Poor Security auditing by the U.S. when it came to Solarwinds monster hack

u.s. goverment used password "123" for solarwinds update server password

Poor Security auditing by the U.S. when it came to the Solarwinds monster hack

When it came to the Solarwinds monster hack, there should be accountability.

U.S. Government Solarwinds IT Software update server used password “solarwinds123”.

 

Security Researcher Reveals Solarwinds’ Update Server Was ‘Secured’ With The Password ‘solarwinds123’

As was noted here earlier, up to 18,000 customers of globally-dominant network infrastructure vendor SolarWinds may have been compromised by malicious hackers. The hackers — presumed to be operating on behalf of the Russian government — deployed tainted updates (served up by SolarWinds) that gave them backdoors to snoop on internal communications and exfiltrate sensitive data.

The attack was so widespread and potentially catastrophic, the DHS’s cyber wing issued an emergency directive that stated the only way to mitigate damage was to airgap devices and uninstall affected Orion software. Meanwhile, SolarWinds filed an update with the SEC detailing the extent of the damage. It was limited, but only if you consider 18-33,000 potential infections “limited.” It’s only a small percentage because Solarwinds’s customer base is so large. The company boasts 300,000 customers, among them several government agencies and all five branches of the military. (It’s not boasti0ng much these days. It has memory-holed its “Customer” page during this trying time.)

Unfortunately, the directive from CISA was delivered a bit too late. CISA itself was compromised by the hack, something acknowledged by the DHS less than 24 hours after its dire directive was issued.

The fallout from this hacking — which may have begun as early as March of this year — will continue for a long, long time. But this latest news — delivered by Zack Whittaker — adds another layer of irony to the ongoing debacle. Orion is Solarwinds’ one-stop-shop for IT software. It promises to secure customers’ IT infrastructure by bundling in the company’s network security products.

No doubt the company claims to take security seriously. But while users are being subjected to password requirements that demand them to utilize most of the alphabet and multiple shift key presses, internal security isn’t nearly as restrictive. Here’s the “OMFG are you goddamn kidding me” news via Reuters, which first broke the news of the malicious hacking.

Security researcher Vinoth Kumar told Reuters that, last year, he alerted the company that anyone could access SolarWinds’ update server by using the password “solarwinds123”.

All five branches of the military. The NSA. The IRS. The USPS. DHS. The Treasury Department. Nearly every Fortune 500 company. All ten of the top ten telcos. The list goes on and on. And with this access, attackers could move laterally, using compromised credentials to eavesdrop on mutuals of targeted entities. And all of this “secured” by a password so simple an idiot could have created it.

We’re fucked. And we’re fucked by people making far more money than we are who take our security far less seriously than we do. Say what you will about the security ambivalence of the general public, but it’s the “experts” who endanger us with lax security measures who do the most damage. If Joe Blow fails to secure his email account, he’s probably only going to hurt himself. When a multinational vendor can’t be bothered to gin up a decent password, entire government agencies become a plaything for malicious hackers.

Hackers believed to be working for Russia have been monitoring internal email traffic at the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, according to people familiar with the matter, adding they feared the hacks uncovered so far may be the tip of the iceberg.

Original Hack:

Hackers believed to be working for Russia have been monitoring internal email traffic at the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, according to people familiar with the matter, adding they feared the hacks uncovered so far may be the tip of the iceberg.

The hack is so serious it led to a National Security Council meeting at the White House on Saturday, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

U.S. officials have not said much publicly beyond the Commerce Department confirming there was a breach at one of its agencies and that they asked the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI to investigate.

National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot added that they “are taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues related to this situation.”

The U.S. government has not publicly identified who might be behind the hacking, but three of the people familiar with the investigation said Russia is currently believed to be responsible for the attack. Two of the people said that the breaches are connected to a broad campaign that also involved the recently disclosed hack on FireEye, a major U.S. cybersecurity company with government and commercial contracts.

 

In a statement posted here on Facebook, the Russian foreign ministry described the allegations as another unfounded attempt by the U.S. media to blame Russia for cyberattacks against U.S. agencies.

The cyber spies are believed to have gotten in by surreptitiously tampering with updates released by IT company SolarWinds, which serves government customers across the executive branch, the military, and the intelligence services, according to two people familiar with the matter. The trick – often referred to as a “supply chain attack” – works by hiding malicious code in the body of legitimate software updates provided to targets by third parties.

In a statement released late Sunday, the Austin, Texas-based company said that updates to its monitoring software released between March and June of this year may have been subverted by what it described as a “highly-sophisticated, targeted and manual supply chain attack by a nation state.”

The company declined to offer any further detail, but the diversity of SolarWind’s customer base has sparked concern within the U.S. intelligence community that other government agencies may be at risk, according to four people briefed on the matter.

SolarWinds says on its website that its customers include most of America’s Fortune 500 companies, the top 10 U.S. telecommunications providers, all five branches of the U.S. military, the State Department, the National Security Agency, and the Office of President of the United States.

‘HUGE CYBER ESPIONAGE CAMPAIGN’

The breach presents a major challenge to the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden as officials investigate what information was stolen and try to ascertain what it will be used for. It is not uncommon for large scale cyber investigations to take months or years to complete.

“This is a much bigger story than one single agency,” said one of the people familiar with the matter. “This is a huge cyber espionage campaign targeting the U.S. government and its interests.”

Hackers broke into the NTIA’s office software, Microsoft’s Office 365. Staff emails at the agency were monitored by the hackers for months, sources said.

A Microsoft spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokesman for the Treasury Department.

The hackers are “highly sophisticated” and have been able to trick the Microsoft platform’s authentication controls, according to a person familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the press.

“This is a nation state,” said a different person briefed on the matter.

The full scope of the breach is unclear. The investigation is still in its early stages and involves a range of federal agencies, including the FBI, according to three of the people familiar with the matter.

A spokesperson for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said they have been “working closely with our agency partners regarding recently discovered activity on government networks. CISA is providing technical assistance to affected entities as they work to identify and mitigate any potential compromises.”

The FBI and U.S. National Security Agency did not respond to a request for comment.

There is some indication that the email compromise at NTIA dates back to this summer, although it was only recently discovered, according to a senior U.S. official.

 

Sources:

(Mis)Uses of Technology, Tim Cushings

Techdirt

Reuters, Christopher Bing, Jack Stubbs, Joseph Menn, and Raphael Satter; Editing by Chris Sanders, Daniel Wallis, and Diane Craft

Share:

Leave a Reply