Chinese Hackers Steal Tens of Thousands of Emails from US State Department

Chinese hackers

This article was last updated on September 28, 2023

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Chinese hackers target US State Department employees

Chinese hackers have recently been responsible for the theft of tens of thousands of emails from employees of the US State Department, according to a report by a US Senate official. This cyber attack, which occurred in July, has raised concerns about the possible involvement of the Chinese government.

60,000 emails compromised

The cyber attack compromised a total of 60,000 emails from 10 different accounts within the State Department. The majority of the affected employees, nine in total, were working in the East Asia and the Pacific region, while one employee was focused on Europe.

Extent of the breach revealed

While the attack was discovered in July, the full extent of the breach is only now becoming clear. Microsoft, as well as US authorities, have implicated the Chinese government in this cyber attack, although Beijing denies any involvement. The hackers allegedly gained unauthorized access to email accounts belonging to around 25 organizations, including the US Departments of Commerce and State, as well as various European governments. However, the exact nature of the stolen information remains unknown.

Exploiting a Microsoft developer device

The hackers managed to exploit a device belonging to a Microsoft developer, using it as a means to conduct the cyber attack. The group behind the attack, self-identified as Storm-0558, was able to forge digital authentication tokens in order to gain unauthorized access to email accounts. The breach was eventually discovered by Microsoft when Outlook users started experiencing issues with their accounts.

Concerns about Chinese cyber espionage

This recent cyber attack raises concerns about the ongoing issue of Chinese cyber espionage targeting US government agencies and organizations. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied involvement in such activities, but several incidents in the past have pointed to their potential role in state-sponsored hacking.

A growing pattern of cyber attacks

The US and its allies have long accused China of engaging in cyber attacks for economic gain, as well as political and military advantage. In recent years, there have been several high-profile cyber attacks traced back to Chinese hackers, including the theft of intellectual property and personal information from government agencies and private companies.

National security implications

The theft of sensitive information, such as emails from government employees, raises serious national security concerns. Stolen emails could contain confidential diplomatic communications or classified information that could be exploited by foreign governments. The incident highlights the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures and increased vigilance to protect against such attacks.

Response and implications

The US government and Microsoft have been working together to investigate the cyber attack and strengthen their defenses against future attacks. This breach underscores the importance of public-private partnerships in addressing cybersecurity threats and developing effective strategies to combat them.

Diplomatic tensions

The cyber attack has the potential to strain diplomatic relations between the US and China, especially if concrete evidence linking the attack to the Chinese government emerges. The US has previously imposed sanctions on Chinese individuals and entities for cyber espionage activities, and it is possible that similar actions could be taken in response to this incident.

Heightened cybersecurity measures

In light of this cyber attack, government agencies and private organizations are likely to bolster their cybersecurity measures to mitigate future risks. This could involve increased investment in advanced threat detection systems, employee training on cybersecurity best practices, and improved collaboration with cybersecurity experts.

International cooperation

The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of international cooperation in addressing cyber threats. Cybersecurity is a global issue that requires coordinated efforts from governments, organizations, and technology companies to effectively combat cyber attacks.


The recent cyber attack on the US State Department, allegedly carried out by Chinese hackers, highlights the growing threat of cyber espionage and the need for robust cybersecurity measures. The theft of tens of thousands of emails raises concerns about national security and diplomatic relations. It also underscores the importance of international cooperation in combating cyber threats.

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