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How U.S. agencies’ trust in untested software opened the door to hackers

Politico – The government doesn’t do much to verify the security of software from private contractors. And that’s how suspected Russian hackers got in: “The massive monthslong hack of agencies across the U.S. government succeeded, in part, because no one was looking in the right place. The federal government conducts only cursory security inspections of the software it buys from private companies for a wide range of activities, from managing databases to operating internal chat applications. That created the blind spot that suspected Russian hackers exploited to breach the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies. After embedding code in widely used network management software made by a Texas company called SolarWinds, all they had to do was wait for the agencies to download routine software updates from the trusted supplier…

The SolarWinds hack — which officials have linked to Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR and which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late Friday publicly pinned on Russia — reflects a level of sophistication that may be impossible to completely block, but technical professionals and policymakers say new approaches to software development and procurement could at least give defenders a fighting chance…”

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