Password Guessing Used as a Weapon by SolarWinds Hackers to Breach Targets


Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) informed that perpetrators of SolarWinds attack obtained confidential information via common hacker techniques like password guessing, password spraying, and illicitly acquired administrative credentials attainable via external remote access services.

The hackers manipulated the IT management company SolarWinds update to secure unauthorized entrance to government systems. The perpetrators inserted malware into an update the company shared with thousands of its clients which then initiated a command and directed the channel to an external server. Microsoft stated that the hacker’s primary aim was to secure entrance to cloud hosted infrastructure, which at many instances was possessed by the company’s Azure and Microsoft 365 environments. 

The threat actors behind the SolarWinds hack gained access by password guessing [T1101.001], password spraying [T1101.003] and were not consistently counting on the trojanized Orion app as its primary access vector.

CISA has urged the United States government agencies to upgrade the SolarWinds Orion platform to the latest version 2020.2.1HF2 and the agencies that are not willing to upgrade the SolarWinds Orion platform should take their Orion systems offline. The attackers modified several Orion app versions to attach malware and used a malware strain called Sunburst (or Solorigate) to corrupt the Orion app updates, versions 2019.4 via 2020.1 which were released between March 2020 and June 2020.

“CISA has evidence that there are initial access vectors other than the SolarWinds Orion platform and has identified legitimate account abuse as one of these vectors (for details refer to Initial Access Vectors section), specifically, we are investigating incidents in which activity indicating abuse of Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) tokens consistent with the adversary’s behavior is present, yet where impacted SolarWinds instances have not been identified” the agency stated.

The SolarWinds hack was first discovered by the US Cybersecurity company FireEye on December 8th when the cybersecurity firm released a blog revealing an attack on its systems and the attack have impacted the highest authorities of United States which includes the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, US Treasury and parts of the Pentagon. The hackers were believed to be from Russia, based on several pieces of evidence, however, Russia constantly denies the allegations.