It is still unclear what role, if any, the leaked password may have played in enabling suspected Russian hackers to spy on multiple federal agencies and businesses in one of the most serious security breaches in U.S. history. Stolen credentials are one of three possible avenues of attack SolarWinds is investigating as it tries to uncover how it was first compromised by the hackers, who went on to hide malicious code in software updates that SolarWinds then pushed to some 18,000 customers, including numerous federal agencies. Other theories SolarWinds is exploring, said SolarWinds CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna, include the brute-force guessing of company passwords, as well as the possibility the hackers could have entered via compromised third-party software.
Confronted by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, former SolarWinds CEO Kevin Thompson said the password issue was “a mistake that an intern made… They violated our password policies and they posted that password on an internal, on their own private Github account,” Thompson said. “As soon as it was identified and brought to the attention of my security team, they took that down….”
Ramakrishna later testified that the password had been in use as early as 2017… That timeframe is considerably longer than what had been reported.
The remarks were made at a hearing of a House security committee, where Representative Katie Porter also strongly criticized the company. “I’ve got a stronger password than ‘solarwinds123’ to stop my kids from watching too much YouTube on their iPad! You and your company were supposed to be preventing the Russians from reading Defense Department emails!”
CNN also reports that Microsoft (which is leading the forensic investigation into the breach) “later said there is no evidence that the Pentagon was actually affected by the Russian spying campaign.”