The U.S State Department on Friday shut down its email servers after a malware attack by foreign hackers. The new attack raises doubts over the security of secure email servers in the State though there was no loss of classified information.
State officials believe that Russian hackers were behind the series of attacks. The officials played down the incident by not announcing during the press conference on Friday and instead chose to release a statement 21 minutes before the end of the day. The attack was reportedly a serious attack, but the State mentioned it as a ‘planned outage’ and a routine ‘upgrade’ to the digital systems.
“The Department continues to closely monitor and respond to activity of concern on our unclassified network,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki in a statement.
The secure email server could be blocked for days, disabling employees from sending emails. Psaki stated that recent reports regarding cyber incidents indicate that the Department is among the growing list of public and private institutions facing complex cyber attacks. A similar event occurred in October and the State Department called it an ‘upgrade’.
Officials working at the department confirmed that they could not reach their websites by Friday night and emails were blocked except interdepartmental messages. The attack is being investigated by NSA, FBI and Secret Service who believe the involvement of Russian hackers.
A Russian hacker attack on a cybersecurity firm in August 2014 led to a breach of 1.2 billion usernames and passwords, affecting about 420,000 websites. A series of attacks on JP Morgan Chase and nine banks were believed to have originated from Russia. About 83 million bank accounts were affected, including seven million commercial customers. Last month, FBI announced a 43 million reward for information on capturing Russian hacker Evgeniy Bogachev who developed a sophisticated type of ‘botnet’ for stealing bank information from infected computers.[ Via ]