Hackers believed to be working for Russia have been monitoring internal email traffic at the United States’ Treasury and Commerce departments, people familiar with the matter revealed.
The Commerce Department has confirmed there was a breach at one of its agencies, while the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI were asked to investigate it.
The hack led to a National Security Council meeting at the White House on Saturday. National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said they “are taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues related to this situation”.
“This is a much bigger story than one single agency. This is a huge cyberespionage campaign targeting the US government and its interests”, one of the people familiar with the matter told the media, adding that the hackers were “highly sophisticated”.
Many in the cybersecurity community suspect the Russian intelligence-linked hacking group known as APT29, or Cozy Bear, was behind the attack, which involved the hackers spying on internal e-mail traffic at the targeted agencies.
The Russian foreign ministry rejected the allegations as another “unfounded” attempt by the US media to blame Russia for cyberattacks against US agencies.
The hacking comes as countries have been planning or rolling out vaccines against COVID-19. There have been several suspected cases of hacking related to vaccines in recent weeks.