Australia Agrees Russian State Actors Behind SolarWinds Hack


After the United States Government publicly blamed Russian state actors for the SolarWinds hack in 2020, the Australian Government has also spoken out about the cyber incident.

“The Australian Government has determined that Russian state actors are actively exploiting SolarWinds and its supply chains,” Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, said on Thursday, April 15.

“The Australian Government joins international partners to support the US statement of 15 April 2021 to hold Russia to account for its harmful cyber campaign.”

In 2020, Russian state actors infiltrated Orion software made by SolarWinds Corporation, a large Texas-based IT firm. Over 30,000 companies and government agencies use Orion software to manage IT resources. Over half of them are victims of this hack.

As those companies and agencies routinely updated their software, code planted by the hackers opened a backdoor into their own IT systems, allowing the installation of further malware. United States Government agencies compromised included the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Treasury, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and parts of the Pentagon.

Earlier this year, Microsoft Corporation President Brad Smith called the cyber incident “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.”

SolarWinds has said countering the hack cost it at least US$25 million so far. SolarWinds was compromised early in 2020. However, it was not until December that an external cybersecurity firm discovered the breach. Before that, the malware had months to work through IT systems. It is estimated the clean-up will cost over $100 million in the United States alone.

On Thursday, the United States Government said a Russian foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, was behind the attack. The SVR is also known as APT 29, Cozy Bear, and The Dukes.

The SVR’s compromise of the SolarWinds software supply chain gave it the ability to spy on or potentially disrupt more than 16,000 computer systems worldwide,” said a White House statement.

In response, US President Joe Biden signed a new sanctions executive order on Thursday.

“We will continue to hold Russia accountable for its malicious cyber activities, such as the SolarWinds incident, by using all available policy and authorities,” the statement said.

Senator Payne says Australia has seen Russian state actors undermine international stability, security, and public safety over the past year. The Minister says she is pleased to stand alongside countries like the United States to help counter cybersecurity threats.