Biden responds to cyber attack on agencies

Simon Lewis and Jarrett Renshaw
·2-min read

President-elect Joe Biden says he had seen no evidence that a massive cyber attack against the United States is under control and warned that the breach will not go unanswered once he takes office on January 20.

The hacking spree uncovered last week breached at least half a dozen US government agencies and left thousands of American companies exposed.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said it appeared to have been carried out by the Russian government.

"It is a grave risk and it continues. I see no evidence that it's under control. I see none. Heard of none. Defense Department won't even brief us on many things. So I know of nothing that suggests it's under control," Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden, the Democratic former vice president, faulted Republican President Donald Trump for stripping US defences against cyber attacks, saying: "This assault happened on Donald Trump's watch, when he wasn't watching."

Biden, who defeated Trump in a November election, said his administration will take meaningful steps to respond to the breach, but gave no details.

The incoming White House chief of staff said on Sunday that Biden's response to the hacking campaign would go beyond sanctions. Ron Klain said Biden was mapping out ways to degrade the capacity of foreign actors to engage in cyber attacks against the United States.

Options being mulled by the Biden administration to punish Moscow for its alleged role include financial penalties and retaliatory hacks on Russian infrastructure, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

The Kremlin denies any role in the hacking.

"The question of the damage done remains to be determined. We have to look at, very closely, the nature of the breaches, how extensive they are, and what damage has been done," Biden said.

The cyber attack is one of a mounting list of issues facing Biden when he starts work in the Oval Office, including fighting the coronavirus pandemic and the economic damage it has caused.

A source with Biden's transition team said Biden would nominate Connecticut's commissioner of education, Miguel Cardona, as his pick for US Secretary of Education as he finishes selecting a new Cabinet.

Cardona is a veteran teacher and school administrator, a choice that would align with a pledge Biden made during his presidential campaign to appoint a teacher as education secretary.

A transition spokesman told Reuters he could not confirm the appointment.

Biden's transition team announced six new appointments to his White House staff on Tuesday. Positions still not filled in his administration include attorney general and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.