Back in the days, hacking attempts and data breaches often got away with personal user information. While the security and privacy implications of such incidents are grave, they don’t often have life-threatening consequences. These days, nothing is sacred, and even hospitals and healthcare facilities can become the targets of such activities. The most recent example is the scandalous SolarWinds exploit that has gone beyond just US government agencies and megacorporations, creating backdoors into at least one identified university and one hospital.
Of course, given the huge list of SolarWinds’ customers, that’s not exactly surprising. The IT management firm serves hundreds of fortune 500 companies as well as key US government offices. It isn’t a surprise, then, that Ken State University, as well as the California Department of State Hospitals, are included in the list of victims compiled by the Wall Street Journal.
Unlike a ransomware hack a few months ago that did lead to one fatality, this SolarWinds breach, fortunately, revolved more around gaining access to communications and sensitive corporate and personal data. The malware rode on SolarWinds’ Orion network monitoring software, somewhat ironically, to create backdoors that allowed hackers to access the victims’ networks.
Of course, reports will most likely focus on how the world’s major tech companies have fallen prey to alleged state-sponsored agents. When the likes of Microsoft, Intel, NVIDIA, and Oracle get dragged into the spotlight, customers of those companies definitely have reason to worry. These giant tech companies did admit finding traces of the tainted SolarWinds Orion software and its payload but deny that their production systems were compromised. Microsoft, in particular, says its own services and software weren’t used to attack others.
The scope and severity of the SolarWinds hack are frightening but so is the uncertainty around it. While Russia has pretty much been named as the nation-state behind the attack, US President Donald Trump was quick to point the finger at China. Even worse, since the hacks happened months ago. some of the forensic evidence critical to investigating the intrusion may already be gone by now.