State Dept says worldwide email outage resolved, not tied to ‘malicious activity’

The State Department dealt with a major email outage Thursday morning, but as of Friday had all its capabilities back online. 

The State Department dealt with a major email outage Thursday morning, but as of Friday had all its capabilities back online.

Jalina Porter, the State Department’s principal deputy spokesperson, told reporters Friday that the agency had resolved its email outage.

“The State Department takes seriously its responsibility to not only safeguard our information and our systems, but also for the safety and security of our employees and personnel.  At this time, we don’t have any indication that this outage had anything to do with malicious activity. And again, we’re proud to say that it’s a thing of the past as of now,” Porter said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during Thursday’s press briefing that the agency’s investigation into the email outage determined that there was “absolutely no indication that this outage has anything to do with malicious activity.”

“In fact, we believe there is a technical explanation for it,” Price said.

Several sources confirmed that the State Department sent a bulletin to employees Thursday morning, notifying them that the agency was experiencing a worldwide email outage, and that it was dealing with issues from a Microsoft patch meant to fix general bugs.

The bulletin stated that engineers were working to restore full access.

A phone number for the department’s IT service center said in an automated message Thursday that the Bureau of Information Resource Management’s customers was experiencing issues logging into GoVirtual, GoBrowser and Self-Service Password Reset (SSPR).

The agency launched the SSPR system in 2019 to allow employees to quickly create a new password without assistance from another State Department employee.

“IRM engineers are working to restore services,” the phone message states.

The State Department’s email outage comes days after a cyber incident within Canada’s foreign ministry led to days of significant disruptions.

Ottawa’s Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said in a statement, according to reporting from the Globe and Mail, that a “cyber incident involving Global Affairs” was detected on Jan. 19, “after which mitigation measures were taken.”

The State Department has encountered occasional disruptions in email connectivity in recent years.

The agency experienced a half-day, worldwide outage of its email system in August 2018. An official told Reuters that the outage was caused by internal human error, and wasn’t the result of a cyber attack.

The State Department was also the victim of a cyber attack in November 2014, which affected its unclassified email systems.

Reuters reported at the time that the agency had briefly shut down portions of its unclassified system to improve security, which prevented employees from being able to access the internet or reliably receive emails from outside the agency.

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