Microsoft blocks customer access to malicious SolarWinds binaries

SolarWinds logo on the side of a building
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Microsoft is quarantining certain compromised SolarWinds binaries related to the Orion Platform in its security products following the revelation of the devastating supply chain cyber attack by state-backed hackers

The Orion Platform binaries can be used by cyber criminals to remotely access corporate devices, Microsoft explained in a blog post, leaving them susceptible to the attack it has dubbed 'Solorigate'.

The firm has, as a result, started blocking the known SolarWinds binaries in its Microsoft Defender Antivirus platform. This will quarantine the binary even if the process is running, which may cause complications for customers running the SolarWinds platform as it’s a server product.

The firm had previously releasing detections alerting users to the presence of these binaries, with the recommendation to isolate and investigate the devices in question. It seems these measures, however, aren’t strong enough relative to the scale and severity of the threat.

Compromised versions of SolarWinds Orion released between March and June 2020 contained the strain of malware that Microsoft has dubbed Solorigate, leading to the infiltration of thousands of organisations.

FireEye was the first company that detected it had been compromised by state-backed hackers, and only after closer examination did the company find the hackers had a backdoor into SolarWinds. It has since emerged that at least 18,000 SolarWinds customers have been potentially compromised as part of the attack, including massive corporations and US government agencies.

The move comes as a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing revealed that the Microsoft Office 365 accounts of SolarWinds employees were broken into. The firm suggested, according to this filing, that it was aware of an attack vector used to compromise the company’s emails, with this intrusion also granting attackers access to other data contained in its Microsoft-developed productivity suite.

While Microsoft’s role in the attack may now fall under some scrutiny, this particular compromise warrants further investigation and it’s not yet conclusive as to whether the breach played a role on the attack on the Orion platform.

A coalition of tech companies including Microsoft, meanwhile, has acted to seize a domain that played a key part in the original cyber attack, according to ZDNet.

The group seized the domain serving as the command and control server for the Solorigate malware distributed to the compromised targes swept up in the hack. This has been described as “protective work” to prevent the attackers from delivering new orders to infected systems.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.