On Sunday, Nov. 16, the U.S. State Department reported an infiltration of its computer systems — making it the fourth government agency to experience a data breach.
According to the New York Times, the State Department was forced to temporarily shut down its email system and public websites following discovery of the breach. Department officials maintain that no classified information was compromised in the breach.
“This has impacted some of our unclassified email traffic and our access to public websites from our main unclassified system,” a senior State Department official said in a statement.
The State Department’s data breach comes on the heels of a similar attack on the White House’s unclassified computer systems about a month ago, and other breaches of network security at the U.S. Postal Service last week and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2012, the New York Times reports.
“All companies need to focus on their security to mitigate these increasing threats as best as possible,” says Tiffiny Hladczuk, President of ITS. “Cyber security is constantly evolving as hackers are continually becoming more skilled at breaching data.”
It remains unclear if these attacks on government agencies are in any way related or perpetrated by the same hackers, according to the New York Times. Security experts believe that the cyber attack on the White House came from somewhere in Russia, while the breaches at the Postal Service and the NOAA originated from China.
Detecting the source of an attack on a computer system is difficult, because hackers normally direct their attacks through other compromised web servers rather than their own.
With government-targeted cyber attacks becoming more frequent over the last few weeks, it’s safe to assume this won’t be the last time a government agency sees its information compromised — and next time, the information that hackers expose might be classified.