SolarWinds hack was ‘largest and most sophisticated attack’ ever seen, Microsoft president says

More than 1,000 engineers may have worked on the attacks, claims Brad Smith

Wendell Roelf
Monday 15 February 2021 09:43 GMT
Up to 18,000 SolarWinds customers could have been compromised
Up to 18,000 SolarWinds customers could have been compromised (REUTERS)

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Louise Thomas

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A hacking campaign that used a tech company as a springboard to compromise a raft of US government agencies is “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen”, Microsoft president Brad Smith said.

The operation, identified in December, which the US government has said was likely orchestrated by Russia, breached software made by SolarWinds, giving hackers access to thousands of companies and government offices that used its products.

The hackers got access to emails at the US Treasury, Justice and Commerce departments and other agencies.

Cybersecurity experts have said it could take months to identify the compromised systems and expel the hackers.

“I think from a software engineering perspective, it’s probably fair to say that this is the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen,” Mr Smith said during an interview that aired on Sunday on the CBS programme 60 Minutes.

The breach could have compromised up to 18,000 SolarWinds customers that used the company’s Orion network monitoring software, and likely relied on hundreds of engineers.

“When we analysed everything that we saw at Microsoft, we asked ourselves how many engineers have probably worked on these attacks. And the answer we came to was, well, certainly more than 1,000,” Mr Smith said.

US intelligence services said last month that Russia was “likely” behind the SolarWinds breach, which they said appeared to be aimed at collecting intelligence rather than destructive acts.

Russia has denied responsibility for the hacking campaign.


Read More: Cybercrime

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