Alert - SolarWinds Security Incident

Number: AL20-029
Date: 14 December 2020


This Alert is intended for IT professionals and managers of notified organizations.


An Alert is used to raise awareness of a recently identified cyber threat that may impact cyber information assets, and to provide additional detection and mitigation advice to recipients. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security ("Cyber Centre") is also available to provide additional assistance regarding the content of this Alert to recipients as requested.


On 13 December 2020 SolarWinds disclosed a security advisory outlining recent malicious activity impacting SolarWinds Orion Platform resulting from a supply chain compromise [1]. FireEye has published a report detailing the widespread campaign by a “highly evasive” actor gaining access to numerous public and private organizations around the world. [2]


FireEye reports they have discovered a global intrusion campaign resulting from a supply chain compromise. Through trojanizing SolarWinds Orion Platform software updates, actors were successfully able to distribute malware. This campaign may have begun as early as Spring 2020 and FireEye reports it is currently ongoing. Post compromise activity leverages multiple techniques to evade detection and obscure their activity, which includes lateral movement and data theft. FireEye has provided a detailed analysis as well as opportunities for detection. [2][3]


SolarWinds has provided guidance on how to identify the version of Orion Platform organizations are using, [4] and to check which hotfixes organizations have applied. [5] If an organization cannot upgrade immediately, please follow the guidelines securing an Orion Platform instance. [6]

An additional hotfix release, 2020.2.1 HF 2 is anticipated to be made available Tuesday, December 15, 2020. SolarWinds recommends that all customers update to release 2020.2.1 HF 2 once it is available, as the 2020.2.1 HF 2 release both replaces the compromised component and provides several additional security enhancements.

The following recommendations provided by FireEye are mitigation techniques that could be deployed as first steps to address the risk of trojanized SolarWinds software in an environment. The Cyber Centre encourages organizations review the below recommendations and action those based on an organizations own risk-based assessment.

  • Ensure that SolarWinds servers are isolated / contained until a further review and investigation is conducted. This should include blocking all Internet egress from SolarWinds servers.
  • If SolarWinds infrastructure is not isolated, consider taking the following steps:
    • Restrict scope of connectivity to endpoints from SolarWinds servers, especially those that would be considered Tier 0 / crown jewel assets
    • Restrict the scope of accounts that have local administrator privileged on SolarWinds servers.
    • Block Internet egress from servers or other endpoints with SolarWinds software.
  • Consider (at a minimum) changing passwords for accounts that have access to SolarWinds servers / infrastructure. Based upon further review / investigation, additional remediation measures may be required.
  • If SolarWinds is used to managed networking infrastructure, consider conducting a review of network device configurations for unexpected / unauthorized modifications. Note, this is a proactive measure due to the scope of SolarWinds functionality, not based on investigative findings.

FireEye has further provided indicators to assist network defenders in the detection of malicious activity. [3]

If malicious activity is discovered in an environment, FireEye recommends conducting a comprehensive investigation and designing and executing a remediation strategy driven by the investigative findings and details of the impacted environment.

Should organizations identify activity similar to that described in this Alert, recipients are encouraged to contact the Cyber Centre by email ( or by telephone (1-833-CYBER-88 or 1-833-292-3788).


[1] SolarWinds Security Advisory

[2] Highly Evasive Attacker Leverages SolarWinds Supply Chain

[3] sunburst_countermeasures

[4] Determine which version of a SolarWinds Orion product I have installed

[5] Verify hotfixes that have been installed

[6] Secure Configuration for the Orion Platform

[7] Customer Guidance on Recent Nation-State Cyber Attacks


The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre) operates as part of the Communications Security Establishment.  We are Canada's national authority on cyber security and we lead the government's response to cyber security events. As Canada's national computer security incident response team, the Cyber Centre works in close collaboration with government departments, critical infrastructure, Canadian businesses and international partners to prepare for, respond to, mitigate, and recover from cyber events. We do this by providing authoritative advice and support, and coordinating information sharing and incident response. The Cyber Centre is outward-facing, welcoming partnerships that help build a stronger, more resilient cyber space in Canada.

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