White House down – Russian hackers accessed email system, including Barack Obama’s schedule

8 Apr 2015

The White House

A successful spear-phishing attack by Russian hackers led to sensitive parts of the White House email system being attacked and hackers gaining access to real-time information, including the President’s schedule.

The attack, previously dismissed in October by White House officials as an attack on an unclassified network, saw the hackers gain access to real-time non-public data.

The same hacker gang is also understood to have attacked the US Department of State and forced the shutdown of its email system for an extended period.

According to CNN, while White House officials have tried to downplay the seriousness of the attack, the FBI, Secret Service and US intelligence agencies are all investigating the breach.

The breach has been described as one of the most sophisticated cyberattacks ever directed at a US government body.

Despite efforts by the State Department to shore up its security, hackers were able to re-enter the system any time they wanted.

They then mounted a sophisticated spear-phishing attack on White House officials. Spear-phishing is a more targeted form of phishing.

The hackers deliberately sent emails purporting to be from the State Department. Once the email was opened by a White House official, the hackers were able to find their way into several more US government servers, including the email server containing President Barack Obama’s real-time schedule.

White House image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years