An elaborate hack on Microsoft’s Exchange email software is becoming a global cybersecurity threat. Microsoft said a Chinese government-backed hacking group has thus far hacked at least 60,000 victims. The company also reported tens of thousands of American organizations could have been compromised, creating a cybersecurity crisis that could have global consequences.
Many small and medium-sized businesses were attacked in the hack — banks, electricity providers, senior citizen homes and an ice cream company are a few victims on the list. And the European Banking Authority reported personal emails held on Microsoft’s server might have been compromised.
U.S. national security officials were especially concerned because the hackers compromised lots of victims quickly. Researchers say the hackers automated the final phase of the hack, raking in tens of thousands of new victims globally in a few days.
Starting in January 2021, Chinese hackers known as Hafnium allegedly began breaking into private and government computer networks via Microsoft Exchange’s email software, initially targeting a small number of victims. It’s unclear who the hackers are, what they want, or how they gained access to Microsoft’s servers. The United States has a long history of accusing the Chinese government of cyber-theft, but Chinese officials deny the allegations.
The use of automation to launch sophisticated cyber-attacks may mark a terrifying new era of cyber-espionage as hackers continue to exploit modern networks, finding and creating vulnerabilities to obtain political and military information.
Microsoft told its customers the best protection from the cyberattack was to update all impacted systems as soon as possible.
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