CNN reported that China-based hackers recently conducted a targeted intelligence-gathering campaign, during which they breached the email account of United States Ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns. Three US government officials disclosed this information.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink’s email account was also accessed by the hackers as part of the campaign. Kritenbrink had accompanied Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his trip to China.
The hacking report, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, further adds to the reports of United States’ officials falling to alleged Chinese hackers which was revealed for the first time last week.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s email account was earlier infiltrated by hackers, as reported previously by CNN.
China has been consistently labelled by US officials as the most advanced of US adversaries in cyberspace, which has been an issue of bilateral tension between the two countries in recent years.
When the hacking of Raimondo’s email account was disclosed last week, the administration had accepted the breach. US officials have stated that those were among the three most senior targets, however, thousands of email accounts of government officials were at the risk of getting hacked.
While commenting on the report of the account breach, a state department spokesperson stated, “For security reasons, we will not be sharing additional information on the nature and scope of this cybersecurity incident at this time.”
“The department continuously monitors and responds to the activity of concern on our networks. Our investigation is ongoing, and we cannot provide further details at this time,” he added. It was unclear how much sensitive information belonging to the US government had been compromised.
Officials analyse seriousness of the hacking attack
According to the Wall Street Journal, the email of Secretary of State Antony Blinken was not breached, and neither were those which belonged to his inner circle of advisers.
However, Kritenbrink had accompanied Blinken on his China trip last month, and Burns also took part in meetings held with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and other senior Chinese officials. There is a possibility that the hackers may have got details of US preparations for those internal discussions and meetings that took place.