Several federal government agencies, including the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, have had computer systems breached as part of a widespread global cyber espionage campaign believed to be the work of the Russian government, reports the Wall Street Journal. Russia’s foreign-intelligence service is suspected of orchestrating hacks of the U.S. government networks—in which some internal communications are believed to have been stolen. Te operation is related to a cyber breach disclosed last week of U.S.-based cybersecurity firm FireEye. The hacking operation exposed as many as hundreds of thousands of government and corporate networks to risk and alarmed national-security officials as well as executives at FireEye, some of whom see it as far more significant than a routine case of foreign cyber espionage.
The hack may have allowed Russia to access sensitive information from government agencies and defense contractors. The Commerce Department confirmed that one of its bureaus had been breached and that it was working with the FBI and other federal agencies. The hack includes the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a unit that works on technology policy issues. The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., denied responsibility and said the allegations were “unfounded attempts of the U.S. media to blame Russia.” The hackers were able to infiltrate the systems of government agencies as well as FireEye through a malicious software update introduced in a product from SolarWinds Inc., a U.S. network-management company. The company has more than 300,000 customers world-wide, including more than 400 of the U.S. Fortune 500 companies.