cross-posted from:

Archived link

By not investigating the underlying weakness in Microsoft software that was key to the SolarWinds hack against the U.S. government, the Cyber Safety Review Board missed an opportunity to prevent future attacks against, experts say.

Russian state hackers had infiltrated SolarWinds, an American software company that serves the U.S. government and thousands of American companies. The intruders used malicious code and a flaw in a Microsoft product to steal intelligence from the National Nuclear Security Administration, National Institutes of Health and the Treasury Department in what Microsoft President Brad Smith called “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.” Get Our Top Investigations

The U.S. president issued an executive order establishing the Cyber Safety Review Board in May 2021 and ordered it to start work by reviewing the SolarWinds attack.

But for reasons that experts say remain unclear, that never happened.

Nor did the board probe SolarWinds for its second report.


A full, public accounting of what happened in the Solar Winds case would have been devastating to Microsoft. ProPublica recently revealed that Microsoft had long known about — but refused to address — a flaw used in the hack. The tech company’s failure to act reflected a corporate culture that prioritized profit over security and left the U.S. government vulnerable, a whistleblower said.


The board was created to help address the serious threat posed to the U.S. economy and national security by sophisticated hackers who consistently penetrate government and corporate systems, making off with reams of sensitive intelligence, corporate secrets or personal data.


The board is not independent — it’s housed in the Department of Homeland Security. Rob Silvers, the board chair, is a Homeland Security undersecretary. Its vice chair is a top security executive at Google. The board does not have full-time staff, subpoena power or dedicated funding.


As a result, there has been no public examination by the government of the unaddressed security issue at Microsoft that was exploited by the Russian hackers. None of the SolarWinds reports identified or interviewed the whistleblower who exposed problems inside Microsoft.