White House officials say that the systems were not damaged, but did not say if any data was lifted from the network. They won't even venture to call the incident hacking, but rather that they "identified activity of concern" on one of the networks, which caused temporary delays for some regular users.
The Washington Post speculates that Russia, which has repeatedly been involved in cyber-espionage campaigns, could be behind the attack. Russia is believed to be involved with a 2008 attack on Pentagon computers that left vicious malware on the computers that plagued the Defense Department until as late as 2011. The response to the 2008 attack, called Buckshot Yankee, spurred the creation of U.S. Cyber Command, the military organization that defends critical computer system in the country.
The breach is currently under investigation by the FBI, Secret Service, and National Security Agency. The attack is thought to have happened a few weeks ago, when suspicions were aroused after the National Security Council meetings were moved from the White House situation room to other various locations throughout the month of October.
Administration officials say that the attack seemed to be more of a mapping breach rather than one bent on destroying classified documents, which means that they could have been searching for possible entry points for later cyber attacks.
The White House fields frequent cyber attacks, but some sources say that this one seems to be larger in size and duration. The network outages, which administration says it imposed as a security caution, have been happening for weeks, slowing processes down for users. A White House internal email sent this out to personnel:
The Executive Office of the President receives alerts concerning numerous possible cyber threats on a daily basis. We take each of these threats very seriously, and we regularly evaluate our security measures and take action to defend our networks and mitigate those threats.
In the course of assessing recent threats, we identified activity of concern on the unclassified EOP network. Any such activity is something we take very seriously. In this case, we took immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity. Our actions are ongoing, and some have resulted in temporary outages and loss of connectivity for our users.Images: Getty Images