Thousands of US military emails were allegedly leaked to Mali, a country in western Africa, due to an unintentional typo error that occurred over a decade. This breach might have put US national security at risk.
According to the Financial Times report, users commonly type .ML, the country’s identifier for Mali, by mistake instead of attaching the military’s .MIL domain to their recipient’s email address.
Johannes Zuurbier, a Dutch businessman hired to look after Mali’s domain, says this issue has been going on for more than ten years despite his repeated attempts to alert the US authorities.
US Military Sensitive Information Disclosed
About 117,000 emails that were misdirected had been intercepted by Zuurbier since the year’s beginning alone. Many of these emails, in particular, included sensitive information about the US military.
Medical data, information about identification documents, names of military base employees, images of military bases, reports of naval inspections, lists of ship crews, and more are frequently included in emails.
Reports mention that military staff, travel brokers dealing with the US military, US intelligence, private contractors, and others have sent misdirected emails.
Even the travel schedule for General James McConville, the chief of staff of the US Army, on his visit to Indonesia, was included in one of these emails written earlier this year.
The email contained a complete list of room numbers, McConville’s schedule, and information on how to pick up McConville’s room key at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta, where he had been upgraded to a grand suite as a VIP.
There have been reports of multiple sources of organized leaking. Military travel agencies have been found to frequently make spelling errors in their emails.
Additionally, the exchange of emails between employees’ accounts has also been identified as a contributing factor.
“The Department of Defense (DoD) is aware of this issue and takes all unauthorized disclosures of Controlled National Security Information or Controlled Unclassified Information seriously,” said Tim Gorman, a spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defence.
According to Gorman, emails sent to Mali from.mil domains are “blocked,” and the sender is informed that they need to confirm the email addresses of their intended recipients.
However, Gorman admits that this does not prevent other government organizations or others collaborating with the US government from sending emails to Malian addresses by mistake.
Nevertheless, he states, “the Department continues to direct and train DoD personnel.”
This incident serves as an important reminder that even minor digital security mistakes can have major implications, especially when national security is at risk.