Microsoft hacking incident: Chinese hackers stole 60,000 emails from US State Department, reveals Senate Staffer | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

A US Senate staffer has said that Chinese hackers who subverted Microsoft’s email platform earlier this year managed to steal tens of thousands of emails from the country’s State Department accounts, Reuters has reported.

While attending a briefing of the State Department officials, he said officials told lawmakers that 60,000 emails were stolen from 10 different State Department accounts. Although the victims weren’t named, all but one of them was working on East Asia and the Pacific, he said as quoted by Reuters. The staffer works for Senator Eric Schmitt.

Allegations that China hacked the State Department – along with two dozen other, mostly still unidentified organizations – have strained an already tense U.S.-China relationship; Beijing has denied being behind the spying.

The hack has also refocused attention on Microsoft’s outsize role in providing IT services to the American government.

“We need to harden our defenses against these types of cyberattacks and intrusions in the future,” Schmitt said in a statement shared by the staffer in an email to Reuters following the briefing.

“We need to take a hard look at the federal government’s reliance on a single vendor as a potential weak point,” he said.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Schmitt’s office did not immediately respond to a request for an interview with him.

Earlier this month, Microsoft in a blogpost had said that the Chinese hack of senior officials at the US State and Commerce departments stemmed from the compromise of a Microsoft engineer’s corporate account. The company said the engineer’s account had been penetrated by a hacking group it dubs Storm-0558, which is alleged to have stolen hundreds of thousands of emails from top American officials including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink.

On 5 June, Microsoft’s 365 software suite, including Teams and Outlook, were down for more than two hours for over thousands of users and a brief recurrence the following morning. Attacks continued through the week, with Microsoft confirming on June 9 that its Azure cloud computing platform had been affected. Then later on June 8, the computer security news site reported that cloud-based OneDrive file-hosting was down globally for a time. In June, the company had said that the outages that affected certain services of the company through some of the earlier days of this month were the result of cyberattacks, however, it said that it saw no evidence of any customer data being accessed or compromised.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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