San Francisco, Feb 19: Nine federal agencies and about 100 private sector companies were compromised as a result of the SolarWinds hack, the White House has said.
Although the hack was “likely of Russian origin,” the hackers launched their attack from inside the US, Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, said in a briefing on Wednesday.
To carry out the attack, hackers installed a malware in the Orion software sold by the IT management company SolarWinds.
“As you know, roughly 18,000 entities downloaded the malicious update. So the scale of potential access far exceeded the number of known compromises,” Neuberger said, adding that many of the private sector compromises are technology companies, including networks of companies whose products could be used to launch additional intrusions.
“The hackers launched the hack from inside the United States, which further made it difficult for the US government to observe their activity,” she added.
The top cybersecurity official informed that the intelligence community is looking at who is responsible.
Earlier media reports suggested that the hackers compromised at least 250 federal agencies and top enterprises in the US.
According to Microsoft, the hackers compromised ‘SolarWinds’ software allowing them to “impersonate any of the organisation’s existing users and accounts, including highly privileged accounts.”
Microsoft said it had discovered its systems were infiltrated “beyond just the presence of malicious ‘SolarWinds’ code.”
Several leading tech giants like Intel, Cisco, VMware and Nvidia, have suffered part of the SolarWinds hack. The SolarWinds hack first came to light late last year.
“And, finally, in terms of response to the perpetrator, discussions are underway,” Neuberger said.
“This isn’t the only case of malicious cyber activity of likely Russian origin, either for us or for our allies and partners. So as we contemplate future response options, we’re considering holistically what those activities were,” she added.
It may take several months for the US government to complete the investigation into the SolarWinds hack, according to her.