Former US cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs says officials are still tracking ‘scope’ of the SolarWinds hack

Chris Krebs
Christopher C. Krebs, former director of the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 14, 2019 in Washington, DC.

  • Chris Krebs, the former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said on Sunday the massive SolarWinds cybersecurity attack appears to be linked to Russia.
  • “Everything I’ve heard, whether it’s from private sector cybersecurity threat and intelligence experts, things I have heard out of Congress – it’s Russia,” Krebs said on CNN’s “State of The Union” Sunday.
  • Krebs warned that the scale of the cybersecurity breach was “probably more broad” than the hacking of SolarWinds, but said he would “be very careful about escalating” when asked if the US should retaliate.
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Chris Krebs, former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the massive SolarWinds cybersecurity attack appears to be linked to Russia, but the US should be cautious in its response. 

Cybersecurity researchers said last week that from as early as March, hackers compromised software company SolarWinds’ system to spy on its clients, Business Insider’s Aaron Holmes previously reported. The company’s customers include key government agencies such as the White House, the Pentagon, and the US Treasury Department.

“Everything I’ve heard, whether it’s from private sector cybersecurity threat and intelligence experts, things I have heard out of Congress – it’s Russia,” Krebs said on CNN’s “State of The Union” on Sunday. “They’re exceptionally good at this.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that “we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” and as The Washington Post reported, others familiar with the matter have attributed the cybersecurity attacks to Russia as well. However, President Donald Trump on Saturday contradicted these statements and in a series of tweets, suggesting “the possibility that it may be China,” Business Insider’s John Dorman reported.

Krebs said the US is “just getting our arms around the scope of this cyber-compromise,” and the scale of this breach is “probably more broad” than SolarWinds.

He also doubled down that the culprit behind the attacks was Russia, adding: “the Russian intelligence service, the SVR, they’re really the best of the best out there.”

However, when pressed by host Jake Tapper about whether the US should retaliate against Russia, Krebs cautioned he would “be very careful about escalating this.”

“I think there needs to be a conversation globally, internationally across like-minded countries about what is acceptable,” he added.

Krebs was fired from his role as the head of CISA last month not long after he publicly pushed back against Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud in the election, Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth reported.

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Trump’s fired election-security chef compared the president’s false claims about voter fraud to Russian disinformation

Chris Krebs
Chris Krebs, the former director of the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

  • Former US election-security chief Chris Krebs has compared President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of a rigged election to disinformation spread by hostile foreign powers to undermine US democracy. 
  • “One of the questions we asked: ‘What would we do if the Russians were doing this?'” Krebs told Axios of how he responded to Trump’s groundless claims while working as the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
  • Trump fired Krebs on November 18 after Krebs dismissed the president’s allegations of voter fraud and said that the 2020 election was the most secure in US history.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Chris Krebs, the former top US election-security official, has described President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud to Russian disinformation designed to corrode faith in US democracy.

In an interview with Axios, Krebs was asked for his view on Trump, who on November 18 fired him from his position as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security. Krebs had rebutted the president’s claim that the result of the 2020 election was tainted by widespread ballot fraud. 

“The caller was inside the house,” Krebs told Axios’ Jonathan Swan. “The president is a big part of the disinformation that’s coming out there about the rigged election, but there are absolutely others.”

He went on to describe how he coped with Trump’s attempts to undermine faith in the integrity of the election while he was still working for the administration: “One of the questions we asked: ‘What would we do if the Russians were doing this?'”

“The oath that we pledged coming into office as a federal official is that you uphold and defend the Constitution from threats foreign and domestic. We upheld our oath, carried it out.”

When asked by Swan if Trump is domestic threat, Krebs replied: “There is disinformation that he is spreading. I mean, disinformation is one type of threat.”

Giuliani Trump
President Donald Trump (right) and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani in the White House briefing room on September 27, 2020.

Since being fired, Krebs has continued to debunk Trump’s assertions that the election was rigged – claims for which neither the president nor his legal team have produced convincing evidence. 

Krebs’ criticisms of the president have led to a violent backlash and threats from Trump supporters, and Trump campaign attorney Joe DiGenova faced widespread condemnation last week after telling a radio show that Krebs should be shot.

While Russian intelligence agencies and trolls were the main spreaders of disinformation in the 2016 election, experts told The Guardian in November that the biggest source of election disinformation in the 2020 cycle was the president and his allies. 

Read more: Meet Donald Trump’s new nemeses: The 15 prosecutors and investigators from New York who are primed to pepper the ex-president with history-making civil and criminal probes

Russian President Vladimir Putin has seized on Trump’s election fraud claims to criticize US democracy and justify his refusal to recognize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

In the Axios interview, Krebs called on Republicans to stand up against Trump’s election fraud claims. 

“I actually think that democracy’s quite fragile,” he said. “And when the institutions themselves are under attack from the inside, as you said, that’s pretty close to an existential issue.”

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