Only the unclassified computers network was affected by the interruption on Friday March 13, which is expected to boost immunity to cyber attacks. The November 2014 breach has been said by unconfirmed reports to be the work of a Russian government supported hacking attack.
Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “As a part of the Department of State’s ongoing effort to ensure the integrity of our unclassified networks against cyber attacks, the Department is implementing improvements to the security of its main unclassified network during a short, planned outage of some internet-linked systems. The Department continues to closely monitor and respond to activity of concern on our unclassified network.”
The agency made a similar upgrade in November after the attack, which had also left some employees unable to access email. However, according to an employee, they were given no advance notification of the outage, calling into question whether the outage was planned. November’s outage also came as an unexpected surprise for employees who were left in the lurch with no access to the Internet.
CIA Director John Brennan, during a conversation with the council on Foreign Relations, said that several foreign governments, terrorists, and hackers were targeting the U.S. government computer networks on a daily basis. He described these attackers as “skilled, agile and determined”, and called for a focused, determined approach from the U.S. government and private industry to defeat them. According to intelligence officials who spoke at the Congress last month, cyber attacks were a greater threat to U.S. national security than terrorism.