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White House Email Breach - One More Call To Arms

2015-04-28 15:25

The White House acknowledged over the weekend that a breach of its unclassified email servers was worse than previously disclosed. It’s time for a change.

Late last year, the White House acknowledged that it had detected a breach in the unclassified Executive Office of the President network. This weekend, sources close to the administration explained that the breach was "far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged". Russian hackers apparently were able to read emails received from President Obama, both by individuals inside and outside the White House, potentially exposing schedules, high-level diplomatic correspondence, and more.

According to the New York Times,

"Senior White House officials have known for months about the depth of the intrusion...“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one senior American official briefed on the investigation...Others confirmed that the White House intrusion was viewed as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks after it was discovered."

This story has been well-reported, but it raises larger questions about our entire approach to security, both as a country and throughout the corporate world. We know that hacks and breaches are going to happen. Unclassified systems at the State Department were also breached in similar attacks, presumably by related actors. The RSA conference last week was buzzing with talk of strong encryption for systems that would make stolen data useless to hackers. But the unclassified systems at the State Department and the White House, like many systems across a variety of industries and verticals weren’t encrypted.

While the White House and State Department have repeatedly indicated that hackers didn’t breach classified networks, there are larger concerns. Once hackers have breached a network, getting them back out is no small feat. In February, the State Department acknowledged that it still hadn’t rid its email system of the invaders after three months. Once in, it becomes even easier for hackers to move laterally, potentially to much more sensitive targets, especially with information gleaned from sources they have already compromised. This is a fairly common tactic and a hallmark of advanced persistent threats like these.

So what are we to do? Whether we’re big government agencies with national security at stake, a hospital with protected health information to hold and patients to protect, or an enterprise with customer data on tap for hackers, the White House email breach should be a call to arms. If we aren’t already investing in security hardware and software for our networks and endpoints, we should be. And not tomorrow, but yesterday. If we don’t already have comprehensive security training programs in place for our employees, we should build or outsource them. And if we aren’t already looking at the many vulnerabilities inside our networks, resting on the laurels of our perimeter protection, it’s time to reassess.

Source: smra-ot-llac-erom-eno-hcaerb-liame-esuoh-etihw/tsop/moc.tenitrof.golb

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