White House Says Biden-Putin Summit
To 'Move Forward' Despite Cyberattack
June 01, 2021
The White House has suggested that
government agencies largely rebuffed the latest cyberassault on U.S. targets by
suspected Russian intelligence operatives and downplayed adversarial tensions
ahead of a summit next month between the U.S. and Russian presidents.
On May 27, Microsoft said hacking group Nobelium, originating from Russia, had
launched an assault on government agencies and think tanks using an e-mail
marketing account of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
AP quoted unnamed administration officials on May 28 as describing the attacks
on USAID, think tanks, and other organizations as "basic phishing," in which
e-mails are used to try to embed malware in computer systems.
Asked whether the hacking discovery would affect the Biden-Putin summit, White
House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, "We're going to
move forward with that."
U.S. President Joe Biden is slated to hold his first summit with Russia's
Vladimir Putin since taking office in January in Geneva, Switzerland, on June
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters this week that Moscow did not
have any detailed information from Microsoft on the attack and that it so far
was not a topic on the summit agenda.
The "wave of attacks" targeted about 3,000 e-mail accounts at more than 150
different organizations, Microsoft Vice President Tom Burt said in a blog post.
Burt said Russian-based Nobelium was the same actor that was behind a major
attack last year on SolarWinds customers, including U.S. government bodies.
The SolarWinds attack compromised at least nine government agencies and hundreds
of private companies, and was functioning from 2019 before being detected late
This latest effort appeared to have been less stealthy, experts have said.
At least one-quarter of the organizations targeted in the latest cyberattack are
involved in international development, humanitarian, and human rights work, and
the targeted victims are in at least 24 countries, Burt said without saying
whether any of the attempts led to successful intrusions.
appeared to have been blocked by spam guards, Microsoft said on May 28, adding
that it was "not seeing evidence of any significant number of compromised
organizations at this time."
A USAID spokesperson said that agency was still investigating the possible
The Biden administration's proposed $6 trillion budget includes $750 million to
boost cyberdefenses at nine government agencies hit by the SolarWinds hack that
was blamed by U.S. and British officials on Russia's Foreign Intelligence
The SolarWinds hack gave the perpetrators access to thousands of companies and
government offices that used that company's software.
This month, Russia's spy chief denied responsibility for the SolarWinds
cyberattack but said he was "flattered" by the accusations that Russian foreign
intelligence was behind such a sophisticated hack.