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Chinese Hackers Steal 60,000 Emails from US State Department in Microsoft Breach

Chinese hackers have successfully breached Microsoft's email platform, resulting in the theft of tens of thousands of emails from US State Department accounts, according to a Senate staffer who attended a briefing by State Department IT officials.

Credits: REUTERS

The officials disclosed that 60,000 emails were stolen from 10 State Department accounts, with nine of the victims working on East Asia and the Pacific and one on Europe.

The extent of the compromise remains unclear, but US officials and Microsoft previously confirmed that Chinese state-linked hackers had accessed email accounts at around 25 organisations, including the US Commerce and State Departments.

The breach has strained the already tense relationship between the US and China, as Beijing has denied the allegations. The compromised State Department accounts primarily focused on Indo-Pacific diplomacy efforts and the hackers also obtained a list containing all of the department's emails. The incident has drawn attention to Microsoft's role in providing IT services to the US government, prompting calls for a reevaluation of the government's reliance on a single vendor.

The hackers gained access to the State Department's email accounts by compromising a Microsoft engineer's device. Microsoft has faced criticism over its security practices since the breaches occurred. The company has attributed the attacks to a hacking group known as Storm-0558, which targeted webmail accounts running on its Outlook service. In response to the breach, the State Department has implemented measures to enhance its system's security, including transitioning to "hybrid" environments with multiple vendor companies and increasing the use of multi-factor authentication.

Senator Eric Schmitt, whose staffer shared the briefing details, emphasised the need to strengthen defenses against cyberattacks and intrusions. He also highlighted the potential vulnerability of relying on a single vendor for government IT services. Microsoft has not yet commented on the Senate briefing.

  • Chinese hackers breached Microsoft's email platform and stole 60,000 emails from US State Department accounts.

  • The compromised accounts were primarily focused on Indo-Pacific diplomacy efforts.

  • The hackers also obtained a list containing all of the State Department's emails.


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