SolarWinds hackers infiltrated emails of top Trump officials

(Image credit: ozrimoz / Shutterstock)

New details have emerged regarding the SolarWinds hack following an Associated Press (AP) investigation in which it interviewed more than a dozen current and former US government officials.

The news outlet has learned that the Russian hackers believed to be responsible for the hack gained access to email accounts belonging to the Trump administration's head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf and members of the department's cybersecurity staff tasked with hunting for cyberthreats from foreign countries.

While the Biden administration has been keeping details of the hack close, an inquiry by the AP has discovered new information about the breach at DHS and other government agencies including the Energy Department. According to the current and former government officials the news outlet spoke with on the condition of anonymity, the hackers were able to access the schedules of several top Trump officials.

These officials also revealed that Wolf and other top Homeland Security officials began using new phones that were wiped clean and had the popular encrypted messaging service Signal installed on them to communicate during the days following the attack.

Securing US government systems

Back in December of last year, officials discovered a cyberespionage effort conducted by foreign hackers that exploited vulnerabilities in SolarWinds software to hack at least nine federal agencies in addition to dozens of private-sector companies.

US authorities currently believe that Russian hackers are responsible and the leader of the Pentagon's cyber force, General Paul Nakasone,  said that the Biden administration is considering a “range of options” in response to the attack. In fact, a Russian government agency recently warned businesses to safeguard themselves against retaliatory cyberattacks.

While several congressional hearings have already been held regarding the SolarWinds hack, they have been short on details regarding how hackers were able to access the systems of US government agencies.

The Biden administration now appears to be taking steps to further secure US government systems and President Biden plans to issue an executive order in the near future which will address “Significant gaps in modernization and in technology of cybersecurity across the federal government”. The latest stimulus package also includes $650m in new funds for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to improve cyber defenses in the US.

Via Associated Press

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.