(WASHINGTON) The US government has been the target of a cyber attack of Chinese origin that specifically targeted the State Department, official sources said Wednesday.
The hack specifically targeted the email accounts of several federal agencies, with IT giant Microsoft saying that “China-based Microsoft is calling Storm-0558.”
Microsoft did not identify the targets, but a State Department spokesman said Wednesday that the department responsible for developing U.S. diplomacy was affected.
“The government department has detected unusual activity and has taken immediate steps to secure our IT systems and will closely monitor the situation,” he said, without elaborating.
“In cyber security, we have not disclosed what our response was and the incident remains under investigation,” he added.
According to The Washington PostThe hacked emails are unclassified and the attack does not appear to have affected the “Pentagon” or the “intelligence or military community.”
But the Journal revealed on Wednesday evening that US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s email account had been compromised, with US officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The US Commerce Department has imposed trade restrictions on China, particularly in the high-tech sector, which has angered Beijing.
President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke on ABC television about the hacking operation, which was “detected very quickly.”
“Further violations have been avoided,” he said.
The latest cyber attack comes as the bitterly rivaled US and China resume high-level contacts after months of tension, notably during a recent visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. month.
In a blog post, Microsoft executive vice president Charlie Bell said, “Based on our assessments, this adversary is focused on espionage by attempting to harvest email inboxes.”
Microsoft notes that it launched an investigation into “unusual email-related activity” on June 16, which led to the discovery of the May 15 anomaly.
The same source says the hackers are “primarily targeting Western government agencies with a focus on espionage, data theft and credentialing.”
In late May, the United States, Western allies and Microsoft condemned a China-sponsored “cyber-actor” who had already infiltrated critical infrastructure networks in the United States.
Beijing later denied any involvement and accused the US of “disinformation”.
According to Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, “it is clear that China is significantly improving its intelligence-gathering capabilities against the United States and our allies”.
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