What is the SolarWinds Cyber Attack?

The "SolarWinds hack", a cyberattack uncovered lately in the United States, has emerged as one of the largest ever targeted against the United States government, its agencies, and several private enterprises. In reality, this is likely a global cyberattack.

FireEye, a cybersecurity firm based in the United States, was the first to find it, and further details have emerged since then. The scope of the cyber-attack is unknown; however, it is thought that the US Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, and elements of the Pentagon were all affected.

What is SolarWinds, Exactly?

SolarWinds is a large software firm based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that provides network and infrastructure monitoring tools and other technical services to hundreds of thousands of companies around the world. Orion, an IT performance monitoring system, is one of its products.

As an IT monitoring solution, SolarWinds Orion has privileged access to IT systems, collecting log and system performance data.SolarWinds was a valuable and appealing target because of its privileged position and widespread deployment.

What is the SolarWinds Attack?

The SolarWinds hack is the most prevalent phrase for the supply chain breach involving the SolarWinds Orion system.

Thousands of SolarWinds customers' networks, systems, and data were hacked by suspected nation-state hackers known as Nobelium by Microsoft and referred to as the SolarWinds Hackers by other researchers. The scope of the hack is unprecedented, making it one of, if not the, most significant of its sort ever documented.

Over 30,000 public and private organizations use the Orion network management system, including local, state, and federal agencies, to manage their IT resources.

As a result, when SolarWinds accidentally distributed the backdoor virus as an update to the Orion program, the intrusion affected the data, networks, and systems of tens of thousands of people.

Customers of SolarWinds weren't the only ones who were harmed. Because the intrusion exposed the inner workings of Orion users, the hackers may obtain access to their customers' and partners' data and networks as well, allowing the number of impacted people to expand enormously.

How Did So Many US Government and Private Sector Organizations Come Under the Attack?

Instead of directly assaulting the federal government or a private organization's network, the hackers target a third-party vendor that sells software to them, known as a "Supply Chain" attack. The target, in this case, was SolarWinds' Orion IT management software, which was developed in Texas.

SolarWinds' Orion software has a client base of over 33,000 enterprises, making it the company's most popular product. SolarWinds claims that 18,000 of its customers have been affected. In addition, the company's official websites have been updated to remove the client list.

The list includes 425 Fortune 500 businesses and the top 10 telecom operators in the United States, according to the page, which has also been removed from Google's Web Archives. According to a New York Times article, parts of the Pentagon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department, the Justice Department, and others were also impacted.

The virus had been identified on Microsoft's servers, but there was no evidence of "access to production services or customer data," nor that their "systems were used to target others," according to Microsoft.

What Did the Hacker Intend to Achieve?

The hack's motive is still a mystery. Nonetheless, there are several reasons why hackers could wish to breach a company's system, including gaining access to future product plans or ransomware-held employee and customer data. It's also unclear how much information hackers took from federal entities if any at all. However, it appears that the level of access is extensive.

The primary target of the attack was government entities that employ SolarWinds IT management solutions. Thus, many businesses could be collateral damage.

What is the Significance of the SolarWinds Hack?

Threat actors transformed the Orion software into a weapon, obtaining access to many government systems and thousands of commercial systems worldwide, resulting in the SolarWinds supply chain attack. Many governments and commercial networks and systems are at risk of massive breaches due to the nature of the software − and by extension, the Sunburst virus − having access to whole networks.

The hack may also catalyze widespread, quick reform in the cybersecurity industry. Many businesses and government agencies are working on new ways to respond to these attacks before they happen.

Governments and companies learn that erecting a firewall and hoping for the best is not enough. They must deliberately search for weaknesses in their systems and either patch them or turn them into traps to thwart such attacks. SolarWinds has advised clients to update their existing Orion platform once the breach is found. Since the initial Orion assault, the firm has published malware patches and found additional possible vulnerabilities. According to SolarWinds, customers who cannot upgrade Orion should isolate SolarWinds servers and change passwords for accounts with access to those servers.

According to several business experts, the White House's increased focus on cybersecurity will be critical. However, for monitoring and cooperation, enterprises should choose modern software-as-a-service tools. While the cybersecurity industry has come a long way in the previous decade, attacks like these demonstrate that there is still a long way to go before systems are fully secure.