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France points the finger at Sandworm. Feds posit poor security in that scary water treatment plant hack. And Parler is back. This is CyberScoop for Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.

France blames Russian group for SolarWinds-style breach

A notorious group of hackers known as Sandworm breached multiple French IT firms and web hosting companies as part of an apparent espionage operation dating back to 2017, France’s national cybersecurity agency says. After exploiting the IT software Centreon, Sandworm spent three years hidden in some networks. The report also did not specify how attackers may have used that access, though the group’s mere involvement in such an effort is enough to cause concern. Investigators previously blamed Sandworm for the 2017 NotPetya attack on Ukraine, a 2015 attack on Ukraine’s electricity grid and other destructive incidents. Jeff Stone has the story.

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Clues on dangerous water treatment plant hack emerge

A joint federal agency bulletin suggested that the Oldsmar, Florida water treatment plant hackers likely accessed the system by exploiting poor password security and an outdated operating system. Another alert on the attack — in which hackers unsuccessfully tried to raise sodium hydroxide levels to amounts that are harmful to humans — went into more detail, citing use of an old version of Windows. Furthermore, city employee security credentials recently surfaced online, and a security firm pointed to an incident where likely Iranian hackers tried to sell access to a water treatment plant in Florida, although the company couldn't establish firm connections to the Oldsmar incident. Tim Starks has the rundown.

Parler resurfaces

Parler, the social network that’s been offline for approximately a month after the Capitol insurrection last month, is back online, the company announced in a press release. The resurgence of Parler comes after Apple, Google and Amazon took steps to suspend its service after questions emerged over how Parler was used by rioters to plan the attack. Mark Meckler, the former national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, has also been named interim CEO for Parler. Read the release here.

Security pros question '60 Minutes' segment

When Microsoft President Brad Smith said on the news program “60 Minutes” Sunday that Microsoft has estimated that 1,000 engineers would have been involved in designing the malware used in the SolarWinds breach, much of the security community reacted with a resounding, “Huh?” Smith’s estimation came during an otherwise explanatory segment about the suspected Russian cyber-espionage operation against the U.S. Smith said Microsoft analyzed the campaign to estimate that the personnel working on the code was “certainly more than 1,000.” Encryption expert Runa Sandvik urged viewers to remember that, with such a large figure, “details like org structure, roles and responsibilities matter.” Smith added that 500 Microsoft employees still are working on the incident. Watch the whole thing yourself.

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