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Microsoft is offering additional assistance on the SolarWinds hack fallout. The NSA is making adjustments, too. And don't forget about coronavirus-related attacks. This is CyberScoop for Feb. 26, 2021.

MSFT wants to help on the SolarWinds response

Microsoft is offering up the tool it used to track down potential indicators of compromise in the sweeping SolarWinds breach. Microsoft is releasing the CodeQL queries it used to investigate its source code in an effort to help other organizations pinpoint code-level indicators of compromise. The decision is the latest indication that the private sector will continue to be a crucial part of the nation’s remediation and recovery effort in the wake of the SolarWinds breach, which was first uncovered by FireEye. Meanwhile, technology leaders have spent the week testifying on Capitol Hill this week, several firms have been providing tools to help organizations thwart suspected Russian hackers. Shannon Vavra has the big picture.

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SolarWinds estimates $20-25 million security costs in 2021

Speaking of SolarWinds: The company expects to incur between $20 and $25 million in security-related initiative costs in 2021, some of which are a result of the hack that hit the company last year as part of a widespread suspected Russian espionage campaign. Company officials said on an earnings call on Thursday that "professional fees" will go up as a result of the cyberattack, as well as insurance costs. "These are not necessarily related to remediation as much as we are looking at these as extensions and investments for us going forward," said company CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna. Read the transcript of the call.

Process changes at NSA after SolarWinds breach

The NSA on Thursday issued long-awaited guidance on authentication with instructions for defense agencies and contractors on how to set up a network architecture under the so-called zero trust security model. The push to zero trust — where compromise is assumed and users are asked to verify their identity as they move around a network — has grown stronger after the discovery of the massive SolarWinds hack last year. The practice already is widespread through much of the Fortune 500. “NSA strongly recommends that a Zero Trust security model be considered for critical networks to include National Security Systems, Department of Defense networks, and Defense Industrial Base systems,” the information sheet says. Jackson Barnett has more at FedScoop.

Hackers still want COVID-19 info

As recently as February 14, hackers targeted Oxford University’s Division of Structural Biology, a research unit that has been investigating ways to help combat the pandemic. The targeted machines have been used to prepare proteins and other samples that have been used in the lab’s coronavirus research — but the unit is distinct from the university’s shop that has been working on developing the Oxford University-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. “We have identified and contained the problem and are now investigating further,” an Oxford University spokesperson told Forbes, which first reported the targeting. “There has been no impact on any clinical research, as this is not conducted in the affected area.” Hold Security first alerted Forbes to the apparent hacking effort. More on the hack here.

Ransomware attacks against education doubled in 2020

The onset of near-universal remote learning made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic left colleges and universities more vulnerable to ransomware, botnets and other cyberattacks, according to security provider BlueVoyant. Ransomware attacks against colleges doubled, researchers found,  and became more financially costly, as the “big game hunting” tactics used by malicious actors that’ve targeted large corporations, major cities and state governments have moved into the education sector. The average cost of an attack against a university? $447,000 last year. EdScoop’s Benjamin Freed is on the case.

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