WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 country last year, the United States Department of Justice said.
The department reported that 80% of Microsoft email accounts used by employees at four federal prosecutors’ offices in New York were hacked. In total, the Justice Department said that at least one employee’s email account was compromised during a cyber-hacking campaign at 27 federal prosecutors’ offices.
The department said in a statement on Friday that it appears that the accounts were tampered with 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 first published in mid-December.
In April, President Joe Biden’s administration 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 wrongdoing.
Columbia Law School professor Jennifer Rodgers said emails from the office often contained all kinds of confidential information, including discussions of case strategies and the names of confidential informants she had from when she was a federal prosecutor in New York.
“I don’t remember someone bringing me a document instead of emailing me for security reasons,” he said, noting the exceptions to classified material.
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts of Justice confirmed in January that it had also been infiltrated, giving SolarWinds hackers another entry point to steal confidential information such as trade secrets, espionage targets, whistleblower reports and arrest warrants.
The list of affected offices includes several large, high-profile offices such as Los Angeles, Miami, Washington and the Eastern District of Virginia.
Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia.
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