SolarWinds Supply Chain Attack of 2020: A Massive Espionage Campaign

In 2020, a highly sophisticated cyberattack targeting SolarWinds, a prominent IT management software provider, was discovered, leading to a significant supply chain breach. This attack, attributed to a nation-state actor, impacted numerous organizations and governments worldwide, highlighting the far-reaching consequences of supply chain compromises.

1. Attack Overview and Impact

a. Timeline: The SolarWinds supply chain attack took place between March and December 2020 but was discovered and publicly disclosed in December 2020.

b. Compromised Software: Attackers inserted malicious code, known as Sunburst or Solorigate, into SolarWinds’ software update mechanism. As a result, legitimate software updates carried the hidden malware.

c. Scope and Targets: The attack had a widespread impact, compromising the networks of numerous organizations, including government agencies, technology companies, and critical infrastructure providers.

2. TTPs (MITRE ATT&CK) and Tactics

a. TTPs: The SolarWinds attack employed various TTPs, including:

  • Initial Access: The attackers gained initial access through the compromise of SolarWinds’ software supply chain.
  • Lateral Movement: Once inside the target network, the attackers moved laterally, exploring and compromising additional systems.
  • Command and Control: The attackers established command and control infrastructure to communicate and control compromised systems.
  • Exfiltration: Data exfiltration techniques were employed to steal sensitive information from compromised networks.

b. MITRE ATT&CK Framework: For specific TTPs and tactics associated with the SolarWinds attack, refer to the MITRE ATT&CK framework link:

3. Fallout and Response

The SolarWinds supply chain attack had significant repercussions, leading to a widespread investigation and response. Organizations affected by the breach undertook forensic analysis, removed the malicious software, and implemented additional security measures to prevent future incidents. The incident prompted increased scrutiny of software supply chain security and called for enhanced cybersecurity practices across industries.

4. Lessons Learned

The SolarWinds supply chain attack highlighted the immense threat posed by sophisticated supply chain compromises. It emphasized the need for organizations to implement robust security measures throughout their software supply chain and conduct thorough security assessments of third-party vendors. The incident also underscored the importance of continuous monitoring, timely incident response, and strong threat intelligence capabilities to detect and mitigate such attacks.