SolarWinds Vulnerability Let Hackers into DHS Chief’s Email
Attackers behind the SolarWinds attack accessed the emails of former US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting secretary Chad Wolf. It was known that US federal agencies were compromised in the SolarWinds attack, the information about high-level access is new.
Cyber security researchers and forensic investigators said that a Russian Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group is behind the attacks.
Another cabinet member besides former DHS head Chad Wolf was also impacted by SolarWinds by Reuters.
SolarWinds is a Texas based security solution provider that produces a network security product called Orion. SolarWinds Orion was breached by a suspected Russian-made malware named Sunburst. The attackers managed to compromise a SolarWinds Orion software update which allowed Sunburst malware to compromised customers’ IT systems when they patched systems.
Russia has denied all responsibility for the attack.
It is not clear what information was contained in the emails or if it was sensitive. The investigation into the SolarWinds attack is still ongoing. At least nine United States federal agencies were compromised more than 18,000 private businesses and organizations.
US Federal Agencies Compromised by SolarWinds Include
- Department of Homeland Security
- Federal Aviation Administration
- Department of Energy
- Department of Treasury
- National Nuclear Security Administration
- Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) and the European Parliament were also compromised.
SolarWinds attacks harvested data for months while the malware infiltrated IT networks undetected. When SolarWinds was finally outed, it was discovered by private security firm FireEye, not the government.
“What struck me was how much we were in the dark for as long as we were in the dark,” said Sen. Mark Warner, head of the Senate intelligence committee.
Management at SolarWinds blamed the attacks on the use of a weak password that was accessible to the public in an online repository.
FireEye was also compromised in the attack.
The attackers used U.S. based virtual private networks, or VPNs, the disguise their activity and avoid detection.
The Associated Press learned of the intrusion into the DHS head’s emails after seeking new details.
The latest federal stimulus package includes $650 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. US federal IT systems are woefully outdated.
There is also a shortage of cyber security professionals to help protect networks and train employees who are vulnerable to attacks. Tech companies like Google have introduced self-paced leaning programs so more people can start careers in IT security and customer service