With one paw the Russian bear offers a digital truce, an online olive branch to curtail their agents’ pernicious attacks on America’s cyber infrastructure in their cyber-warfare.
Yet at the same time its spies break into the heart of the American government.
In September last year President Putin offered the USA an “exchange guarantees of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, including electoral processes, including using ICT”—in short, a cyber-truce of on-going cyber-warfare.
While the Russian supremo offered to call off his sleuths, agents, believed to be from SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service were penetrating American government departments and reading emails at will.
The alleged SVR intrusion took a roundabout route. Between March and June last year SolarWinds, a Texan company, pushed out updates to its Orion software – used to help organisations monitor their networks.
The implanted malware hitched a ride on those updates. Once downloaded, it allowed hackers to impersonate an organisation’s system administrators, who typically have the run of the entire network.
Internet security agencies say the attack had all the hall marks of a “top-tier operational tradecraft” in other words a state sponsored organisation set on cyber-warfare.
SolarWinds says that “fewer than 18,000” customers may have been struck, though most would have been collateral damage.
A request by this blog author for confirmation from SVR as to their involvement in the hack has gone, unsurprisingly, unanswered.