Chinese hackers reportedly gained access to White House computer systems. Obama administration sources partly confirmed preliminary reports that systems used for nuclear commands and military communications were breached by computer hackers, Fox News reports. An official called the incident a spear phishing attack against an unclassified network. The government representative also noted that such attacks are not infrequent and mitigation measures are in place to deal with such hacking issues.
It is currently unclear what information was left or taken by the Chinese hackers. A White House Communications Agency staffer allegedly opened an email he was not supposed to open, according to the law enforcement official source which spoke to Fox News.
Spear phishing involves the uses of messages designed to appear as valid when in fact they contain malicious and targeted attempts to gain access to confidential or highly-sensitive information, Business Insider reports. When such an email is opened, a link to a malicious website or an attachment likely allows the hacker access into a system, Invincea CEO and founder Anup Ghosh reports.
The inbound spoof email sent to the White House may have included a weaponized document attachment in the form of a Microsoft Excel file, .pdf, or Word document format, according to Ghosh. The cyber breach is being referred to as Beijing’s most brazen computer attack against the United States by some government officials and computer experts.
White House officials maintain that the Chinese hackers only gained access to a non-sensitive nuclear system, and there is no evidence that information was taken from the government computer system. The cyber attack was reportedly detected and isolated very quickly, and no impact on classified systems occurred.