State Department E-Mail System Remains Compromised

The State Department is still reportedly trying to block hacker access to its unclassified e-mail system more than three months after the intruders were first detected. State Department sources told The Wall Street Journal in a story Thursday that each time a system was successfully secured, the hackers attempted to re-enter by using slightly modified malware. Despite periodically shutting down various sections of the State Department network and tightening defenses over the last 90 days, investigators were still finding traces of hacker activity.

The State Department on Friday defended its handling of the issue.

"We have robust security to protect our computer systems and our information, which includes access to our unclassified OpenNet system," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a press briefing. "The recent uptick in news reports regarding cyber incidents demonstrates that the department is among a growing list of public institutions and private industries facing an increasing number of sophisticated cyber threats.

"We deal successfully with thousands of attacks every day, and we deal with them in conjunction with other relevant government agencies."

Hacker-Induced Maintenance

Last November, the State Department announced it would be performing "maintenance" on its non-classified e-mail systems during regularly scheduled system downtime. However, The Associated Press later revealed that the "maintenance" actually consisted of unplanned security enhancements to address what State Department officials conceded were signs of "suspicious activity."

Underscoring the severity of the intrusion, the State Department shut down its unclassified e-mail system around the entire world. State Department officials told media outlets at the time that they were using their personal Gmail accounts in order to get their work done.

Although the State Department predicted that the issue would be resolved within 48 to 72 hours, the intrusion has clearly lingered. Still unresolved is the amount of material that might have been seized by the hackers, or whether...

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