Chinese operatives have been accessing the emails of top U.S. officials since April 2010, according to a new report.
A senior U.S. intelligence official corroborated the findings of a top-secret National Security Agency document to NBC News Monday, which said spies linked to China have accessed the email systems of top national security and trade officials inside the Obama administration.
The email breach — at first codenamed “Dancing Panda” by U.S. officials, then “Legion Amethyst” — was discovered in 2010, according to an NSA briefing in 2014, and may still exist.
Sources tell NBC once this group took targeted officials’ email address books, they targeted officials’ social networks by sending malware to friends and colleagues.
The story comes as the focus on Chinese cyberattacks has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks. Top officials have pinned the hack of the Office of Personnel Management to Chinese hackers, while the Obama administration has stopped short of a formal announcement.
Last week, researchers exposed how one group linked to China hacks email systems through the use of “watering hotels,” websites crafted to look legitimate that inject malicious code into specifically targeted users.
The attacks in the NBC report targeted private Gmail accounts of some U.S. officials, as well as other providers.
You can read the full NBC report here.