Russian Hackers in Obama’s Inbox

Russian Hackers  in Obama’s InboxRussian Hackers  in Obama’s Inbox

Computer hackers from Russia gained access to US President Barack Obama’s email account last year in a breach of classified systems in Washington DC, according to a report in Saturday’s edition of the New York Times. A cyber “event” had already been acknowledged by the government late in 2014.

Citing senior American officials briefed on the investigation, but without naming them, the paper reported that this breach was “far more intrusive and worrisome” than was publicly acknowledged, DW reported.

The hackers were said to have accessed the State Department’s classified system, thus gaining access to the email archives of people inside the White House, including the president’s sent and received emails. However, the report said that they had not breached servers controlling Obama’s phone.

“It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” read one of comparatively few direct quotes in the article, from a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Most of Obama’s classified briefings are conducted either orally or on paper, rather than via email correspondence. Past attempts to read over his shoulder had also prompted stricter protocols, NYT said, on the list of people he can communicate with via email. Nor did Obama’s email account appear to have been directly hacked.

Still, the report said the State Department system breached contained more sensitive information than previously acknowledged, such as “schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation and, inevitably, some debate about policy.” Officials did not disclose the number of Obama’s emails that were read by the hackers nor the sensitivity of their content. The paper said that Senior White House officials had known for months about the depth of the intrusion.

  President’s Track Record

Inside the White House, the intrusion has raised a new debate about whether it is possible to protect a president’s electronic presence, especially when it reaches out from behind the presumably secure firewalls of the executive branch.

The president’s closely guarded BlackBerry email account was not hacked, but communications with other users were swept up.

However, Obama is no stranger to computer-network attacks: His 2008 campaign was hit by Chinese hackers. Nonetheless, he has long been a frequent user of email, and publicly fought the Secret Service in 2009 to retain his BlackBerry, a topic he has joked about in public. He was issued a special smartphone, and the list of those he can exchange emails with is highly restricted.

Last week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter revealed for the first time that Russian hackers had attacked the Pentagon’s unclassified systems, but said they had been identified and “kicked off.” the hacking in October led to a partial shutdown of the White House email system.