The United States government has confirmed claims of a cyber attack that took place a few weeks ago on White House computer systems. According to sources, the breach did not compromise any classified intelligence, but only slowed down their systems causing slight delays in e-mail communications and disruptions in connectivity.
Sources in the White House are suspicious that Russia might be behind the attack. Russian hackers have recently been accused of involvement in cyber espionage against U.S. Defense contractors, the Ukrainian government and NATO. Officials do believe that the attack was state sponsored. However, there is no proof that Russia’s government is behind the attack.
In response to the attack some users were disconnected from the network and others had to change the passwords to their accounts. Many of the delays were caused by the cyber security team’s response to the attack and not by the attack itself.
According to a White House official who elected to remain anonymous, the White House had been monitoring the network computer systems in order to assess recent cyber threats and were not taken by surprise when the attack occurred. The official said this was something they took very seriously and they immediately took measures to “evaluate and mitigate” the illegal activity. The United States government is not saying whether or not any data was stolen, but they maintain the only system compromised was unclassified and held no information that could be used as a threat.
A joint investigation is currently underway and involves the Secret Service, FBI, and NSA. According to a source for the Washington Post, there are many possibilities as far as who is responsible. There are a variety of interests who are attracted to our networks as potential targets and try to access information that is sensitive. The official said the activity is still being assessed.
The government was informed of the breach by an ally sources said. This fact caused some concern, according to USA Today, for Ben FitzGerald, director of the Technology and National Security program in Washington D.C.’s Center for a New American Security. FitzGerald expressed concern over the fact that an ally of the United States would be monitoring activities that the government was somehow missing.
This attack comes in the middle of an attempt to create U.S. Cyber Command. According to officials Cyber Command is a military program designed to protect the security of both government and private computer systems from cyber attack by foreign threats. Cyber Command will also be able to initiate offensive strategies when deemed necessary. By 2016 the command is anticipated to have 6,000 personnel.
According to an official quoted by The Post, the battle is constant for the government and the computer systems and there is always a concern that individuals are trying to gain access to the networks and compromise the systems. Although the system that was hacked contained no classified information this may not always be the case. It is unclear how the investigation will proceed. According to the BBC, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security and the White House was not readily available to comment on this cyber attack on its computer systems.
By Clara Goode
Image courtesy of Donna Spiewak