Officials Say Obama’s Unclassified Emails In 2014 Were Read By Russian Hackers

By @ibtimesau on
Caroline Wozniacki and President Obama
IN PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama plays tennis with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, one of the activities at the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington April 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Russian hackers who breached into the White House computer system in October 2014 have been reported to have accessed into some of President Barack Obama’s unclassified emails. Messages sent out through Mr Obama’s BlackBerry were not compromised, officials said. But they feared the ones sent out through the other computer, described as largely unconfidential, could still contain highly sensitive information, such as schedules, memos to ambassadors and diplomats, even discussions on policies. 

A report by the New York Times, citing an unidentified American official, states the government is particularly edgy on their discovery of the Russian hacking. This isn’t the first time the White House or Mr Obama’s email activities have been hacked. Recall the year 2008 when Chinese hackers had a frenzy hacking into Mr Obama’s campaign plans. But officials are more concerned about the Russian hackers, who tend to be more adept in “hiding their tracks better.” Also, they focus on political targets, unlike China hackers who target commercial and design information. Officials noted the 2014 Russian hacking spree occurred when tensions between the U.S. and Russia heightened because of the Crimea annexation, as well as when the latter started fortifying its presence in Ukraine and renewed its military patrols in Europe.

“Obama is known to send emails to aides late at night from his residence, providing them with his feedback on speeches or at times, entirely new drafts,” the Times report says. “Others say he has emailed on topics as diverse as his golf game and the struggle with Congress over the Iranian nuclear negotiations.” This meant that the Russian hackers got to have insight over the working habits of the U.S.’ chief executive, even on what goes on his mind at an unpresidential level. The report did not disclose just how many of Mr Obama’s emails the hackers were able to access and read.

A report by The Telegraph, citing a recent former administration official, states Mr Obama’s email correspondences pushed from the non-classified system usually contain information that are “general or more trivial in nature.” However, minute as it maybe, they are information not meant for public scrutiny. “The rules are very strictly applied,” the official said, “the classified system is ring-fenced which is why so many meetings have to take place in the Situation Room since that’s the only “skiff” [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] in the building.”

The unidentified American official source of the NYT admitted the breach had been “far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged.” Adding the Russian angle makes it “particularly worrisome.”

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