Well, maybe better is not the right word.
Quick catch up for those of you who are not following this.
The Russians hacked the software update process for the high end network management software called Orion from Solar Winds. This software is typically used by large enterprises and government agencies. This hack gave them access to emails and other data inside these businesses and government agencies.
Initial reports were that the Russians had hacked the State Department, Treasury Department and part of the Commerce Department along with an unknown number of private companies. Solar Winds said the number of businesses affected might be as high as 18,000. Security consulting company FireEye was the first company that admitted they were hacked.
Then the government added the National Institutes of Health and DHS to the list of hacked organizations.
There are now reports that Microsoft was hacked, but Microsoft, is, for the moment, denying this.
The Department of Energy said that the National Nuclear Security Administration was hacked. The NNSA is responsible for the safety of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. What could go wrong there? But, they say, not to worry. After the Russians had been rummaging around our stuff for 6-9 months, we took immediate action to mitigate the risk once we found out that we had been hacked.
Bloomberg says that three UNidentified states were also among the hacked, while the Intercept says that the Russians have been inside the City of Austin for months.
In the meantime, CISA, the security department inside Homeland Security, says that the attack poses a “grave risk” to the United States. They said the unnamed adversary, widely believed to be Russia, has demonstrated an ability to compromise software supply chains and that they likely had additional initial attack vectors besides Solar Winds.
This means that every company and not just the 18,000 Solar Winds customers need to be on high alert until we figure out the scope of the breach.
Tom Bossart, former national security advisor in the White House says this calls for immediate and decisive action by the President. But given that this White House seems incapable of saying anything bad about Putin, that is not likely to happen. CNN is reporting that the Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense and the US Postal Service were also invaded. At this point the White House has not said anything about this likely Russian hack.
But here is the scariest part.
How do you recover from this when you don’t know what is compromised and what is safe.
The only sure way to deal with this is to build an entirely new network with entirely new servers and other equipment side by side to the old network. Then you have to figure out if anything in the old network is salvageable. What is not repairable needs to be melted down.
This cannot be done cheaply and it cannot be done quickly.
The good news is that most of the companies and organizations that were affected were large and hence will be able to swallow the millions of dollars this will cost each organization. The government, of course, both prints money and taxes us, so they have no shortage of funds to repair this problem.
But lets assume that this is only the tip of the ice berg – that there were multiple attacks using multiple attack vectors. Then what?
I predict that most private industry companies do not know if their networks are currently compromised.
On top of this, it is unlikely that most organizations will ever be able to figure out what the Russians looked at. In part, this is due to the fact that logs are not tracking everything and also because it took so long to detect, many older log files have been erased.
This is, unfortunately, just the beginning. We will continue to update as this unfolds.