Justice Department Says Russians Hacked Federal Prosecutors

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Russian hackers behind SolarWinds ‘massive cyberespionage campaign broke into the email accounts of some of the nation’s top federal prosecutors’ offices last year, the Ministry of Justice.

The department said 80% of Microsoft email accounts used by employees at four US law offices in New York City had been hacked. In total, the Department of Justice said that 27 US attorney’s offices had at least one employee email account compromised during the hacking campaign.

The Justice Department said in a statement it believed the accounts were compromised from May 7 to December 27, 2020. Such a delay is remarkable because the SolarWinds campaign, which infiltrated dozens of private sector companies and think tanks as well as at least nine US government agencies, was first discovered and made public in mid-December.

The Biden administration in April announced sanctions, including the expulsion of Russian diplomats, in response to the SolarWinds hack and Russian interference in the 2020 US presidential election. Russia has denied the wrongdoing.

Jennifer Rodgers, a lecturer at Columbia Law School, said the office’s emails frequently contained all kinds of sensitive information, including discussions of the strategy of the case and the names of confidential informants, when she was a federal prosecutor in New York.

“I don’t remember anyone bringing me a document instead of emailing it to me for security reasons,” she said, noting exceptions for classified documents.

The U.S. Courts Administrative Office confirmed in January that he was also raped, giving SolarWinds hackers another entry point to steal confidential information such as trade secrets, spy targets, whistleblower reports and arrest warrants.

The list of affected offices includes several large and high-profile offices such as Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, and the Eastern District of Virginia.

The districts of southern and eastern New York, where large numbers of employees have been affected, manage some of the country’s most prominent prosecutors.

“New York is the financial center of the world and these districts are particularly well known for investigating and prosecuting white collar crimes and other matters, including investigating people close to the former president,” said Bruce Green, professor. at Fordham Law School and a former Southern District attorney.

The department said all victims have been notified and is working to mitigate “operational, security and privacy risks” caused by the hack. The Justice Department said in January it had no indication that classified systems had been affected.

The Justice Department did not provide further details on the type of information collected and the impact such hacking could have on ongoing cases. Members of Congress expressed frustration with the Biden administration for not sharing more information on the impact of the SolarWinds campaign.

The Associated Press previously reported that SolarWinds hackers gained access to email accounts owned by Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and cybersecurity staff in the department whose jobs included hunting down threats from foreign countries.

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Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia.

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