More Agencies Confirm Hacks

Typing on a Laptop Computer. Photo by

On Sunday, Reuters reported that SolarWinds Orion, an Austin-based IT company, had been hacked and that at least two departments of the US government – Treasury and Commerce – had been compromised. Since then, confirmation has come of the Defense Department, the State Department and the National Institute of Health also being hacked.

SolarWinds Orion is a remote information technology company which services most of the Fortune 500 companies and many branches of the US Government. Sophisticated hackers, believed to be supported by the Russian government, installed malware during client updates which allowed remote monitoring of the computers involved.

SolarWinds Orion initially assessed that up to 300,000 clients may have been hacked, but has reduced that number to 18,000. While that is good news for many of their clients, it increases the likelihood that the attacks were targeted specifically to high-value systems.

Because of the nature of the information involved, there is no way to determine the severity of the damage until actions are taken which use the information gained. In many cases, access to the computers will have no effect whatsoever; either the access will never have been used or they will be for systems with no helpful information. In the other cases, the US will have to wait to see what attempts are made to exploit the revealed data and counter them to the best of our abilities. It is also plausible that the information gained during this hack will facilitate future attacks on other companies and agencies.

The hacks are believed to have started eight months ago. It is uncertain when the hacking was initially discovered prior to the Reuters report, but it likely came to light after the discovery last week of a similar state-sponsored tool-hijacking cyberattack at FireEye, another company which provides cybersecurity for the US government.

The US government has a variety of agencies involved in cybersecurity. The coordinator for them was fired by President Trump in 2018 and not replaced. The head of a primary agency was fired by the President in late November, with an experienced subordinate elevated to the position of acting head. The latest shift may have precipitated an internal review which caught the problems, or it may be disrupting the response to the attacks. As with many things related to the intelligence and security services, the truth is unlikely to be known until years have passed.

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.