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Who Was Behind the SolarWinds Hack of Top US Sites, and What Were They After?


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The US government is still trying to assess the damage from a massive, 9-month long computer hack on some of our government's most classified networks. 

The hacking operation, disclosed publicly Sunday, began as far back as March, when much of the federal government and many of America's largest companies installed a software update on their IT networks that included malware called SUNBURST, which could lie dormant for weeks to avoid detection.

One security expert told CBN News that on a scale of one to ten, this hack was a ten.

Government officials admit they were stunned by the sophistication of the hack, and that many of America's most deeply held secrets may have been stolen.

Cybersecurity expert Frank Cilluffo of the McCrary Institute for Cyber & Critical Infrastructure Security told CBN News, "This is what's referred to as a supply chain attack. They were able to access different levels of credentials. They got in through the back door, then they were able to get into the front door of all of our homes and all of our buildings and all of our government agencies."

The infected software came from a company called SolarWinds in Austin, Texas, which provides computer network monitoring services to the White House, Pentagon, Secret Service, and most of America's Fortune 500 companies. After the hack, the SolarWinds customer page has been deleted from the company website.

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The hack was so bad that the Pentagon on Tuesday had to order an emergency shutdown of an internal communications network that handles classified material, something that reportedly never happened before.

"The potential for a catastrophic, uh, incident, at least from an espionage perspective is very high," Cilluffo said.

The mainstream media is calling this a Russian hack, but officials don't really know. They've only said it looks like it was a foreign nation-state, and that could include China.  

"China is incredibly active in terms of nefarious cyber activity," Cilluffo said.

Whoever the hackers were and whatever they were after, it could take months or even years before experts have the answers. 

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About The Author


Since joining CBN News, Dale has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America. Dale also covered China's opening to capitalism in the early 1990s, as well as the Yugoslav Civil War. CBN News awarded him its Command Performance Award for his reporting from Moscow and Sarajevo. Since 9/11, Dale has reported extensively on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe. Follow Dale on Twitter @dalehurd and "like" him at