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Published On: Mon, Oct 1st, 2012

China linked to White House cyber attack

Hackers linked to China’s government broke into one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive computer networks, breaching a system used by the White House Military Office for nuclear commands, according to defense and intelligence officials familiar with the incident.

Public domain photo/ Bergsten

One official said the cyber breach was one of Beijing’s most brazen cyber attacks against the United States and highlights a failure of the Obama administration to press China on its persistent cyber attacks.

Disclosure of the cyber attack also comes amid heightened tensions in Asia, as the Pentagon moved two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups and Marine amphibious units near waters by Japan’s Senkaku islands.

China and Japan—the United States’ closest ally in Asia and a defense treaty partner—are locked in a heated maritime dispute over the Senkakus, which China claims as its territory.

U.S. officials familiar with reports of the White House hacking incident said it took place earlier this month and involved unidentified hackers, believed to have used computer servers in China, who 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, including strategic nuclear commands. The office also arranges presidential communications and travel, and inter-government teleconferences involving senior policy and intelligence officials.

An Obama administration national security official said: “This was a spear phishing attack against an unclassified network.”

Spear phishing is a cyber attack that uses disguised emails that seek to convince recipients of a specific organization to provide  confidential information. Spear phishing in the past has been linked to China and other states with sophisticated cyber warfare capabilities.

The official described the type of attack as “not infrequent” and said there were unspecified “mitigation measures in place.”

“In this instance the attack was identified, the system was isolated, and there is no indication whatsoever that any exfiltration of data took place,” the official said.

The official said there was no impact or attempted breach of a classified system within the office.

“This is the most sensitive office in the U.S. government,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the work of the office. “A compromise there would cause grave strategic damage to the United States.”

Security officials are investigating the breach and have not yet determined the damage that may have been caused by the hacking incident, the officials said.

Later summer a similar attack targeted White House staffers’ gmail accounts as part of a large scale cyber attack which included human right activists, journalists and South Korea’s government.

About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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