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What You Need to Know About the Latest Cyberattack

Experts Say Russia May Have Hacked Top Government Agencies

Last week the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, also known as CISA, said a sophisticated cyberattack that breached multiple government agencies posed “a grave risk to the federal government.” The attack appears to have begun as early as March, and is still ongoing. CISA said it would be “highly complex and challenging” to remove the hackers from “compromised environments.”

While CISA has not revealed those responsible for the attack, former Homeland Security Advisor Thomas Bossert suggested that Russia could be responsible. “The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months,” he said on Thursday.

While it is not yet clear what the hackers have done since gaining access to government networks, it is clear that at least the Energy and Commerce departments and the National Nuclear Security Administration have been breached.

SolarWinds Software Was an Access Point

According to CISA, the cyberattack was coordinated via an update by a network management software SolarWinds (SWI). As many as 18,000 government workers and other SolarWinds users downloaded a software update earlier this year that had a backdoor coded into it for use by the hackers.

Last week CISA told federal civilian agencies that they should “immediately disconnect or power down affected SolarWinds Orion products from their network.” It is also possible, however, that the hackers used other access points to infiltrate the networks. CISA said it is investigating “evidence of additional access vectors, other than the SolarWinds Orion platform.”

Microsoft Users Targeted in Attack

Microsoft (MSFT) products were also breached in connection with the SolarWinds management software. According to Microsoft, more than 40 client organizations were impacted by the attack. Most of those clients are United States organizations, but Microsoft said customers were impacted in seven other countries as well.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said, “This is not espionage as usual.” The attackers in this hack have managed to impair the “technology supply chain for the broader economy.” President-elect Joe Biden said he would impose “substantial costs” on the perpetrator.

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