Hacker (illustration)
Hacker (illustration)iStock

The office of the US Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday said that Russia was “likely” behind a string of hacks identified last month which breached fewer than 10 federal agencies, Reuters reports.

The office and the FBI, the National Security Agency, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency inside the Department of Homeland Security, in a joint statement quoted by the news agency, said the hackers’ goal appeared to be collecting intelligence, rather than any destructive acts.

The agencies said that the actor, “likely Russian in origin, is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered, ongoing cyber compromises of both government and non-governmental networks.”

The investigation is continuing, they said, and could turn up additional government victims.

In mid-December it was reported that a group of hackers backed by a “foreign government” stole information from the US Treasury Department and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Subsequently it was revealed that the attack also targeted the US Department of Homeland Security.

A subsequent report said that Microsoft was hacked as part of the suspected Russian campaign, with sources saying the hackers took advantage of the widespread use of software from SolarWinds Corp. Microsoft’s own products were then used to further the attacks on others.

Tuesday’s statement was the first formal statement of attribution by the Trump administration.

Elected officials briefed on the inquiry had previously said Russia was behind the hacking spree, but President Donald Trump said it could have been China.