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Hackers attack State Department computers

From Elise Labott
CNN

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department is investigating a major computer break-in that targeted its headquarters and offices dealing with China and North Korea, department officials said Tuesday.

The officials made clear that the break-in over the past several weeks affected only the State Department's unclassified computer system and did not compromise its classified system.

"The department detected anomalies in network traffic," department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said. The interruption was "not a virus," she said.

The agency's emergency response resulted in limited access to the Internet, with secure and encrypted sites such as banking and personal e-mails restricted for a longer period of time, Beck said.

Most of these functions have been restored, she said. "We felt it prudent to take measures to ensure our system's integrity."

The U.S. government and private businesses are "constantly battling attempts from multiple sources to penetrate our systems," she said. "We remain vigilant."

Other senior State Department officials offered more detail on the condition of anonymity. In late June, these officials said, suspect Internet traffic indicated hackers were trying to break into the State Department system through the Internet. The hackers are believed to have used a variety of methods to probe the system, including stealing passwords and implanting various "back doors" to obtain regular access.

Most heavily affected were the State Department offices of East Asia Affairs, which handles China and North Korea, the officials said.

While an investigation is trying to determine the exact locations, computers in East Asia served as the source of entry, the officials said.

An initial assessment found no loss of significant data, said officials, but employees were asked to change their passwords as a precaution.

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