The State Department has taken an unprecedented turn over the weekend, shutting down the departments email system in hopes of securing unclassified e-mails that may have been stolen by hackers.
A senior State Department official said the system administrators detected “activity of concern” within the system that handles unclassified e-mails, prompting for the immediate shutdown. The unnamed State Department official said the department did not notice any unusual activity on their classified email network.
The sudden shutdown over the weekend affected the State Department’s unclassified email traffic sector, while affecting parts of the public site making it inaccessible, the official said.
The State Department email data breach comes in the latest series of high-profile data breaches affecting government agencies computer systems, coming in just days of the White House attack, U.S. Postal Service Data Breach and the Chinese hacking the National Weather System. Department officials refuse to comment on where the attack may have originated, blaming Russia and China for previous attacks.
The State Department did not choose to publicize it had been hacked, instead the department announced Friday that “maintenance” would occur on the unclassified network for a routine update, noting a scheduled outage. Sunday, the Associated Press was notified of the breach, officials told AP they found traces of suspicious activity in their system and were upgrading their security system protocols during the scheduled outage.
Just to see the extent the shutdown has affected, duty officers were contacting press via their Gmail accounts.
The senior State Department official declined statements on how many of the department email accounts may have been affected in the hack, or if any other information on employees may have been compromised. The unnamed State Department official said the email system should be in working order “soon.”
The State Department is expected to address the issue and shutdown once the department’s security improvements have been implemented, officials estimate the completion on Monday or Tuesday.