In early 2020, hackers secretly broke into Texas-based SolarWinds’ systems and added malicious code into the company’s software system. The system, called “Orion”, is widely used by companies to manage IT resources.
Beginning as early as March of last year, SolarWinds unwittingly sent out software updates to its customers that included the hacked code.
The code created a backdoor to customer’s information technology systems, which hackers then used to install even more malware that helped them spy on companies and organizations.
The Pentagon, intelligence agencies, nuclear labs and Fortune 500 companies that use Orion software suffered a major breach.
Federal investigators say that Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as the SVR, is probably responsible for the attack.
Russia did deny any involvement with the breach. However, A Biden official says the White House’s response to the SolarWinds attack may come within weeks.
Because multiple networks have been penetrated, it is expensive and very difficult to secure systems.
With access to government networks, hackers could, “destroy or alter data, and impersonate legitimate people,” Bossert wrote in an Op-Ed for the New York Times.
Not only is the breach one of the largest in recent memory, but it also comes as a wake-up call for federal cybersecurity efforts. The US Cyber Command, which receives billions of dollars in funding and is tasked with protecting American networks, was “blindsided” by the attack, the New York Times reported.
Instead, a private cybersecurity firm called FireEye was the first to notice the breach when it noticed that its own systems were hacked.
The hack could accelerate broad changes in the cybersecurity industry. Companies are turning to a new method of assuming that there are already breaches, rather than merely reacting to attacks after they are found, Business Insider previously reported. The US government may reorganize its cybersecurity efforts by making the Cyber Command independent from National Security Agency, the Associated Press reported.
The attack may also lead to a strengthened relationship between the US government and the cybersecurity industry, with the private sector helping federal officials fight off nation-state attacks and foreign bad actors in the future, as Insider reported.