White House Security Breach

The White House has confirmed that one of its internal computer networks has been compromised.  A military office in charge of the president's communications has been targeted in a successful spear phishing attack.

For those of you that do not know what spear phishing is I will explain.  Spear phishing is an e-mail spoofing fraud attempt that targets a specific organization, seeking unauthorized access to confidential data.  As with the e-mail messages used in regular phishing expeditions, spear phishing messages appear to come from a trusted source.  In the case of spear phishing the apparent source of the e-mail is likely to be an individual within the recipient's own company and generally someone in a position of authority.

The incident is said to have happened earlier this month and involved unidentified hackers, believed to have used computer servers in China.  The groups accessed the computer network used by the White House Military Office (WHMO), the president’s military office in charge of some of the government’s most sensitive communications like:

  • Strategic nuclear commands
  • Presidential communications
  • Presidential travel
  • Inter-government teleconferences

Security officials are investigating the breach and have not yet determined the damage that may have been caused by the hacking incident.  Reports have said that there was no impact or attempted breach of a classified system.

A high-security network like this is normally segmented off from the rest and is not connected to the internet.  The other issue is why someone would be checking their e-mail on a system of this nature.  I believe there is more to this story then reported and we are not getting the entire situation and we shouldn't considering the magnitude of the breach.