Russian spies used SolarWinds to hack US nuke agency

by | December 17, 2020 | Cybersecurity News

Both the US agency and Microsoft play down the danger, claiming they have activated the attack’s kill switch.

Microsoft and several US government agencies were caught in a massive hack after Russian spies managed to access SolarWinds’ monitoring software, Orion. Hackers added a trojan inside the monitoring tool, which gave them access to pretty much everything they needed: access the victim’s network, execute commands and read emails.

Microsoft representatives admitted that the company is an Orion user and had installed the infected version. However, there weren’t any signs that would point to unauthorized access of users’ data.

“Like other SolarWinds customers, we have been actively looking for indicators of this actor and can confirm that we detected malicious SolarWinds binaries in our environment, which we isolated and removed,” Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s comms veep, said in a statement. “We have found no evidence of access to production services or customer data. Our investigations, which are ongoing, have found absolutely no indicators that our systems were used to attack others.”

On the other hand, it is reported that the US government’s Dept of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the country’s nuclear stockpile, was also hacked by the Orion backdoor. A DOE spokesperson said: “At this point, the investigation has found that the malware has been isolated to business networks only, and has not impacted the mission essential national security functions of the department, including the National Nuclear Security Administration.”

The network monitoring software is used by 300k customers, of which at least 18k have downloaded and installed the infected binaries. These clients range from US and UK government institutions to Fortune 500 companies.

FireEye, a private company who was investigating the Orion hack, worked with GoDaddy and Microsoft to remotely trigger the kill switch that was implemented in the trojan.

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by Dan Florian

Product owner and co-founder of ATTACK Simulator. Dan likes to code, is passionate about design, and loves running and swimming.

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