Image: Ron Przysucha/United States Department of State.

SolarWinds is a major IT firm that provides software to large companies and governments. A massive cybersecurity attack on the company spread to its clients last year and is believed to have exposed sensitive information held by the US government, including data of the US military and White House.

Hackers from Russia were suspected almost immediately when the attack was first reported by Reuters in December last year. US security agencies first accused the Russian government of orchestrating the SolarWinds attack in January.

But the attack was not officially attributed to the state actor until Thursday in a joint advisory from US intelligence firms that named Russian Foreign Intelligence Service actors APT29, Cozy Bear, and The Dukes as being supported by the Kremlin.

US President Joe Biden also signed an Executive Order on Thursday condemning the Russian government’s foreign interference, including meddling in US elections and the facilitation of “malicious cyber-enabled activities against the United States and its allies and partners”.

President Biden’s order includes a host of sanctions against Russia, escalating tensions between the superpowers.

“The United States is not ready to come to terms with the objective reality that there is a multipolar world that excludes American hegemony,” a Russian government spokeswoman said.

“We have repeatedly warned the United States about the consequences of its hostile steps, which dangerously increase the degree of confrontation between our countries.

“A response to sanctions is inevitable.”

The Australian government joined international partners in supporting the US to combat the SolarWinds incident in its joint statement on attack.

“Australia welcomes private sector and government responders’ efforts around the world to expose and mitigate this threat and uphold the international norms of responsible behaviour in cyberspace,” the statement said.

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