The 2020 US federal government data breach was one of the most successful cyber attacks ever to target the federal government. It was aided by a culture of complacency and political infighting over the threat that Russia posed to the United States. Downplayed by then-president Donald Trump – presumably for fear of damaging his relationship with Vladimir Putin – the attack was devastating. Known as the Orion hack, the attack targeted vulnerable code in the SolarWinds Orion software, which is an extremely popular type of network monitoring software used by government agencies and large companies all around the world. Here is what we know so far about this absolutely huge data breach.
It Exploited Security Shortcomings
The hack was achieved by hiding malicious code within software updates, allowing Russian hackers to take control of networks and seize sensitive information. It exposed several jarring security shortcomings. Firstly, government agencies did not have the know-how, budget, or time to audit all of the software updates they were implementing – meaning that hackers had free reign to hide and insert malware.
Government agencies were caught sleeping at the wheel, so to speak. Agencies need to be immensely vigilant in following security-oriented protocols when exchanging data, such as only exchanging sensitive data using Secure File Transfer Protocols. Click here to
learn more about sftp servers, which are vital for the safe transfer of files.
The hack exposed incoherence within governmental cybersecurity efforts. It also made the White House scrapping of the State Department cybersecurity policy chief and cybersecurity coordinator look like two especially foolish moves. Infighting swiftly commenced after the hack was exposed and opened up rifts within the Republican party – especially between Mike Pompeo and Trump.
It Exposed Putin’s Power Over Trump
The extent of Vladimir Putin’s influence over Donald Trump during his time as the president of the United States is often debated. Conspiracy theories about blackmail aside, it was clear that Putin and the Russian Federation held significant sway over the US president because of ongoing business deals and Russian help in winning the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s bizarre and humiliating first joint press conference with Putin in Finland has been well documented – heralded as the beginning of a secretive and transactional relationship between the two presidents.
President Trump’s refusal to truly condemn the data breach and his foolhardy assertion that everything was under control exposed his ongoing apathy towards Russian interference in American politics.
It Might Have Long Term Consequences
The consequences of the 2020 hack are likely to be felt well into the future. Once computer networks have been compromised, it is very hard to make them secure again. made huge networks of computers and servers completely unfit for secure use. These systems now have to be built up again, which could take years. The digital infrastructure of the United States government has been crippled in a way that has never been seen before.
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Brett is the Managing Editor of this website. A former business executive turned teacher, activist, and writer, Brett also operates an anonymous Twitter account with a very large following.