A group of Russian hackers are allegedly responsible for breaching computer systems at the United States State Department and the White House last year, according to U.S. officials.
In October 2014, the White House identified suspicious activity on the unclassified computer networks serving the executive office, prompting officials to temporarily shut down the network and implement security upgrades.
Although they penetrated only an unclassified network, the hackers reportedly had access to sensitive information, including non-public details of President Obama’s schedule.
U.S. officials believe that the hackers are the same individuals who infiltrated the State Department that same month.
According to Ken Westin, Senior Security Analyst at Tripwire, the two attacks may be connected.
“The attackers were likely able to use that initial intrusion into the State Department as a spearhead to gain access to the White House network,” said Westin. “This is rather alarming, indicating a lack of network segmentation or compromised credentials.”
At this time, it is unclear off of what evidence U.S. officials are basing their accusation that Russian hackers are responsible for the security incidents.
“This report is not referring to a new incident – it is speculating on the attribution of the activity of concern on the unclassified EOP network that the White House disclosed last year,” the White House articulated in a statement.
“Any such activity is something we take very seriously.”
This revelation follows news of an executive order signed by President Obama that now enables the White House to impose sanctions on individuals and entities that hack American businesses and infrastructure.
That this report comes on the heels of Obama’s announcement is not a coincidence, believes Westin.
“Those investigating this intrusion may have additional evidence that implicates a specific group, and the executive order may be used to go after those deemed responsible with sanctions and other tools at their disposal.”
The FBI, Secret Service, and other U.S. intelligence agencies are currently investigating the two security incidents and how they may be connected.