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WASHINGTON/LONDON – Chinese state-backed hackers have covertly accessed email accounts of about 25 organizations, including US government accounts, in covert cyber espionage since May, Microsoft and US officials said Wednesday. Announced.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America show that the US detected breaches of federal accounts “pretty quickly” and successfully stopped further breaches. said.

The U.S. State Department was among those affected, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified.

In a statement, Microsoft said the hackers, dubbed Storm-0558, forged digital authentication tokens to access webmail accounts running the company’s Outlook service. According to Microsoft, the activity began in May.

“Similar to observed state-of-the-state attacker activity, Microsoft has directly contacted all targeted or compromised organizations through tenant administrators and provided key information to aid in the investigation and response,” the company added. .

Microsoft did not specify which organizations or governments were affected, but added that hacking groups were involved. It primarily targets Western European entities.

The Chinese embassy in London called the accusations “disinformation” and called the US government “the world’s largest hacking empire and global cyber thief.”

China regularly denies involvement in hacking activities, regardless of available evidence or circumstances.

White House National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said Microsoft’s cloud security breach “impacted unclassified systems,” but did not elaborate.

“Authorities immediately contacted Microsoft to identify the cause and vulnerability in their cloud services,” Hodge added.

The State Department “detected unusual activity” and “immediately took action to protect our systems,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

Private cybersecurity experts said the newly discovered hacking activity shows how the Chinese group is improving its cyber capabilities.

“China’s cyber espionage campaign is a big step up from the bashing tactic many of us are accustomed to,” said John Hultquist, chief analyst at US cybersecurity firm Mandiant.Reuters Chinese Hackers Access US Government Emails, Microsoft and US Announce

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