The mass hacking of Microsoft Exchange email servers that the software giant has blamed on China is much worse than first thought. One former US official who’s familiar with the ongoing investigation told Bloomberg that at least 60,000 victims were affected across the globe.
The scale of the cyber attacks has the Biden administration scrambling, with top officials urging organisations to patch immediately while also determining if they were compromised. Latest victims reportedly include the European Banking Authority, senior citizen homes, and even an ice-cream company, Bloomberg said.
Microsoft initially described the attacks as “limited and targeted”. But according to the BBC, Brian Krebs, an industry expert, said that the attacks had “dramatically stepped up” since Microsoft’s announcement of the breach last week.
Patching and mitigation is not remediation if the servers have already been compromised. It is essential that any organization with a vulnerable server take immediate measures to determine if they were already targeted. https://t.co/HYKF2lA7sn
— National Security Council (@WHNSC) March 6, 2021
Now the question is how the new US president will respond. The New York Times (NYT) said that the Biden administration had already planned to hit Russia with cyber attacks and economic sanctions in retaliation for earlier hacking incidents. But confronting Russia and China, both nuclear powers, at the same time might prove to be a tad risky – suffice to say.
According to the NYT, the hackers exploited US law that prevents its intelligence agencies from probing systems based in the country. Since the hackers operated from leased virtual private servers (VPS) in the US, the government was caught unaware until a private company – Microsoft, in this latest case – sounded the alarm.