Monday, November 28, 2022

‘Too soon to know’ whether Russian government was behind cyberattacks on US airports, Kirby says

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NEW YORK — According to John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, it is “too early to know” if the Russian government was behind Monday’s cyberattacks on more than a dozen US airports.

“We just don’t really understand who is behind it, what the motivation was, certainly at what level – if at all – the Kremlin officials knew about it. We just don’t know,” Kirby told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Tuesday’s Good Morning America.

“We are grateful that airport operations have not been impacted, no safety has been compromised, but we are looking into this,” he added. “We’re going to investigate, we’re going to try to get to the bottom of it, and of course we take cyber resilience very, very seriously, regardless of what happened at those airports.”

MORE: NYC’s LaGuardia is among country’s airports that may have been attacked by Russian hackers

Some of the country’s biggest airports were attacked by someone in Russia on Monday, according to a senior US official briefed on the situation. The affected systems do not handle air traffic control, internal airline communications and coordination, or transportation security.

“It’s an inconvenience,” the source told ABC News, adding that the attacks resulted in a targeted “denial of public access” to public-facing web domains that report airport wait times and congestion.

According to John Hultquist, head of intelligence analysis at American cybersecurity firm Mandiant, more than a dozen US airport websites were affected by the “denial of service” attacks, which essentially overload websites by blocking them with fake users. Hultquist told ABC News that such cyberattacks are highly visible but largely superficial and often temporary.

According to Hultquist, a pro-Kremlin hacker group called Killnet is behind Monday’s attacks. Killnet has been active since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on February 24, with hackers targeting Ukrainian allies and recently blamed for taking down US government websites. The group operates internationally and is known, according to cybersecurity experts, for conducting cyberattacks across Europe.

While similar groups emerged as fronts for state-backed actors, Hultquist said there was no evidence the Russian government was involved in directing Monday’s attacks.

Both the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the US Department of Homeland Security, said they were aware of the cyberattacks.

ABC News’ Josh Margolin, Quinn Owen and Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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