by Arjun Singh
Hackers in China stole 60,000 emails from officials at the Department of State, according to a report by Politico.
News of the hacking was revealed by Department of State officials during a private staff briefing on Capitol Hill, recently, Politico reported. There, the department’s chief information officer, Kelly Fletcher, informed staff that over 60,000 emails had been stolen from ten staff members using Microsoft Outlook, the department’s emailing system, with the hack affecting high-ranking officials such as Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
All of the emails were unclassified, though they included “Sensitive but Unclassified” (SBU) information such as deliberations between diplomats as well as their transportation itineraries, according to the report. At least ten Social Security numbers were likely viewed by the Chinese hackers during the attack, with 25 people having their personal information exposed.
Raimondo’s emails, which are the property of the Department of Commerce, were not among the 60,000 hacked by the Department of State, though she was affected by the same hacking attempt, which included her department. Raimondo recently criticized China for accessing her email during a visit to the country in August, she claimed in an appearance on MSNBC.
The hackers obtained the information after stealing a digital access token from a Microsoft software engineer, the report read. Nine of the department officials involved were part of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, whose area of coverage includes China and its neighbors, with one being part of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
“It’s clear that the PRC is steadily improving its cyber collection capabilities directed against the U.S. and our allies,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, regarding the hack, Politico reported. “Close coordination between the U.S. government and the private sector will be critical to countering this threat.”
It is unclear whether the hackers were operating at the behest of the Chinese government. The United States has not formally blamed the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party for the attack.
The Department of State did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Arjun Singh is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Harry S. Truman Building” by AgnosticPreachersKid. CC BY-SA 3.0.