The Biden administration has put together an emergency task force to address the Microsoft hack that has potentially affected tens of thousands of companies in the US. Initially reported on 5 March by security researcher Brian Krebs, the attack took advantage of previously unknown flaws in the email software and gained access to the email accounts of at least 30,000 organizations in the country.

Microsoft has claimed that the attack is “state-sponsored and operating out of China”.  Arriving shortly on the heels of the SolarWinds cyber-attack campaign, this is the second major hacking campaign to hit the US since the election.

The SolarWinds campaign, which breached about 100 US companies and nine federal agencies, was attributed to Russia.

In a press briefing on Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, refused not comment on whether any US government bodies were affected by this latest breach.

The “unusually aggressive” attack is giving the attackers “total, remote control over affected systems”, said cyber-security experts. With such large-scale remote access gained, it can affect credit unions, town governments and small businesses across the country. US officials and the FBI are having a hard time reaching out to all the victims.

Experts also opine that these attacks are expected to increase in the near future as more hackers will jump into the fray to take advantage of the now public vulnerabilities before systems are patched. Fixing the issue will be more complicated than just issuing a patch because they do not undo the damages already caused. Patching an Exchange server will prevent an attack only if the server has not been compromised before, but it is not useful on an already compromised server.

The Biden administration is treating the matter with utmost seriousness. A multi-agency taskforce has been created to take stock of all the accounts that have been hacked, what has been done, and how to quickly patch the vulnerabilities. The joint effort is being led by the National Security Council, the FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and others.

While Microsoft has attributed the attack to China, a Chinese government spokesman said the country was not behind the intrusions, according to Reuters.

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