The Pentagon announced on Monday that millions of emails and texts containing classified material had been accidentally sent to the African country of Mali due to a typical error inside U.S. military systems.
The problem arises because the “.MIL” domain used by the U.S. military is frequently mistyped. “ML,” the domain for Mali. According to an early report by the Financial Times, the leak included unclassified but sensitive material, including diplomatic documents, tax returns, passwords, and travel details of high commanders.
The Pentagon admitted the problem and said emails from addresses outside the “.MIL” domain are typically prohibited.
Department of Defense officials are aware of the problem and view any classified or sensitive information leak very seriously. The Department of Defense (DoD) has instituted policy, training, and technological measures to prevent the accidental delivery of emails sent from the “.mil” domain to the wrong addresses. Before such emails can leave the.mil domain, the Pentagon says they are intercepted, and the sender is informed that they must verify the recipients’ email addresses.
DoD continues to guide and teach people despite the impossibility of implementing technical restrictions prohibiting using personal email accounts for official activity. The message said, ” the DoD CIO’s office oversees this matter.”
Dutch entrepreneur and manager of Mali’s domain, Johannes Zuurbier, was the first to report the leaks. Zuurbier has gathered at least 117,000 emails from within the Pentagon since January, he told FT and has collected many more throughout the years.
Those who are hostile to the United States may try to take advantage of this “risk,” he warned the media.
After this week, Zuurbier’s 10-year contract to oversee Mali’s domain will end, and the country’s government—linked with Russia—will take over.
The leak was discovered just days after it was revealed that hackers based in China had breached a Microsoft cloud system and accessed emails belonging to the United States government. Microsoft is currently looking into what caused the security breach, but the government of President Biden has promised action against those involved.
Last week, Microsoft announced that a Chinese hacker gang it has dubbed Storm-0558 had compromised the email accounts of around 25 businesses and organizations, including those in the United States government.