Chinese hackers have been accessing the private email accounts of top Obama administration officials since early April of 2010, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official and top secret documents obtained by journalists.
However, officials’ government email accounts were not stolen or read by hackers as the were running on far more secure systems, NBC reported Monday.
According to the official document, a National Security Agency briefing outlines an email intrusion was detected back in 2010, and the anonymous U.S. official who leaked the document said the attack was and still is ongoing. He went on to say that the email accounts of “all top national security and trade officials” were targeted by the group of Chinese cyber-spies.
The hack was so widespread, it forced Google to acknowledged that the private Gmail accounts of some American officials had been comprised in 2011, and the recent NSA briefing made it clear that several email accounts from various providers were also compromised.
The email intrusion coincides with Hillary Clinton’s private email being hacked, where she used it from 2009 to 2013.
Officials targeted in the email hacking were not publicly identified, however, their social network accounts and address books were exploited by Chinese hackers who abused the information to send malware to friends and co-workers via social outlets.
Government officials code-named the email hacking incident “Dancing Panda” and then “Legion Amethyst” according to top secret slides.
This is not the first time China has tried to hack U.S. officials. According to leaked documents by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, China had attempted to spy on the email accounts of four U.S. officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead in late 2010.
It was also revealed in 2013 that hackers had targeted the presidential campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain back in 2010 in order to read emails and policy papers. Hackers successfully compromised a number of emails, including private correspondence from McCain.
The email hacking campaign documents revealed in the 2014 NSA briefing was among more than 30 “intrusion sets” launched by China that the NSA and other intelligence units successfully identified last year. Chinese targeted attacks resulted in more than 600 successful hacking attacks.
The NSA declined to comment according to NBC news.