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Russian hackers appear to have gained access to the United States government documents by breaking into SolarWinds, an Austin, Texas-based company that provides remote information technology service to many people worldwide, including many U.S. government agencies and major corporations, according to NBC on Dec. 14, 2020.
The Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Department of Commerce acknowledged the intrusion without any details.
The Russian hackers, who are alleged employees of the Kremlin, are believed to be part of a Russian intelligence campaign that targets the federal government. They aimed at multiple companies and U.S. agencies, including the cybersecurity company FireEye.
A rare emergency directive was issued by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that instructed federal agencies to refrain from using SolarWinds products immediately.
In a notice sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SolarWinds reported they had to notify 33,000 customers who might have been affected, and approximately 18,000 may have been compromised.
The Russian hackers who breached the U.S. government computer systems at the Department of Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security were embedded for months before discovery.
A Commerce Department spokesperson confirmed the breach. The FBI and a cybersecurity agency within the Department of Homeland Security were alerted by department officials.
The National Security Council of the White House also confirmed that they are investigating another potential intrusion at the Treasury Department.
SolarWinds president and CEO Kevin Thompson stated in an email:
We are working with FireEye, the intelligence community, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement to investigate these matters, so we are limited to what we can share at the moment.
Written by Jessica Letcher
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
NBC News: Russian hackers breach U.S. government, targeting agencies, private companies; by Ken Dilanian, Josh Lederman and Tim Stelloh
NPR: Russia Suspected In Major Cyberattack On U.S. Treasury, Commerce Departments; Jaclyn Diaz
Featured Image Courtesy of John Sonderman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Orin Ryan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License