Russian White House email hack far more serious than government let on

When Russian hackers broke into White House unclassified email accounts few months ago, we were told it was not very serious and that the rest of the network was secure.

Now, authorities are not so certain.

It appears that the hackers were able to read many of President Obama's unclassified communications with White House staff and others outiside of government.

New York Times:

White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.

Officials did not disclose the number of Mr. Obama’s emails that were harvested by hackers, nor the sensitivity of their content. The president’s email account itself does not appear to have been hacked. Aides say that most of Mr. Obama’s classified briefings — such as the morning Presidential Daily Brief — are delivered orally or on paper (sometimes supplemented by an iPad system connected to classified networks) and that they are usually confined to the Oval Office or the Situation Room.

Still, the fact that Mr. Obama’s communications were among those hit by the hackers — who are presumed to be linked to the Russian government, if not working for it — has been one of the most closely held findings of the inquiry. Senior White House officials have known for months about the depth of the intrusion.

“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one senior American official briefed on the investigation.

Others confirmed that the White House intrusion was viewed as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks after it was discovered. “It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” another senior official said.

If the Russians have Obama's emails, might they also have Hillary's? This is another reason why Congress needs to look at Clinton's private email server. Aside from trying to reconstruct the emails she had deleted, an examination would also conclude whether or not the server had been penetrated. 

For all our sophisticated cyber security protocols, the Russian hackers - who appear to be connected to the Russian government - were able to penetrate a vulnerability in the system that, at the very least, compromised personal information. For instance, if a foreign hacker could penetrate an email system where the president's schedule was revealed, they could sell it to someone plotting an assassination. 

This is no longer a problem of the future. It is in the here and now, and unless we can find a way to stay one step ahead of the hackers, the possibility of a disaster of some kind becomes ever more likely.



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