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Chinese communist hackers stole 60,000 Microsoft-managed State Department emails
Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Chinese communist hackers stole 60,000 Microsoft-managed State Department emails

Although sensitive State Department information may no longer be as unnecessarily exposed as during Hillary Clinton's tenure , it's clear the department's cyber defenses remain far from impenetrable.

Chinese hackers stole 60,000 emails from 10 State Department accounts, a staffer for Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) confirmed to Reuters Wednesday.

The staffer, who attended a recent private Capitol Hill briefing, indicated one victim was reportedly working on Europe and the other nine were reportedly working on East Asia and the Pacific. Diplomatic deliberations and victims' travel itineraries were among the stolen information.

The hacks took place ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's trip to China.

The New York Times reported that the Commerce Department was similarly targeted by the hackers who "likely are affiliated with China's military or spy services."

Microsoft and state officials previously indicated that the hackers were backed by the Chinese communist regime, although the Biden administration has not yet formally blamed Beijing.

Politico reported that Wang Wenbin, the spokesman for the communist regime's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, did not deny the breach when asked about it Wednesday, but instead accused America of being "the world's biggest hacking empire and global cyber thief."

Senators from both parties have blasted China over its provocative act of espionage.

"China is our chief adversary, and Chinese Communist Party actors hacking into the State Department email servers before a scheduled visit to the country by the Secretary of State is unacceptable," said Schmitt. "We cannot allow any foreign nation to easily gain access to sensitive government information, and as a Senator, I have an obligation to ensure sensitive information is safeguarded at every level of government. The American people deserve answers."

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said, "The Chinese Communist Party is no friend to the United States and the American people deserve to know how much classified information it accessed during the recent data breach."

"It’s past time to hold the CCP accountable and use every tool at our government’s disposal to protect American national security," said Alabama Sen. Katie Britt.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia called the incident "alarming."

Microsoft indicated in July that the Chinese-based hacker group Storm-0558 was responsible.

The group is an "adversary ... focused on espionage, such as gaining access to email systems for intelligence collection. This type of espionage-motivated adversary seeks to abuse credentials and gain access to data residing in sensitive systems."

As of May 15, Storm-0558 apparently gained access "to email accounts affecting approximately 25 organizations including government agencies as well as related consumer accounts of individuals likely associated with these organizations," according to the company.

Upon identifying an intrusion in Microsoft's cloud security, "[o]fficials immediately contacted Microsoft to find the source and vulnerability in their cloud service. We continue to hold the procurement providers of the U.S. Government to a high security threshold," according to White House National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge.

Following an investigation into the hacks, Microsoft reported in a Sept. 6 blog post that to get the ball rolling, Storm-0558 first compromised a Microsoft engineer's corporate account. The account had access to a debugging environment containing a key with which hackers were able to sign security tokens then get into accounts.

Storm-0558 is not the only Beijing-backed outfit conducting espionage against the United States.

In May, TheBlaze detailed the findings of another Microsoft report concerning uncovered efforts by the state-backed hacker group Volt Typhoon to undermine critical infrastructure in Guam and other American regions, thereby affecting communications, manufacturing, transportation, government, maritime, and other sectors.

The New York Times reported that while the Volt Typhoon attacks on the U.S. amounted to a likely espionage campaign, "the Chinese could use the code, which is designed to pierce firewalls, to enable destructive attacks, if they choose."

While Microsoft appears keen to resolve security issues caused by the communist Chinese, the company nevertheless continues to grow its presence in the adversarial state.

"Although Microsoft acknowledges that state-supported Chinese actors are exploiting its products to steal foreign intellectual property and penetrate vital infrastructure, it has not slowed [Microsoft's] business activities in China," reported Forbes. "Quite the opposite. It sells over 70 products in the People's Republic and employs thousands of software engineers—many of whom work on cutting-edge innovations."

China, which Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall claimed earlier this month is preparing for war , has become especially brazen in its aggression against and contempt for the U.S. in recent years, having:

  • put America weeks and possibly months behind in terms of pandemic preparation, having covered up the spread of COVID-19;
  • flown a 200-foot spy balloon across the continental U.S.;
  • operated illegal police operations stateside;
  • issued bombastic threats over political visits to the sovereign island nation of Taiwan;
  • deployed spies in the U.S. to commit economic espionage;
  • helped fuel the deadly and costly opioid crisis; and
  • provoked U.S. military ships and aircraft on numerous occasions.

The Chinese regime, which has its share of problems at home , has also escalated its rhetoric in recent months.

Qin Gang, the genocidal communist regime 's new foreign minister, said earlier this year, "If the U.S. does not hit the brakes but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation."

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