Cyber spies in China have been accessing the private emails of "many" top Obama administration officials since at least April 2010, according to top secret documentation and a senior official in the U.S. intelligence community.
NBC News reported:
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The email grab — first codenamed "Dancing Panda" by U.S. officials, and then "Legion Amethyst" — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on. In 2011, Google disclosed that the private gmail accounts of some U.S. officials had been compromised, but the briefing shows that private email accounts from other providers were compromised as well.
According to the intelligence official, the personal email accounts of "all top national security and trade officials" were targeted in the cyber attack. Government email addresses, however, were not compromised because of their security.
News of the massive breach comes just as former secretary of State Hillary Clinton is facing scrutiny for her use of a private email account during her time working in the Obama administration. Clinton served as secretary of State from January 2009 to February 2013, indicating that her email account was likely targeted in the cyber attack.
However, the NSA document and the intelligence official did not specifically name the individuals ultimately affected.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a criminal probe into the security of Clinton’s private email system in the wake of revelations about several messages containing classified information from multiple intelligence agencies.
Throughout her presidential campaign, Clinton has denied sending or receiving classified information on her personal email account while at the State Department.
The "Dancing Panda" cyber attack campaign pointed to in the 2014 NSA briefing was one of over 30 "intrusion sets" carried out by China that U.S. intelligence revealed last year in classified documents. These "intrusion sets" yielded more than 600 successful cyber attacks.
China is also the suspected source of the large-scale cyber attack against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that compromised the personal data of 22.1 million people.
Meanwhile, President Obama has been thanking China for its role in finalizing the Iran nuclear arms deal.