The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released the findings and recommendations of the Cyber Safety Review Board (CSRB) regarding the Summer 2023 Microsoft Exchange Online intrusion. This independent review highlights operational and strategic decisions contributing to the intrusion and proposes specific practices for both industry and government to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas presented the CSRB report to President Biden, marking the third review conducted by the CSRB since its establishment in February 2022.

In response to the report, Secretary Mayorkas emphasized the increasing importance of cloud service security and the growing sophistication of nation-state actors in compromising such systems. He commended the collaborative efforts between public and private sectors facilitated by the CSRB, underscoring the crucial role of partnerships in mitigating cyber threats.

The CSRB, comprising leading experts from government and industry, conducted an inclusive review process involving cybersecurity companies, technology firms, law enforcement agencies, and impacted organizations. Through data analysis and interviews, actionable findings and recommendations were developed to address the vulnerabilities exposed by the intrusion.

One significant finding of the CSRB’s review was the preventability of the intrusion by the hacking group Storm-0558, affiliated with the People’s Republic of China. The report identified operational and strategic decisions within Microsoft that indicated a corporate culture deprioritizing enterprise security investments and rigorous risk management. Recommendations include urging Microsoft to develop and share a plan for fundamental security reforms across the company and its products.

Furthermore, the CSRB recommends specific actions for cloud service providers (CSPs) and government partners to enhance security and resilience against similar attacks. Recommendations range from implementing modern control mechanisms in digital identity systems to enhancing incident and vulnerability disclosure practices.

Under Secretary of Policy and CSRB Chair Robert Silvers emphasized the imperative for cloud service providers to prioritize security and build it into their systems from the outset. Acting Deputy Chair Dmitri Alperovitch reiterated the urgency for CSPs to implement recommendations to safeguard against persistent threats from nation-state actors.

In alignment with Executive Order 14028 Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, which directed the establishment of the CSRB, DHS and the CSRB are committed to transparency. Public versions of CSRB reports will be released whenever possible, while sensitive information is protected from disclosure.

The CSRB’s report serves as a vital resource for enhancing cybersecurity resilience and preparedness in the face of evolving threats, reflecting a collective determination to safeguard critical infrastructure and data.

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