The stakes for cyberspace security have never been higher, and evidence from a recent investigation shows that foreign adversaries have been attempting to interfere in the highest levels of U.S. diplomatic relations.
According to CNN, a probe into recent cyber-espionage-related activities revealed that Vietnam attempted to hack into the email accounts of U.S. officials in an effort to access and monitor their conversations with foreign countries.
The cyber-espionage activity was discovered when the FBI’s Advanced Forensics and Data Analysis Unit (AFDAU) was doing an investigation of an alleged ‘X’ group associated with the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications who was working with third-party organizations to monitor the online conversations of foreign governments.
The ‘X’ Group was found to have infiltrated the email accounts of top U.S. officials in September, 2018. Unsolicited emails sent from the X Group contained malicious attachments designed to extract information from target machines and possible compromise of an email account.
According to a source close to the investigation, the emails were sent to two former senior U.S. officials and a current official. After the emails were discovered, they were blocked and referred to the FBI’s Cyber Division for a possible criminal investigation. No evidence of further malicious activity associated with the group was found.
This discovery marks Vietnam’s attempt to use cyber-espionage as a tool to gain insight into the relationship between the U.S. and foreign countries. It further demonstrates the continued reality of cyber-security threats posed by foreign adversaries.
Given the ongoing cyber-espionage activities of actors like the X Group, it is essential that government agencies and officials be aware of the threats they face and take the necessary steps to protect their data and systems from attack. In addition, digital security protocols like end-to-end encryption and two-factor authentication should be implemented whenever possible.
By taking such precautions, government officials can ensure that their digital conversations remain private, and their plans to promote closer U.S. relations with foreign countries remain secure.