Attacks/Breaches

10/29/2014
01:35 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

White House Says Unclassified Network Hit In Cyberattack

Mitigation efforts have caused temporary outages and loss of connectivity for some staff, but no computers have been damaged, official says.

An unclassified portion of the White House network has been hit with what appears to be an ongoing cyberattack.

Efforts to mitigate the threat have resulted in temporary system outages and loss of network connectivity for some users, a National Security Council spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

The attacks have not caused any damage to White House computers or systems, though some elements of the unclassified network have been impacted, the official said.

“The temporary outages and loss of connectivity for our users is solely the result of measures we have taken to defend our networks,” the spokeswoman stressed in an emailed statement to Dark Reading.

The Executive Office of the President (EOP) routinely receives alerts about potential cyberthreats against White House systems and discovered the current attack while following through on one such alert.

White House cyber security staff is still assessing the severity of the attack and ways to mitigate it, the statement added. “Certainly a variety of actors find our networks attractive targets and seek access to sensitive government information.”

An internal White House memo to staff members obtained by The Huffington Post noted that EOP component heads and senior directors at the NSC have put in place several interim measures to help employees on high priority tasks to continue work as usual.

Some of the system outages and connectivity issues resulting from the attack have been resolved while others are in the process of being remediated, the memo said.

The White House has not released any details on the nature of the attack or the person or group that might be responsible for it. But some media reports citing unnamed White House sources have claimed that the attacks have been going on for at least two weeks.

This isn’t the first time that the White House has been the target of a cyberattack. In 2012, malicious attackers used a spear phishing attack to gain access to a non-classified system used by the White House Military Office.

In 2009, the main White House website was one of the targets of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack campaign that also targeted the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and several other government networks. A similar DDoS attack temporarily took down the whitehouse.gov website back in 2001.

Cyberattacks against White House networks have invariably tended to be portrayed as significantly hostile actions against the US by unfriendly nations. Many have tended to blame China in particular for such attacks though the actual proof for such claims has been somewhat tenuous.

News of the latest attack is sure to fuel similar speculation especially because it comes just one day after security vendor FireEye’s new report on APT28, a Russian hacker collective that is believed responsible for numerous attacks against government and other websites.

The group is believed engaged in widespread espionage activities and appears to be sponsored by the Russian government, according to FireEye.

Security analysts themselves have in the past cautioned against reading too much into reports of cyberattacks against the White House in the absence of any real information on the nature or scope of the attacks.

“Government networks the world over are on the front lines of a digital conflict, so it’s no surprise the White House has been targeted, as it presents a very rich target,” said Chris Boyd, malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes Lab in emailed comments.

Though no White House systems appear to have been compromised, the attack serves as a reminder of how geopolitical tensions are expressed these days, he said.

John Pescatore, director of emerging security threats at the SANS Institute said reports of the attacks needs to be viewed in a slightly broader context given all that has been happening recently with White House security.

“Given what seems to be a decrease in rigor around physical protection of the White House, I think we do have to be concerned about cyber security protection around White Houses computer systems,” Pescatore said.

“I have no insight into what attacks actually occurred, but the reports make it sound like suspicious activity was detected and dealt with quickly. Those are good things. But that is what the first reports of the fence jumper said as well.” 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
10/30/2014 | 4:05:36 PM
Re: White House Says Unclassified Network Hit in Cyberattack
This is the only one which the public was made aware of. 

That's right @tekedge, this is the only White House hack that we know about. The White House wasn't particularly forthcoming when those fence jumpers who gained access to the physical property. Why expect offiicals to be more transparent about a cyber intrusion. 
tekedge
50%
50%
tekedge,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/29/2014 | 7:49:13 PM
White House Says Unclassified Network Hit in Cyberattack
It is not surprising that there was a cyberattack on the Whitehouse network. I think the atmosphere in the world around us had this nation in the center of a storm for a long time now. So there are going to be lots of hackers trying to get in to get information. This is the only one which the public was made aware of. I think the security team must be on their toes keeping the hackers away. Anyway it was good that they hit the unclassified network!
Crowdsourced vs. Traditional Pen Testing
Alex Haynes, Chief Information Security Officer, CDL,  3/19/2019
BEC Scammer Pleads Guilty
Dark Reading Staff 3/20/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
Organizations are responding to new threats with new processes for detecting and mitigating them. Here's a look at how the discipline of incident response is evolving.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-18913
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
Opera before 57.0.3098.106 is vulnerable to a DLL Search Order hijacking attack where an attacker can send a ZIP archive composed of an HTML page along with a malicious DLL to the target. Once the document is opened, it may allow the attacker to take full control of the system from any location with...
CVE-2018-20031
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
A Denial of Service vulnerability related to preemptive item deletion in lmgrd and vendor daemon components of FlexNet Publisher version 11.16.1.0 and earlier allows a remote attacker to send a combination of messages to lmgrd or the vendor daemon, causing the heartbeat between lmgrd and the vendor ...
CVE-2018-20032
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
A Denial of Service vulnerability related to message decoding in lmgrd and vendor daemon components of FlexNet Publisher version 11.16.1.0 and earlier allows a remote attacker to send a combination of messages to lmgrd or the vendor daemon, causing the heartbeat between lmgrd and the vendor daemon t...
CVE-2018-20034
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
A Denial of Service vulnerability related to adding an item to a list in lmgrd and vendor daemon components of FlexNet Publisher version 11.16.1.0 and earlier allows a remote attacker to send a combination of messages to lmgrd or the vendor daemon, causing the heartbeat between lmgrd and the vendor ...
CVE-2019-3855
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
An integer overflow flaw which could lead to an out of bounds write was discovered in libssh2 before 1.8.1 in the way packets are read from the server. A remote attacker who compromises a SSH server may be able to execute code on the client system when a user connects to the server.