Google has temporarily suspended the use of many e-mail accounts used by the Afghan government. Reuters quoted a source as saying that the digital documents of the country’s former government officials and their international allies had fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
The Taliban took control of the capital, Kabul, on August 15, overthrowing the US-backed Afghan government. Soon after, news broke that the Afghan government’s biometrics and other data had fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Taliban fighters can use them to find their ‘enemies’ for revenge.
In a statement on Friday, Google said it was monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and was taking “temporary steps to secure the relevant accounts.” However, he did not confirm whether they were e-mail accounts of the Afghan government.
An outgoing Afghan government official told Reuters that the Taliban wanted to gain access to the e-mail accounts of former government officials. If I had done that, they would have got that information and the official contact information of the top officials in the ministry,” he said.
The government official said he did not follow the Taliban’s instructions. He has been hiding ever since.
According to data available on the Internet, about two dozen Afghan government agencies used Google’s servers to communicate via e-mail. These include the Ministries of Finance, Industry, Higher Education and Mining. The Office of the President of Afghanistan Protocol also used Google’s services for communication.
A number of Afghan government agencies also used Microsoft Corporation’s e-mail service. Afghanistan’s office of presidential protocol also used Google, according to the records, as did some local government bodies. Commandeering government databases and emails could provide information about employees of the former administration, ex-ministers, government contractors, tribal allies and foreign partners.
“It would give a real wealth of information,” said Chad Anderson, a security researcher with internet intelligence firm DomainTools who helped Reuters identify which ministries ran which email platform.
Chad Anderson, a security researcher at DomainTools, helped Reuters find out which ministry was using which e-mail service. The information that will come from digital infrastructure built in the United States is much more valuable to the new government than the old helicopter.