This doesn’t bode well for us. Of course, In an interview with “60 Minutes” recently, President Barack Obama said that though it was probably a “mistake” for Hillary Clinton to use a private email server during her time as secretary of state, it “is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.” Really?
“The State Department was among the worst agencies in the federal government at protecting its computer networks while Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary from 2009 to 2013, a situation that continued to deteriorate as John Kerry took office and Russian hackers breached the department’s email system, according to independent audits and interviews.”
Here is more detail.
“The State Department’s compliance with federal cybersecurity standards was below average when Clinton took over but grew worse in each year of her tenure, according to an annual report card compiled by the White House based on audits by agency watchdogs. Network security continued to slip after Kerry replaced Clinton in February 2013, and remains substandard, according to the State Department inspector general.
“In each year from 2011 to 2014, the State Department’s poor cybersecurity was identified by the inspector general as a “significant deficiency” that put the department’s information at risk. The latest assessment is due to be published in a few weeks.
“Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has been criticized for her use of a private email server for official business while she was secretary of state. Her private email address also was the recipient of malware linked to Russia, and her server was hit with malware from China, South Korea and Germany. The FBI is investigating whether her home server was breached.
“State Department officials don’t dispute the compliance shortcomings identified in years of internal audits, but argue that the audits paint a distorted picture of their cybersecurity, which they depict as solid and improving. They strongly disagree with the White House ranking that puts them behind most other government agencies. Senior department officials in charge of cybersecurity would speak only on condition of anonymity.
“We have a strong cybersecurity program, successfully defeating almost 100 percent of the 4 billion attempted intrusions we experience each year,” spokesman Mark Toner said.
“Two successive inspectors general haven’t seen it that way. In December 2013, IG Steve Linick issued a “management alert” warning top State Department officials that their repeated failure to correct cybersecurity holes was putting the department’s data at risk.
“Based on audits by Linick and his predecessor, Harold Geisel, State scored a 42 out of 100 on the federal government’s latest cybersecurity report card, earning far lower marks than the Office of Personnel Management, which suffered a devastating breach last year. State’s scores bested only the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. State Department officials complain the grades are subjective.
“In late 2014, cyber intruders linked to Russia were able to break into the State Department’s email system, infecting it so thoroughly that it had to be cut off from the Internet in March while experts worked to eliminate the infestation.
“Clinton approved significant increases in the State Department’ information technology budgets while she was secretary, but senior State Department officials say she did not spend much time on the department’s cyber vulnerabilities. She was aware of State’s technological shortcomings but was focused more on diplomacy, her emails show.
“Emails released by the State Department from her private server show Clinton and her top aides viewed the department’s information technology systems as substandard and worked to avoid them.
“State’s technology is so antiquated that NO ONE uses a State-issued laptop and even high officials routinely end up using their home email accounts to be able to get their work done quickly and effectively,” top Clinton aide Ann-Marie Slaughter wrote in an email to Clinton on June 3, 2011.
“Slaughter suggested that someone write an article to point out the deficiencies, but Clinton aide Cheryl Mills argued that doing so might alert hackers to their use of private email.
“Under Clinton and Kerry, the State Department’s networks were a ripe target for foreign intelligence services, current and former government officials say, echoing the situation at OPM, which last year saw sensitive personnel data on 21 million people stolen by hackers linked to China.