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FTC plans to investigate Microsoft following massive email breach by Chinese hackers


The FTC plans to open an investigation into Microsoft’s compliance with cybersecurity commitments following the massive email hack revealing troubling vulnerabilities in the tech giant’s defense mechanisms. Hackers were able to access sensitive information in the company’s and government’s email system thanks to Microsoft security flaws.

The Messenger reports that Microsoft is facing increased scrutiny from the FTC following its massive cybersecurity breach this year. A May breach, believed to be the work of Chinese government hackers, exposed Microsoft customers’ email accounts. This breach, however, was only recently brought to light by Microsoft, raising questions about the transparency and robustness of the company’s cybersecurity.

Microsoft Pride Parade (Microsoft)

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Bill Gates, left, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Friday, June 16, 2023. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates met with Chinese President Xi Jinping a few just days after a visit to Beijing.  Beijing by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.  State broadcaster CCTV showed Xi saying he was happy to see Gates, whom he called "old friend," after three years without a meeting during the pandemic.  (Yin Bogu/Xinhua via AP)

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Bill Gates, left, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Friday, June 16, 2023. (Yin Bogu/Xinhua via AP)

Breitbart News previously reported that the hack breached email accounts used by the State Department:

Hackers allegedly linked to the Chinese government infiltrated the State Department after hacking a Microsoft employee earlier this summer, stealing about 60,000 emails from the inboxes of 10 employees, revealing sensitive information, including travel itineraries and diplomatic deliberations.

Politico reports that the breach, which sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill, has intensified concerns about escalating hacking efforts allegedly emanating from China. The compromised information is considered highly sensitive, with victims’ travel itineraries and diplomatic deliberations among the most critical data accessed. The incident not only raised eyebrows regarding international cybersecurity, but also put the spotlight back on diplomatic efforts in the Indo-Pacific region, as nine of the ten compromised email accounts belonged to people working on related issues.

Breitbart News also reported how the hack happened, which involved hacking a Microsoft employee’s account:

Bloomberg reports that Microsoft revealed that China-linked hackers compromised the work account of one of its engineers, then used that unauthorized access to steal a digital key to forge authentication tokens. These tokens allowed them to access email accounts on Microsoft cloud servers, including those belonging to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Representative Don Bacon and State Department officials.

“The Commission will ‘redirect its resources to order compliance and enforcement, particularly against the largest defendants,'” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a letter, emphasizing a stricter approach towards large companies like Microsoft. This statement echoes the FTC’s renewed commitment to upholding cybersecurity standards and holding companies accountable for their failures.

Microsoft had already reached a settlement with the FTC in 2002; As part of the settlement, Microsoft committed to establishing a comprehensive information security program. This commitment aimed to safeguard the security, confidentiality and integrity of personal information collected from consumers.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) urged the FTC to take decisive action. “Microsoft security breaches led the Chinese government to hack the emails of senior U.S. government officials,” Wyden said, emphasizing the severity of the breach and its potential repercussions.

FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, while not confirming a formal investigation, expressed a strong stance against “corporate recidivism” and acknowledged the landmark 2002 deal with Microsoft.

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Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.


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