The Russian hackers behind the massive SolarWinds cyber espionage campaign infiltrated the email accounts of some of the most prominent federal prosecutors’ offices across the United States last year, the US Justice Department reported.
The department indicated that 80% of Microsoft email accounts used by employees in the four federal prosecutors offices in New York were hacked. The Justice Department noted that a total of 27 federal prosecutor’s offices had at least one employee’s email account compromised during the cyber-hacking campaign.
The Justice Department said in a statement on Friday that accounts appeared to have been compromised between May 7 and December 27, 2020. That period is notable because the SolarWinds campaign, which infiltrated dozens of private sector companies and expert groups, as well as at least nine US government agencies, was discovered and disclosed for the first time in mid-December.
In April, the government of President Joe Biden announced sanctions, including the expulsion of Russian diplomats, in response to the SolarWinds hack and Russian interference in the 2020 US presidential election. Moscow denies any wrongdoing.
Jennifer Rodgers, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the office’s emails frequently contained all kinds of confidential information, including discussions of case strategies and names of confidential informants, when she was a federal prosecutor in New York.
“I don’t recall someone bringing me a document instead of emailing it to me for security reasons,” he said, noting exceptions for classified materials.
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts confirmed in January that it was also infiltrated, giving SolarWinds hackers another entry point to steal confidential information such as trade secrets, spy targets, whistleblower reports and arrest warrants. .
The list of affected offices includes several large, high-profile offices such as those in Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, and the Eastern District of Virginia.
The Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, where significant numbers of personnel were targeted, are taking over some of the most important processes in the country.
“New York is the financial center of the world and these districts are particularly known for investigating and prosecuting white collar crimes and other cases, including investigations of people close to the former president,” said Bruce Green, a professor at Fordham Law School and former prosecutor. of the Southern District.
The department indicated that all those affected have been notified and is working to mitigate “the operational, security and privacy risks” caused by the hack. The Justice Department said in January that there was no indication that any classified system was affected.