National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby speaks during his daily briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 5, 2023.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Chinese intelligence hacked into Microsoft email accounts of more than two dozen government agencies in the U.S. and Western Europe, including the State Department, causing “significant” breaches, according to Microsoft and U.S. national security officials.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee is closely monitoring what appears to be a significant cybersecurity breach in Chinese intelligence,” Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said Wednesday. “It is clear that the People’s Republic of China is steadily increasing its cyber-gathering capabilities against the United States and its allies. Close coordination between the U.S. government and the private sector is critical to countering this threat.”

A spokesman for Warner confirmed that he had been briefed on the circumstances of the incident. The U.S. State Department also confirmed on Wednesday that it had been affected.

“The State Department became aware of unusual activity, took immediate steps to protect our systems, and will continue to closely monitor any further activity and respond promptly,” a spokesperson told CNBC.

Hackers accessed the agencies’ Microsoft-backed email accounts as part of ongoing surveillance and theft of sensitive government and corporate data by Chinese actors. Microsoft’s hacking group, code-named Storm-0558, also leaked personal accounts “linked” to these agencies, which may be employees of these agencies.

Microsoft’s cybersecurity team “mitigated” the vulnerability after it was first reported to the company in mid-June 2023, Microsoft said in two blog posts about the incidents. The company said hackers had been gaining access to government systems since at least May.

“This is a very advanced technique that threat actors use against a limited number of high-value targets,” said Mandiant, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Google Cloud. “Every time the technique is used, it increases the threat actor’s chances of getting caught.” “Constable Charles Carmarkal. “Thanks to Microsoft for their efforts, addressing this issue, remediation, working with partners, and being transparent.”

U.S. government officials have discovered a potential intrusion into Microsoft.The National Security Council did not specify which agencies were affected, but announcement The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the first report was filed by an executive branch agency.

In a statement to Wall Street, National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said: “Last month, U.S. government safeguards found that Microsoft’s cloud security had been compromised, affecting unclassified systems. Officials immediately contacted Microsoft to find out Sources and Vulnerabilities of its Cloud Services.” Magazine. “We continue to maintain a high security bar for U.S. government procurement suppliers.”

Microsoft is a major government contractor whose Exchange software is used by nearly all public and private sector customers. Given the ubiquity of its software and the high profile of its many customers, the company invests heavily in cybersecurity research and threat containment.

For example, top law firm Covington & Burling was attacked in 2020 by Chinese hackers using Microsoft server software.

The latest compromise comes months after Microsoft and senior government officials admitted another Chinese state-backed group was behind espionage targeting “critical” U.S. civilian and military infrastructure, including the Guam naval base.

It’s also a timely example of the kind of threat that U.S. national security officials have been warning about for months and years. Jen Easterly, the top US cybersecurity official, called China an “epochal” threat.

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