Photo via Pete Souza on Instagram, public domain

White House hackers go spear phishing, we spy Russians.
Photo via Pete Souza on Instagram, public domain

While the White House has said the breach only affected an unclassified system, that description belies the seriousness of the intrusion. The hackers had access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president’s schedule. While such information is not classified, it is still highly sensitive and prized by foreign intelligence agencies, U.S. officials say. [CNN]

TURNS OUT that the suspicious cyber activity the White House spied in the unclassified network in October was only the beginning. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on Tuesday, “We do not believe that our classified systems were compromised.” No one should take that as any comfort.

It begins through a technique called spear phishing and everyone is at risk.

The latest twist on phishing is spear phishing. No, it’s not a sport, it’s a scam and you’re the target. Spear phishing is an email that appears to be from an individual or business that you know. But it isn’t. It’s from the same criminal hackers who want your credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, and the financial information on your PC. [Norton]

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has given speeches to government agencies and corporations to warn them about this type of cyberterrorism, and that employees need to be trained on how not to become a victim.

The Obama White House has not only still not secured the State Department tech system, which became a glaring embarrassment during the Wikileaks dump, but they also still don’t have a handle on the aggressive nature of adversaries who will never stop trying to exploit sloppy cybersecurity. For the high tech Obama administration, this is especially embarrassing.

From CNN:

The State Department computer system has been bedeviled by signs that despite efforts to lock them out, the Russian hackers have been able to reenter the system. One official says the Russian hackers have “owned” the State Department system for months and it is not clear the hackers have been fully eradicated from the system.

[…] “So many times, the Chinese and others get access to our systems just by pretending to be someone else and then asking for access, and someone gives it to them,” Clapper said.

The ferocity of the Russian intrusions in recent months caught U.S. officials by surprise, leading to a reassessment of the cybersecurity threat as the U.S. and Russia increasingly confront each other over issues ranging from the Russian aggression in Ukraine to the U.S. military operations in Syria.