One of the largest cybersecurity breaches on record reportedly compromised the email account of the Trump administration’s head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it has been revealed, as new details on the hack emerge.
The SolarWinds attack allowed hackers to gain access to email accounts belonging to then-acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and members of the department’s cybersecurity team, according to the Associated Press. In response, Wolf and other DHS officials were issued new phones and had their Signal messenger accounts wiped clean.
The hack, first reported in December, exploited backdoor access to a popular network-management program distributed by the Texas-based SolarWinds company. The massive cyberattack went undetected for months and is believed to have affected the systems of more than 100 companies around the world, as well as nine US government agencies.
Washington has claimed that Russian hackers are most likely behind the breach, but it has yet to back up the allegation with evidence.
The Biden administration has remained tight-lipped about potential fallout from the attack, but current and former US officials who spoke to AP provided details about how the hack affected federal agencies. One former US official confirmed that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had been targeted and that the agency labored for weeks to identify how many of its servers may have been infiltrated. The FAA initially claimed in February that it was not involved in the breach, but later said it was investigating the matter.
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Additionally, at least one other senior cabinet member besides Wolf was targeted, and hackers were also able to obtain the private schedules of officials at the Energy Department, including then-Secretary Dan Brouillette, AP reported.
Earlier this month, the New York Times claimed that the Biden administration was mulling a cyberattack aimed at Moscow, purportedly in retaliation for the SolarWinds hack. Russia maintains that it has nothing to do with the act of “cyberterrorism” and has urged Washington not to act in haste.
The Biden administration has identified cyberattacks as a major threat to the United States, and plans to issue an executive order to address “significant gaps in modernization and in technology of cybersecurity across the federal government.”
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