Tool Created to Aid Cleanup From Microsoft Hack in Broad Use

WASHINGTON (AP) -
(Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)

A tool designed to help businesses protect themselves from further compromises after a global hack of Microsoft email server software has been downloaded more than 25,000 times since it was released last week, the White House’s National Security Council said Monday. As a result, the number of vulnerable systems has fallen by 45%, according to an NSC spokesperson.

The one-click Microsoft tool was created to protect against cyberattacks and to scan systems for compromises and fix them. It was developed after a massive hack affected an estimated tens of thousands of users of servers running Microsoft’s Exchange email program.

The breach was discovered in early January and was attributed to Chinese cyberspies targeting U.S. policy think tanks. Then, in late February, five days before Microsoft Corp. issued a patch on March 2, there was an explosion of infiltrations by other intruders, piggybacking on the initial breach.

The White House earlier this month described the hack as an “active threat” that was being addressed by senior national security officials. The administration’s response is being led by deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger, who convened government officials and private sector experts to brainstorm solutions, particularly given that smaller businesses often lack resources to counter cyberattacks and to clean up after hacks.