Highly sensitive US military information has been leaked to one of Russia's closest international allies due to an email typo.
Millions of emails have been sent to Mali rather than military email addresses as people have accidently used the .ML domain (for Mali) instead of .MIL (the email suffix for the US military).
The Financial Times reports the issue was first flagged nearly a decade ago by Dutch internet entrepreneur Johannes Zuurbier, who had a contract to manage Mali's country domain until this week.
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He has reportedly been collecting misdirected emails since January – and now has nearly 117,000 – in a bid to show the US just how serious the issue is.
"This risk is real and could be exploited by adversaries of the US," he told the US government in a letter earlier this month. He has approached US officials repeatedly over the years.
Crucially, Zuurbier's 10-year management contract for Mali's domain ran out on Monday (July 17) – meaning the country's government now has access to all the misdirected emails.
Exposed information is said to include travel details for important figures (including General James McConville, the chief of staff of the army), diplomatic documents and even passwords.
Medical data, photos of bases, inspection reports as well as information about US military personnel and their families are all also included.
Mali's government has close ties with Vladimir Putin's regime in Russia. Mali has sided with Russia or abstained on several occasions at the UN.
Earlier this year the African nation was one of six countries worldwide to vote against a resolution condemning the Ukraine invasion and calling for peace. The others were Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Eritrea and Nicaragua.
Before that, Mali abstained on a vote condemning the illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory in September.
Retired American admiral Mike Rogers, who used to run the National Security Agency and the US Army’s Cyber Command, told the Financial Times: "If you have this kind of sustained access, you can generate intelligence even just from unclassified information.
"It’s not out of the norm that people make mistakes but the question is the scale, the duration and the sensitivity of the information."
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