It is being reported that the State Department has shut down its entire unclassified email system after a suspected intrusion or compromise of the system.
Suspicious activity was detected on the system around the same time of the recent White House network intrusion that occurred in October. At that time, there was no indication that the State Department was impacted.
The State Department is claiming that no classified systems were affected. The department shut its email system on Friday to upgrade security and is expected to have the system back up and running Monday or Tuesday.
This comes after a number of other government agencies have reported compromises including the U.S. Postal Service and NOAA. As this is the fourth agency that has announced a compromise in the past few weeks, there may be others that have been compromised but have not made any information public.
As of now, there has not been any announced link or official attribution to the attacks at this point.
It seems like hacking groups, either independent or state-sponsored, are in reconnaissance phase, probing government agency networks to identify vulnerabilities and what data they can access. Although no damage has been inflicted on these systems, the outages do have an impact and could be a precursor to a more organized attack.
Apparently, the State Department has switched to Gmail for the day, as a result of the system being down.