The White House on Sunday urged computer network operators to take further steps to assess whether their systems were targeted by Microsoft Outlook email programs, and said that the latest software patches still have serious vulnerabilities.

A White House official said: “This is a positive threat that continues to develop, and we urge network operators to take it very seriously.” He added that senior US security officials are working hard to determine the next steps that should be taken after a violation.

CNN reported separately on Sunday that the Biden administration was forming a task force to solve the hacker attack. White House officials said in a statement that the government is making a “government response.”

Although Microsoft released a patch last week to remedy the flaws in its email software, the remedy still leaves people with a so-called backdoor that can allow access to the infected server and cause others to continue to suffer further attack.

The head of the White House said: “If the server has been threatened, we cannot emphasize that repair and mitigation measures are not remedial measures. Any organization with vulnerable servers must take steps to determine whether they have become targets. This is very important.”

A source told Reuters that more than 20,000 U.S. organizations have been compromised by the hacker, and Microsoft blamed it on China, although Beijing denied any effect.

The latter channel of remote access may affect credit unions, town governments and small businesses, and cause U.S. officials to scramble to reach victims. The FBI urged them to contact law enforcement agencies on Sunday.

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Investigation records show that the affected people appear to be hosting the web version of the Microsoft email program Outlook on their own computers rather than on a cloud provider, which may put many large companies and federal government agencies into trouble.

A Microsoft representative said Sunday that it is working with the government and other agencies to help guide customers, and the company urges affected customers to apply software updates as soon as possible.

Neither the company nor the White House specified the scale of the hacking. Microsoft initially said it was limited, but the White House last week expressed concern about the potential for “large numbers of victims.”

Sources previously told Reuters that so far, only a small part of the infected network has been attacked through the backdoor, but more attacks are expected.

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©


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