News broke last year of a cyber attack on the White House that compromised certain sensitive information, and now we finally know the culprit. Federal officials have confirmed that Russia masterminded the attack on the unclassified system, gaining access through a breach in the State Department’s network that allowed Russian hackers to phish information from government employees themselves.
According to sources close to the situation, the data obtained by the Russian hackers was unclassified, most of it regarding President Obama’s personal schedule. While that information could have been used for nefarious purposes, it is likely that the hackers were searching for more pivotal information that could have given them leverage against the United States. The attacks occurred just after the U.S. levied retaliatory sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes says that the hackers never managed to infiltrate the most guarded government networks: “The fact is that’s why we have a classified system, because there’s less risk on the classified system, and that is secure. On the unclassified system, we take regular actions to prevent vulnerabilities in security.”
Russia had always been under suspicion of carrying out the attacks, but only Tuesday has the government publicized its conclusive findings. The State Department has been locked in an ongoing struggle with hackers who continuously sidestep network security by taking new, clever approaches to gaining access.
Their most recent tactic involved using compromised State Department email addresses to embed dangerous attachments in emails sent to White House colleagues. Their ability to get away with such a preventable crime represents an embarrassing lack of caution on the part of State Department and the White House. According to National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh, the government will continue to devise new ways to ensure the safety of its classified information.