Ex-NSA chief: No idea how badly SolarWinds hack harmed security

NSA Cyber Chief Anne Neuberger, an Orthodox Jewish woman, has been assigned as the government's "lead person” to investigate the incident.

THE SOLARWINDS logo is seen outside its headquarters in Austin, Texas, in December. (photo credit: REUTERS/SERGIO FLORES)
THE SOLARWINDS logo is seen outside its headquarters in Austin, Texas, in December.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SERGIO FLORES)
Around 10 weeks after the SolarWinds hack that shook the United States, former National Security Agency (NSA) chief Mike Rogers has said that the country still has no idea how badly it was harmed.
Speaking on a virtual panel sponsored by the Israeli cyber company Illusive, Rogers said, “It’s too early to know. In my previous life, I came up with damage assessments to understand the implications of what occurred. I tell everyone we need to better understand before we detail the implications. That is the response we are seeing from the government so far.”
He added that it was positive that the US government had at least “identified an accountable individual, [NSA cyber chief] Anne Neuberger, as the government lead person” to investigate the incident. However, the US is “ not ready” to provide an answer.
Neuberger is an Orthodox Jew from Baltimore, Maryland.
Rogers said that one lesson of the massive SolarWinds hack is that “no sector of business, no size of organization, no particular business model ... is immune from cyber activity.”
In addition, Rogers said that, “COVID for me has just blown up the [cyber defense] perimeter for most organizations.”
Recalling his days directing cyber offensive attacks for the US, he said that he “loved it when adversaries assumed, we were never going to get inside,” making it clear that countries and companies should be investing much more focus in detecting and combating hackers who get into some minor part of their system than keeping them out of the system entirely.
Likewise, former IDF Unit 8200 (the Israeli NSA) commander and Global venture group Team8 Managing Partner and co-founder Nadav Zafrir said that, “it is ironic that we are in 2021 and it is still an issue that investments are still in preventative measures rather than detection measures. The perimeter is dead. We are highly interdependent and hyper-connected.”
Zafrir also said that while being hyper-connected was a vulnerability in cyber security that it was a necessity for other reasons, noting that the world could not have achieved corona vaccines so fast without the level of high-speed information sharing there has been at a global level.
The ex-IDF Unit 8200 commander added that there is other “bad news – the lines are blurred between nation states and criminals. Sometimes nation states will piggyback on criminals, so if it [a hack they undertook] is out in the open, they don’t need to take the blame for it.”
He said this has made it harder to attribute who is behind certain attacks, as well as how to respond to them.
According to Ofer Israeli, Illusive CEO & founder, another problem exposed by SolarWinds was that too many company boards are not only failing to define who are their threat actors, but in some cases are “not even on a path to a sufficient answer.”
One positive was that multiple panelists said that the fallout from the SolarWinds attack had increased industry-wide defense cooperation and they were hopeful this would continue.