White House confirms China hack

Right-wing site reports cyber attack on sensitive U.S. information, but officials insist no harm done

Published October 1, 2012 12:07PM (EDT)

On Sunday night, conservative news site the Washington Free Beacon reported that "hackers linked to China’s government broke into one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive computer networks, breaching a system used by the White House Military Office for nuclear commands."

Within hours, the White House had contacted Politico (without solicitation) to confirm but downplay the report.

The Free Beacon suggested that the hack may have compromised sensitive information that could be used "during a future conflict to intercept presidential communications, locate the president for targeting purposes, or disrupt strategic command and control by the president to U.S. forces in both the United States and abroad."

However, the White House volunteered to Politico that no harm had been done:

A White House official speaking on background late Sunday confirmed there was an attempted hack but said that it affected an unclassified network, was “isolated” and that there was no evidence that any data had been stolen.

... None of the White House’s secure, classified computer systems were affected, said the official, who reached out to POLITICO after the Free Beacon story appeared — without having been asked for comment. Nor had there been any attempted breach of a classified system, according to the official.

Politico's Tim Mak pointed out that this is not the first Free Beacon report ostensibly aimed at casting the president as weak on national security issues: "Previously, the website reported that a Russian nuclear attack submarine patrolled undetected in waters near the U.S., which it said underscored Obama’s lack of support for the military. However, unlike the White House cyberattack story, DOD and Navy officials flatly denied the Russian sub report."


By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

MORE FROM Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

China Hacking Politico Washington Free Beacon White House