In December 2020, a supply chain attack on SolarWinds Orion software was discovered, believed to have been carried out by Russian hackers. This attack targeted numerous US government agencies and corporations, including the Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, in early 2021, a different group of hackers with suspected ties to China were discovered to have also breached the USDA’s networks, highlighting the ongoing threat to US government agencies from foreign state-sponsored hackers.
In this article, we will examine the sources of the Chinese attack on the USDA’s networks, the potential implications of the breach, and what the USDA and other government agencies can do to protect themselves from similar attacks in the future.
The Chinese Attack on the USDA
In early 2021, the USDA discovered that its networks had been breached by hackers with suspected ties to China. According to reports, the attackers used a vulnerability in a SolarWinds product to gain access to the USDA’s networks. This vulnerability was not related to the previous SolarWinds supply chain attack, but rather a separate security flaw.
Once the hackers gained access to the USDA’s networks, they were able to steal data related to the agency’s research on genetically modified crops, which could have significant economic implications for the US agricultural industry.
Implications of the Breach
The breach of the USDA’s networks by Chinese hackers highlights the ongoing threat to US government agencies from state-sponsored hackers. It also underscores the potential economic and national security implications of cyber attacks on government agencies and corporations.
The theft of data related to genetically modified crops could have significant economic consequences, as these crops represent a significant portion of US agricultural exports. The theft of this data could allow foreign competitors to gain a competitive advantage in the global market, which could have long-term consequences for the US economy.
In addition, the breach of the USDA’s networks raises concerns about the security of government agencies and their ability to protect sensitive data from cyber attacks. The USDA is just one of many government agencies that have been targeted by state-sponsored hackers in recent years, highlighting the need for increased cybersecurity measures and greater investment in securing government networks.
Protecting Against Future Attacks
To protect against future attacks like the Chinese breach of the USDA’s networks, government agencies and corporations must take proactive steps to improve their cybersecurity posture. This includes:
- Conducting regular vulnerability assessments: Organizations must regularly assess their systems and networks for vulnerabilities and take steps to address them before