Russians suspected of ‘stealing thousands of State Department emails’ in latest hack targeting U.S. government
- The cyber attack is the second breach of the department by Russians in a decade
- They gained access to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
- The hack comes after an espionage campaign targeting SolarWinds software
Russian hackers are suspected of stealing thousands of State Department emails last year, two Congressional sources have revealed.
The cyber attack is the second breach of the department’s email server in a decade carried out by Russians.
The hackers gained access to emails from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, according to Politico.
Russian hackers are suspected of stealing thousands of State Department emails last year, two Congressional sources have revealed
It is believed the hackers did not gain access to the classified network.
The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs develops and implements US foreign policy in Europe and Eurasia and promotes US interests in the area including Russia.
It focuses on issues such as NATO, international security, human rights, the European Union and counterterrorism.
Meanwhile the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs engages with partners and allies in the Far East, focusing on the denuclearization of North Korea and US-China relations.
The latest hack comes after an espionage campaign in which Russian hackers accessed federal and private networks by exploiting SolarWinds software.
The government and private sector use the software, developed by the IT company SolarWinds, which was exposed in a breach.
At least nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups were targeted in the hack, a White House official said, as they directly accused the Russian government of the attack.
It is not known if the latest breach was part of the same campaign to target the software flaw.
The hack comes after an espionage campaign in which Russian hackers accessed federal and private networks by exploiting SolarWinds software
A State Department spokesman said: ‘The Department takes seriously its responsibility to safeguard its information and continuously takes steps to ensure information is protected.
‘For security reasons, we are not in a position to discuss the nature or scope of any alleged cybersecurity incidents at this time.’
Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger also said the White House would not comment on the latest hack.
But she added that the administration had identified five cybersecurity flaws across federal agencies which are being modernized to prevent future vulnerabilities.
She said: ‘Several federal agencies have been hacked in the last year. As part of the Administration’s SolarWinds review, we discovered broad gaps in cybersecurity defenses across federal agencies.
‘We identified five specific cybersecurity modernization areas, assessed agencies against them, and are implementing a Build Back Better plan to rapidly fund and roll out these technologies to remediate vulnerabilities and modernize our cybersecurity approach.’
Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger said the White House is undergoing software modernization
The latest email theft indicated hackers have been able to access more information than was previously known.
The bureaus targeted work on issues related to US allies such as NATO and European and Indo-Pacific partners.
The Kremlin has used cyberwarfare to spread disinformation, gain access to sensitive material and sow discord.
Russian hackers previously targeted the State Department and White House in 2015 in what was then branded the ‘worst ever’ cyberattack intrusion against a federal agency.
With people working at home this past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, servers are often less secure making federal employees more vulnerable to attacks.
It was revealed on Monday that top officials at the State Department including former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf were among those compromised by the SolarWinds campaign.
It comes amid frosty relations between Washington and Moscow after Biden asserted that Putin was a ‘killer’
They also broke into the Energy Department and National Security Administration’s networks, which handle nuclear weapons.
The new Joe Biden administration is examining the full extent of the SolarWinds hack but has revealed little publicly about the scope of the breach.
Russia has previously targeted US election campaigns and gained access to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta in 2016.
The US has responded with sanctions against Russian officials in an attempt to deter the cyberattacks, and a number of Kremlin hackers have been charged.
It comes amid frosty relations between Washington and Moscow after Biden asserted that Putin was a ‘killer’, prompting the Russian president to pull out his US ambassador.
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