November 17, 2014 / 2:04 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. State Department's unclassified email systems hacked

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department’s unclassified email systems were the victim of a cyberattack in recent weeks, around the same time as White House systems were breached, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

A U.S. national flag and its shadow on the Harry S. Truman Building at the Department of State are pictured in Washington, in this October 24, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Larry Downing/Files

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no classified systems were compromised. Portions of State’s unclassified systems have been shut down to improve security but should be back online shortly.

“The department recently detected activity of concern in portions of its unclassified email system,” said the senior U.S. official.

“The department is implementing improvements to the security of its main unclassified network during a scheduled outage of some Internet-linked systems,” the official added.

The maintenance has affected unclassified email traffic and employee access to public websites from the unclassified system, the official said, adding the systems should be back up soon.

The U.S. official said the State Department breach was part of the same incident recently reported by the White House’s Executive Office of the President (EOP).

The State Department’s network was infiltrated last month, but the department did not disconnect the affected systems until the weekend, according to federal technology information website nextgov.com. It said there was abnormal activity in the email system as recently as late October.

The State Department breach follows similar intrusions disclosed in recent months at the White House, the Office of Personnel Management and, just last week, the U.S. Postal Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

USPS said the personal information of more than 800,000 employees may have been compromised, as well as data on customers who contacted its call center during the first eight months of the year.

At NOAA, four of the agency’s websites were affected.

The State Department cyberattack was first reported Sunday by The Associated Press.

The State Department has agreed to brief lawmakers on the cyberattack, according to U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings.

In a letter on Monday to Secretary of State John Kerry, Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House government reform committee, also asked State to provide more information by Jan. 5 to help Congress as it considers cybersecurity laws and other ways to protect consumer and government information.

A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday none of the military’s systems have been affected.

Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Arshad Mohammad; Editing by Jim Loney

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