Hackers are said to have broken into the networks of U.S. space agency NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration as part of a wider espionage campaign targeting U.S. government agencies and private companies.
The two agencies were named by the Washington Post on Tuesday, hours ahead of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing tasked with investigating the widespread cyberattack, which the previous Trump administration said was “likely Russian in origin.”
A spokesperson for NASA did not dispute the report but declined to comment citing an “ongoing investigation.” A spokesperson for the FAA did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s believed NASA and the FAA are the two remaining unnamed agencies of the nine government agencies confirmed to have been breached by the attack. The other seven include the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice and State, the Treasury and the National Institutes of Health, though it’s not believed the attackers breached their classified networks.
FireEye, Microsoft and Malwarebytes were among a number of cybersecurity companies also breached as part of the attacks.
The Biden administration is reportedly preparing sanctions against Russia, in large part because of the hacking campaign, the Post also reported.
The attacks were discovered last year after FireEye raised the alarm about the hacking campaign after its own network was breached. Each victim was a customer of the U.S. software firm SolarWinds, whose network management tools are used across the federal government and Fortune 500 companies. The hackers broke into SolarWinds’ network, planted a backdoor in its software and pushed the backdoor to customer networks with a tainted software update.
It wasn’t the only way in. The hackers are also said to have targeted other companies by breaking into other devices and appliances on their victims’ networks, as well as targeting Microsoft vendors to breach other customers’ networks.
Last week, Anne Neuberger, the former NSA cybersecurity director who last month was elevated to the White House’s National Security Council to serve as the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, said that the attack took “months to plan and execute,” and will “take us some time to uncover this layer by layer.”