Russian hackers penetrated the White House non-public, non-classified computer system for several months last year, forcing the White House to shut down the system for several days, U.S. officials said.
The hacked system is not used for classified information, but is used by the White House advance and press office, the general counsel’s office, and officials in the budget and legislative liaison offices.
One person briefed on the hacking said the Russian invaders were difficult to detect and difficult to remove from the White House computer network, and some believe the hackers could still be hiding inside the system tonight.
Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, declined to confirm the breach to CNN, which first reported it today.
“We’ve spoken to the fact that there was an event last year,” Rhodes said. “There’s always vulnerability and the fact is, that’s why we have a classified system, because there’s less risk on the classified system that is secure.”
The White House National Security Council released a statement saying it disclosed the malicious activity last year and said, “any such activity is something we take very seriously.”
The White House hack comes after the State Department struggled for months to evict hackers from its own non-classified systems, also suspected to be the work of Russian hackers. That hack prompted the State Department to shut down its unclassified email system in March.
US officials briefly referred to the White House cyberattack when they said last fall it was “connected” to the State Department hack.