Make information security great again

Russia just pulled off its largest intelligence coup since it turned Edward Snowden

In a report that Russia is denying, a massive global hack that penetrated several departments of the US government is slowly revealing itself. The hack compromised not only corporate and trade secrets but military matters as well.

Details of the breach began to emerge on Sunday with an emergency directive from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that alerted federal agencies to a compromised software update from SolarWinds Orion. The directive instructed agencies to forensically examine their systems and “disconnect or power down” SolarWinds Orion products.

“Treat all hosts monitored by the SolarWinds Orion monitoring software as compromised by threat actors and assume that further persistence mechanisms have been deployed,” the directive ordered.

In a statement reported by the Post, SolarWinds said that the problem was related to products released in March and June of this year, which may have been compromised through a “highly-sophisticated, targeted . . . attack by a nation-state.”

The problem may have impacted as many as 18,000 of SolarWind’s customers. These potentially include all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, State Department, Justice Department, NASA, the Executive Office of the President, and the National Security Agency as well as the top ten US telecommunications companies.

Russia has a long history of cyber espionage as well as cyber warfare. In addition to the well-known hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign in 2016, Putin’s pet hackers used Ukraine as a testbed for malicious cyber activities. Going far beyond simple information gathering, Russia took over networks in the former Soviet state and even shut down electric power grids remotely.

Both sides play the cyber warfare game, but it is becoming increasingly important to have an impenetrable defense against rogue states such as Russia, China, and Iran. As with terrorism, the good-guy “white hat” computer experts have to be right 100 percent of the time.

At this point, we don’t know the total extent of the hack, but it is suspected that the Russians had access to many of America’s secrets for much of the year. We also don’t know what other intrusions may remain to be discovered.

With news of the hack, Donald Trump will be leaving office under the same circumstances in which he entered: As the US deals with the lingering effects of a security breach by Russian hackers. The circle is complete.

Photo credit: Nahel Abdul Hadi/unsplash.com