White House e-mail system accused in UK cyberattack

British officials today disclosed cyber incident involving alleged White House e-mails

The White House's unclassified e-mail system is back up after an eight-hour outage, but the e-mail security problems may go deeper. It was disclosed today that some officials alleged White House e-mails were the source of a cyberattack against British officials two months ago.

Officials from the United Kingdom said today that alleged White House e-mail accounts were the source of a malware attack against U.K. government officials in late December, according to news reports.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack came from official White House e-mail accounts that had been hacked or from hoaxed accounts that resembled White House accounts.


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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the malware attempt apparently originated in a White House e-mail account and was directed at U.K diplomats. He presented details today at a global meeting in Munich.

"In late December, a spoofed e-mail purporting to be from the White House was sent to a large number of international recipients who were directed to click on a link that then downloaded a variant of Zeus" virus, Hague said, according to a report in Silicon.com today. Government security experts were able to clear the infection, he said.

The perpetrator posed as a top White House aide and e-mailed messages to government staff members in Britain inviting them to click on a link that would have triggered the computer bug, The Telegraph reported in an article today.

The application was designed to steal personal data from a large number of U.K. civil servants, the Telegraph said.

If the White House e-mail accounts were hacked, it was not known whether the hacking was related to the e-mail system failure that took place Feb. 3.

The White House’s unclassified e-mail system used by the West Wing and executive Office Building went down. Dan Pfeiffer, a White House spokesman, tweeted news of the disruption to reporters around noon and said Verizon was working on restoring the service.

The e-mail system was operating again by mid-afternoon, CNN reported today in an article.



About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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