1000 people involved, Largest attack of all time: Microsoft on SolarWinds

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Microsoft says more than 1000 engineers were likely involved in SolarWinds, the size of which continues to beggar belief as more details emerge.

The hacking campaign that used a US tech company to compromise a raft of US government agencies is “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen,” Microsoft president Brad Smith has opined.

The operation, which was identified in December and which the US government said was “likely orchestrated by Russia”, breached software made by SolarWinds Corp, giving hackers access to thousands of companies and government offices that used its products.

Hackers got access to emails at the US Treasury, Justice and Commerce departments and other agencies.

Cybersecurity experts have said it could take months to identify the compromised systems and expel the hackers.

“I think from a software engineering perspective, it’s probably fair to say that this is the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen,” Smith said during an interview that aired on the (American) CBS program “60 Minutes.

Microsoft was breached in SolarWinds cyberattack, in what one exec calls 'a  moment of reckoning' - MarketWatch
“it’s probably fair to say that this is the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen” – Microsoft President Brad Smith.

The breach could have compromised up to 18,000 SolarWinds customers that used the company’s Orion network monitoring software, and likely relied on hundreds of engineers.

“When we analysed everything that we saw at Microsoft, we asked ourselves how many engineers have probably worked on these attacks. And the answer we came to was, well, certainly more than 1000,” Smith said.

US intelligence services said last month that Russia was “likely” behind the SolarWinds breach, which they said appeared to be aimed at collecting intelligence rather than destructive acts.

Russia has (unsurprisingly) denied responsibility for the hacking campaign.

The sheer size and audacity of the attack has left people around the world stunned, as has the hackers’ ability to be as incognito as they were for as long as they were. We’ve covered the SolarWinds attack in several pieces on our site and will continue to cover it as more details emerge.

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.

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