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Biden administration says investigation into SolarWinds hack is likely to take "several months"

Posted February 17, 2021 2:21 p.m. EST

— The US government's probe into the devastating SolarWinds breach is likely to take "several months" at least, according to the top White House cybersecurity official, speaking to reporters Wednesday in the Biden administration's first public assessment of the gravity of the suspected Russian spying campaign.

At least nine federal agencies were specifically targeted by the hacking operation, said Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser, at Wednesday's White House press briefing. At least 100 private-sector businesses were also compromised.

Those figures are the most specific yet to be released by the government about the scope and scale of the hack, though they are largely unchanged from prior statements by investigators. Until today, US officials had said fewer than 10 federal agencies had been implicated in the campaign.

Neuberger's remarks come amid questions from US lawmakers and policy analysts over who in the Biden administration is leading the government's response to the hack, particularly as key roles remain unfilled -- including the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the national cyber director, a position newly created by Congress last month.

The federal agency victims were all of "high foreign intelligence interest," Neuberger told reporters.

She declined to provide a time frame for the administration's response to the hack.

"Due to the sophistication of the techniques that were used, we believe we're in the beginning stages of understanding the scope and scale, and we may find additional compromises," Neuberger said.

What's already known about the scope and scale of the spying, however, makes the Russian campaign "more than an isolated case of espionage," Neuberger said.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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