The US State Department on Sunday revealed that the unclassified part of its email system had been breached by hackers, leading to a temporary shutdown of the system. This attack is just the latest of several such electronic attacks on US governmental systems in recent weeks. But it's not clear if the State Department breach is related to previous events involving the White House, Postal Service, National Weather Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other agencies.
"This has impacted some of our unclassified email traffic and our access to public websites from our main unclassified system," a State Department representative noted Sunday. "There was no compromise of any of the department's classified systems."
The State Department silently shut down its email system on Friday to shore up its defenses after an "activity of concern" was detected. It announced the breach two days later.
"The department is implementing improvements to the security of its main unclassified network during a scheduled outage of some Internet-linked systems," an unnamed State Department official told Reuters anonymously. "This has impacted some of our unclassified email traffic and our access to public websites from our main unclassified system. We expect our systems to be up and running soon."
Reuter's source told it that the breach was related to an earlier and similar breach of the unclassified portion of the White House email system. That breach also led to a temporary shutdown of the service, and did not involve unclassified email.
The Post Service breach has arguably been the most damaging that we know of so far. That agency revealed that attackers could have compromised the personal information of over 800,000 employees, as well as data about customers who contacted its call center during the first half of 2014.
As for the source of the attacks, earlier events were credited to Russian or Chinese attackers, though it's not clear if the governments of those countries were involved. And the US government has never publicly discussed the origins of the attacks regardless.
But Dmitry Sergeyevich Peskov, the press attaché for the President of the Russian Federation, claims his country was not involved.
"We've been hearing a series of groundless allegations against Russia recently. So we can't take them seriously any longer unless there's proof."