Hackers suspected to be backed by the Russian government broke into the US State Department and stole thousands of emails belonging to American officials last year, two congressional sources told Politico.
The emails were reportedly from the department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs – bureaus that notably handle work related to US allies in those regions – including NATO.
Fortunately for the Americans, a third source told Politico that the classified network wasn’t thought to be breached. Still, hackings such as these have become a continuing cause for embarrassment and concern for the most powerful country in the world.
Russian hackers are also reported to have breached the Department of Homeland Security and Treasury Department as well as the Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration – as the name implies, that’s the agency that oversees the US nuclear weapons stockpile.
As expected, when asked about the alleged State Department hacking, a spokesperson for the department declined to discuss “any alleged cybersecurity incidents at this time” for security reasons.
Earlier, the Biden administration was reported to be planning cyber attacks and economic sanctions against Russia in retaliation for hacking incidents. The US government is also grappling with a separate, globe-spanning hack blamed on China.
Biden faces an especially thorny dilemma – not doing anything might invite more attacks, but retaliating might escalate the situation to disastrous or dangerous levels. And as a BBC analysis pointed out, Washington isn’t exactly an innocent bystander when it comes to cyber attacks and cyber spying.