Washington (AP) –
The Ministry of Justice revealed, on Wednesday, that it is among federal agencies affected by a widespread penetration of government networks That American officials linked Russia.
It was not clear the extent of the damage. The administration said 3% of its Microsoft Office 365 email accounts were affected, but did not specify to whom these accounts belong. The agency said there were no indications that classified systems were affected.
The ministry said on December 24 it detected “previously unknown malicious activity” related to the broader interventions of federal agencies uncovered earlier that month, according to a statement from a spokesman for Mark Raymonddi.
The statement came a day after law enforcement and federal intelligence agencies formally implicated Russia in the incursions, which officials said were part of a suspected intelligence-gathering operation. President Donald Trump has previously raised the idea that China could be responsible.
The hacking campaign was extraordinary in terms of scale, with hackers stalking government agencies, defense contractors, and telecoms companies for several months by the time the hack was discovered. Experts say this gave foreign agents ample time to collect data that could seriously harm the national security of the United States, although the exact extent of the violations and the information needed are unknown.
An estimated 18,000 organizations have been affected by the malicious code uploaded to popular network management software from Austin, Texas, a company called SolarWinds. The statement said that among these clients, “a much smaller number has been compromised through follow-up activity on their systems,” noting that fewer than 10 federal government agencies have been identified so far as falling into this category.