Microsoft breached as Russian hackers hit US govt, N-weapons agencies for months: 'Worst case in American history'
In a sensational revelation, Microsoft has said that it was breached in a suspected Russian campaign that has hit several American agencies, including those responsible for maintaining Washington’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
On Monday, December 14, CNN reported that US officials were suspecting Russian-linked hackers behind the data breach of several federal agencies, including the homeland security, agriculture and commerce departments and launched investigations. It was also learnt that the homeland security department’s cyber arm, which has the responsibility of safeguarding the nation from malicious foreign powers, is among at least three government agencies that were compromised in the hack.
On Thursday, December 17, CNN reported that House and Senate Intelligence Committee aides got a phone briefing on the hack from administrative officials a day before but the full extent of the breach remained unclear initially. The Joe Biden transition team was also briefed on the attack.
The massive attack also targeted the private sector, including most of the Fortune 500s, it was known on December 17. According to the officials, the attack was undetected for nearly nine months, giving the hackers a free range in the affected agencies and firms and that the actual scale of the stolen information might never be known. Orion, the widely deployed networking management software from SolarWinds Corp, was used in the suspected Russian attacks on vital bodies and Microsoft is also a user of the same.
"Like other SolarWinds customers, we have been actively looking for indicators of this actor and can confirm that we detected malicious Solar Winds binaries in our environment, which we isolated and removed," a Microsoft spokesperson was quoted as saying by Reuters. The official added that the company had found "no indications that our systems were used to attack others".
Microsoft is one of the world’s biggest technology firms with clients located across the public and private sectors. Last year, the giant was awarded the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract worth $10B to run the defense department’s cloud-computing system.
On December 17, Microsoft told DailyMail.com that it had detected and removed malicious code from the SolarWinds attack but denied that any of its products were hit.
'Worst hacking case in history of America'
Besides, two agencies in charge of maintaining the US’s nuclear weapons stockpile also produced evidence that they were also exposed to the attack that targeted key agencies like the Pentagon, FBI, state and treasury departments.
"This is looking like it's the worst hacking case in the history of America," one official told Daily Mail on condition of anonymity. “They got into everything."
The Department of Energy (DoE) also confirmed on December 17 that it was among those that had been hacked.
Politico reported on December 17 that the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration warned the Congress that their breached networks may also include the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which conducts Washington’s most sensitive and advanced nuclear research.
The FBI was set to give a classified briefing to the Congress on Friday, December 18. The House Homeland Security Committee, meanwhile, launched a probe.
"The Department of Justice, FBI and Defense Department, among others, have moved routine communication onto classified networks that are believed not to have been breached, according to two people briefed on the measures. They are assuming that the non-classified networks have been accessed, the people said," the Reuters report added.