Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Threat Intelligence

07:45 PM
Connect Directly

SolarWinds Attackers Lurked for 'Several Months' in FireEye's Network

Top execs from FireEye, SolarWinds, Microsoft, and CrowdStrike testified before the US Senate Intelligence Committee today on the aftermath - and ongoing investigations - into the epic attacks.

The attackers who infiltrated SolarWinds Orion's software build and updates had spent "several months" embedded in FireEye's network before the security firm spotted them, Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye, told a congressional committee today.

"The attacker wasn't alive every single day" on our network, Mandia told the US Senate Intelligence Committee in response to a question about the attack time frame on FireEye's network. "They were on our systems for three hours on one day, a week would go by, and a couple of hours another day. We weren't a full-time job for [them] ... because they had broken into another 60-plus, if not 100, organizations. There were several days of activity before we detected them."

Related Content:

7 Things We Know So Far About the SolarWinds Attacks

Special Report: 2020 State of Cybersecurity Operations and Incident Response

New From The Edge: Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks

Mandia, along with Microsoft president Brad Smith, CrowdStrike president and CEO George Kurtz, and  new SolarWinds CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna, testified before the intelligence committee today in a hearing on the so-called SolarWinds cyber espionage attack campaign that US intelligence officials say is most likely the handiwork of Russian nation-state actors.

Conspicuously missing from the panel was Amazon Web Services (AWS), which declined the Senate's invitation to testify -- a snub that appeared to rile several senators on the committee. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., pointed out that the attack was waged inside the US, and some secondary command-and-control nodes were hosted on AWS's infrastructure. 

Mark Warner, D-Va., chair of the committee, noted that companies "who chose not to participate so far, we're going to give them another chance."

AWS did not respond to an inquiry from Dark Reading for this article.

It's still unclear how many other companies, including software firms, may have been targeted and hit in the attacks. FireEye's Mandia noted that the attackers behind the massive campaign walked off with plenty of stolen information -- and they'll be back.

"This group has been around for a decade or more," and they target specific individuals in the government or do work on government projects, he said. They had a plan, data "collection requirements," and were focused on their mission. While their attack tools and tactics will change, their targets won't, he said.

"They've already moved on to whatever is next, and we've gotta go find it," Mandia said. "They're going to be ever-present, and we have to play defense ... and we have to close the security gap better next time."

Meanwhile, a report by The Washington Post today said the Biden administration is preparing sanctions against Russia for the attacks -- a nod that would solidify the intelligence agencies' initial reports that the attacks "appeared" to be out of Russia. FireEye, CrowdStrike, and other security vendors have been hesitant to ID Russia as the perpetrator.

"It's potentially one of the most serious breaches we've seen and know [about]," Warner said. "It was exfiltration [of data], but it could have been exponentially worse. We need to recognize the seriousness of that."

Worse as in destructive, but the execs said there was no sign of anything other than cyber espionage at this point. Even so, the attack raises concerns for US IT infrastructure when software companies get infiltrated and compromised as a foothold into their customers' networks, the ultimate targets.

Kiersten Todt, managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute and former member of the Obama administration's national cybersecurity commission, says there's likely much more about the attacks that remain unknown.

"I do think there's a lot more we don't know. How much more that's dangerous or impactful is unclear," she says. "And how much we don't know that's going to make a difference? That's the question."

Microsoft's Smith also noted the unprecedented scope of the attacks and the difficulty in connecting "the dots" to see the full picture of the attacks. That goes to the challenges faced today in information-sharing between government and the private sector of cyberthreats.

"The nature of threat intelligence is always about connecting the dots, so the more dots you have, the more likely you are to see a pattern and reach a conclusion," he said. "One of the challenges is the dots are so spread out in a variety of private companies."

"There should be some level of information-sharing in an appropriate way back to those of us in the private sector who are first responders," he said.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
FluBot Malware's Rapid Spread May Soon Hit US Phones
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/28/2021
7 Modern-Day Cybersecurity Realities
Steve Zurier, Contributing Writer,  4/30/2021
How to Secure Employees' Home Wi-Fi Networks
Bert Kashyap, CEO and Co-Founder at SecureW2,  4/28/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
An out-of-bounds (OOB) memory access flaw was found in x25_bind in net/x25/af_x25.c in the Linux kernel version v5.12-rc5. A bounds check failure allows a local attacker with a user account on the system to gain access to out-of-bounds memory, leading to a system crash or a leak of internal kernel i...
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
A heap memory corruption problem (use after free) can be triggered in libgetdata v0.10.0 when processing maliciously crafted dirfile databases. This degrades the confidentiality, integrity and availability of third-party software that uses libgetdata as a library. This vulnerability may lead to arbi...
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
aom_image.c in libaom in AOMedia before 2021-04-07 frees memory that is not located on the heap.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
The administrator application on ASUS GT-AC2900 devices before allows authentication bypass when processing remote input from an unauthenticated user, leading to unauthorized access to the administrator interface. This relates to handle_request in router/httpd/httpd.c and auth_chec...
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-06
An issue has been discovered in GitLab CE/EE affecting all versions starting from 13.8. GitLab was not properly validating authorisation tokens which resulted in GraphQL mutation being executed.