When someone says the words “Russia” and “hacker”, the first image in my mind is that hacker from Goldeneye, Boris Grishenko.
Boris Grishenko — a massive douchelord as a character in Goldeneye — is fiction. This is fact. On Tuesday U.S. officials admitted that Russian hackers had infiltrated the White House’s networks to access “highly sensitive” e-mails and non-public parts of President Obama’s schedule. Via CNN:
While the White House has said the breach only affected an unclassified system, that description belies the seriousness of the intrusion. The hackers had access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president’s schedule. While such information is not classified, it is still highly sensitive and prized by foreign intelligence agencies, U.S. officials say.
The White House in October said it noticed suspicious activity in the unclassified network that serves the executive office of the president. The system has been shut down periodically to allow for security upgrades.
The FBI, Secret Service and U.S. intelligence agencies are all involved in investigating the breach, which they consider among the most sophisticated attacks ever launched against U.S. government systems. The intrusion was routed through computers around the world, as hackers often do to hide their tracks, but investigators found tell-tale codes and other markers that they believe point to hackers working for the Russian government.
I know what you’re thinking… “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE NUKES! AND THE STATE SECRECTS! AND THE PASSCODE TO THE BILDERBERG GROUP’S TOP SECRET ILLUMINATI APOCALYPSE ORGY LAIR?!”
Those were my first thoughts too.
“We do not believe that our classified systems were compromised,” Rhodes told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
Oh. So how could the top office in the free world be infiltrated? Via “Spear phishing” a.k.a. taking advantage of general tech illiteracy and ineptitude. Via CNN:
As in many hacks, investigators believe the White House intrusion began with a phishing email that was launched using a State Department email account that the hackers had taken over, according to the U.S. officials.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a speech at an FBI cyberconference in January, warned government officials and private businesses to teach employees what “spear phishing” looks like.
“So many times, the Chinese and others get access to our systems just by pretending to be someone else and then asking for access, and someone gives it to them,” Clapper said.
For the love of God, stop clicking on the Russian mail order bride links that mysteriously show up in your e-mail, White House officials. That’s scary on a couple of levels, #1 being White House employees with access to the President’s schedule having the same level of technological common sense as your great Aunt playing Candy Crush Soda.
But here’s what makes the situation a little more WarGames-esque. According a report on Fox Trot Alpha, U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers have been doing drills in the far polar regions. That’s an area Putin has expressed quite a bit of Russian military interest and escalation in as of late. In fact, just a few weeks go Russia wrapped up a MASSIVE “excursion” in the Arctic with 80,000 troops, 220 aircraft, 41 ships, and 15 submarines, according to VICE.
The U.S. Air Force’s current drills are called “Polar Growl” and seem like a little old fashion, Cold War-era Uncle Sam muscle-flexing. Here’s the official line from STRATCOM boss Admiral Cecil Haney, via Fox Trot Alpha:
“These flights, demonstrating the credible and flexible ability of our strategic bomber force in internationally-recognized flight information regions, are the culmination of months of planning and coordination… They are one of many ways we demonstrate interoperability, compliance with national and international protocols, and due regard for the safety of all aircraft sharing the air space.”
Is WW III on the horizon? Nah. But damn it, Russia, stay the hell out of our computers. How dare you know POTUS’s tee times before the rest of us. And chill with the passive-aggressive Arctic displays. Ugh, we get it — You like the cold. You don’t have to be an asshole about it.
[H/T: Polly Mosendz, whose Newsweek post made it to the front page of Reddit]