“solarwinds123”, the password that is believed to be the root cause of the biggest cyber hack of 2020. Top executives of Texas-based software company SolarWinds have laid the blame at the feet of an intern for a critical password lapse that was noticed by anyone for several years.
The password “solarwinds123” is believed to have been publicly accessible via a GitHub repository since June 17, 2018, before it was addressed on November 22, 2019.
CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna appeared in a hearing before the House Committees on Oversight and Reform and Homeland Security on SolarWinds on Friday, and he had testified that the password has been in use as early as 2017.
SolarWinds’ Orion platform is believed to have been compromised as early as October 2019. This malware was used to introduce the Sunburst backdoor.
Till now, at least 9 government agencies and several private agencies are believed to have fallen victim to this. This attack was deemed so severe that The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) had advised all government agencies to update the software with immediate effect or to cease using it.
Excerpts from the hearing
“I’ve got a stronger password than ‘solarwinds123’ to stop my kids from watching too much YouTube on their iPad,” Representative Katie Porter of California said. “You and your company were supposed to be preventing the Russians from reading Defense Department emails.”
“I believe that was a password that an intern used on one of his servers back in 2017 which was reported to our security team and it was immediately removed,” Ramakrishna said in response to Porter. Former CEO Kevin Thompson echoed Ramakrishna’s statement during the testimony. “That related to a mistake that an intern made, and they violated our password policies and they posted that password on their own private GitHub account,” Thompson said. “As soon as it was identified and brought to the attention of my security team, they took that down.”