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Indications of Russian hacking emerge amid heated debate over Washington’s sanctions against Moscow
US State Department phones were hacked with spyware, officials say
The US State Department has become the latest high-profile organisation in Washington to be allegedly targeted by spyware believed to be developed by the Israeli company NSO Group.
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The State Department confirmed to the state department news website Foreign Policy that it had discovered that four of its unclassified phones had been compromised last year and a phishing scheme was used to gain access to its email server.
“The department recently learned that an unclassified network running communications-related software and applications hosted by a US government vendor may have been compromised by potential malware.
“Access to this system did not affect the department’s classified systems. All affected systems were patched and secured as soon as the department became aware of the issue,” said Matt Herrick, a spokesman for the department.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert declined to comment further.
A company spokesman said: “Over the last two years, we have detected and we have taken appropriate action to defend against various security attacks and data breaches against our product.
“We continue to monitor the security situation in the US and work with our various stakeholders to see how our products can best maintain a safe and secure environment for our customers.”
Politicians in Washington have been concerned about the efficacy of US sanctions against Russia for more than a year. Some Democrats accused the Trump administration of slackening in its fight with Moscow in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin’s backing for the Syrian regime, and the hacking of Democrats during the 2016 presidential election.
In December 2017, the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, accused the state department of having cooperated with Russia, saying, “I am also troubled that the State Department did not condemn this effort to spy on American diplomats.”
Pelosi argued the revelation of Russian spying at the State Department “underscores the important need for Congressional hearings into Russia’s pervasive attempts to subvert our democracy”.
A member of the House intelligence committee said Congress would “carefully scrutinise any other foreign hacking” of US institutions and that such hacks were a regular occurrence.