Microsoft, SolarWinds Face New Criticism Over Russian Breach of US Networks

After Russia’s massive breach of both government and private networks in the U.S., American intelligence officials “have expressed anger that Microsoft did not detect the attack earlier
But new criticisms are also falling on SolarWinds: Some of the compromised SolarWinds software was engineered in Eastern Europe, and American investigators are now examining whether the incursion originated there, where Russian intelligence operatives are deeply rooted…. SolarWinds moved much of its engineering to satellite offices in the Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus, where engineers had broad access to the Orion network management software that Russia’s agents compromised. The company has said only that the manipulation of its software was the work of human hackers rather than of a computer program. It has not publicly addressed the possibility of an insider being involved in the breach.

None of the SolarWinds customers contacted by The New York Times in recent weeks were aware they were reliant on software that was maintained in Eastern Europe. Many said they did not even know they were using SolarWinds software until recently.

Even with its software installed throughout federal networks, employees said SolarWinds tacked on security only in 2017, under threat of penalty from a new European privacy law. Only then, employees say, did SolarWinds hire its first chief information officer and install a vice president of “security architecture.” Ian Thornton-Trump, a former cybersecurity adviser at SolarWinds, said he warned management that year that unless it took a more proactive approach to its internal security, a cybersecurity episode would be “catastrophic.” After his basic recommendations were ignored, Mr. Thornton-Trump left the company.

SolarWinds declined to address questions about the adequacy of its security. In a statement, it said it was a “victim of a highly-sophisticated, complex and targeted cyberattack” and was collaborating closely with law enforcement, intelligence agencies and security experts to investigate. But security experts note that it took days after the Russian attack was discovered before SolarWinds’ websites stopped offering clients compromised code.


And privately U.S. officials are now also considering the security of the U.S. power grid:
Publicly, officials have said they do not believe the hackers from Russia’s S.V.R. pierced classified systems containing sensitive communications and plans. But privately, officials say they still do not have a clear picture of what might have been stolen. They said they worried about delicate but unclassified data the hackers might have taken from victims like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including Black Start, the detailed technical blueprints for how the United States plans to restore power in the event of a cataclysmic blackout. The plans would give Russia a hit list of systems to target to keep power from being restored in an attack like the one it pulled off in Ukraine in 2015, shutting off power for six hours in the dead of winter. Moscow long ago implanted malware in the American electric grid, and the United States has done the same to Russia as a deterrent….