Lazy eyes listen
Tens of thousands of messages were taken from the US State Department earlier this summer in a significant cyber attack, according to a Senate employee. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, the US Commerce Secretary and Washington’s top diplomat in China, was claimed to be the target of the attack.
During a closed-door briefing on Wednesday, State Department officials revealed that the majority of the ten government email accounts affected were owned by people working on “Indo-Pacific diplomatic efforts,” Politico reported, citing an unnamed staffer for Republican Senator Eric Schmitt.
“Among the most sensitive information stolen, the staffer said, were victims’ travel itineraries and diplomatic deliberations,” the outlet added, claiming that ten Social Security numbers may have been acquired as a result of the attack.
The cyber attack was first reported in July by Microsoft, which pinned the blame on a “China-based threat actor” allegedly supported by the government in Beijing. In a blog post published at the time, the company also said the hackers had “espionage objectives,” but stated its conclusions were held with only “moderate confidence.”
The State Department and other government institutions were among the 25 entities reported to have been targeted in the June attack. The hack could have implicated hundreds of thousands of documents, including roughly 60,000 from the State Department alone, according to the source.
US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo are among the highest-ranking officials allegedly targeted in the breach. Though the State Department has yet to formally blame China in the breach, Raimondo has publicly claimed Chinese complicity.
“They did hack me, which was unappreciated to say the least,” she told NBC News earlier this month, adding that she brought the matter up with her counterparts in Beijing on her most recent visit.
The commerce secretary went on to say that Washington is in “fierce competition with China at every level,” but that “conflict is in no one’s interest,” echoing similar remarks from previous officials about US policy towards China. President Joe Biden has frequently labelled Beijing as America’s main “competitor,” and the US military footprint in the Asia-Pacific region is being increased in an effort to fight the People’s Republic.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had informed his Chinese counterpart that Washington would “take appropriate action” in response to any state-sponsored hacking, but he did not elaborate. However, Beijing denounced the allegations as “disinformation,” as it had previously denied similar claims.