Human error was ‘weak link’ in White House cyberattack (Wired UK)


Russia’s alleged cyberattack on the White House exploited the weakest link in America’s online defences: people. Leading cybersecurity experts have once again called on governments and organisations to better educate staff to better understand and spot such attacks.

The attacks, which took place in 2014, targeted the US State Department’s email system and were reportedly still causing issues earlier this year. Officials briefed on the investigation into the hack described it as the “worst ever” cyber-intrusion against a federal agency. But such attacks could be avoided if staff were better trained to spot cyberattacks, according to Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at antivirus firm AVG.

“You can implement the best technologies available but if an authorised person is making the wrong decisions and letting someone in — as happens in a phishing attack like this one — the technology can break down very easily,” he told The hackers may even have employed psychologists to profile their human targets as part of a long-game to gain access, Ben-Itzhak explained.

Investigators looking into the White House attack believe the it began with a phishing email sent from a compromised US State Department account. Sources speaking to CNN confirmed hackers had accessed unclassified information such as the reveal-time presidential schedule. The White House confirmed no classified information was compromised by the attack, adding that its unclassified systems have since been updated.

Ben-Itzhak described the nature of the breach as “very serious” and said it was undoubtedly a complex operation. “This is a direct attempt to access the heart and soul of the American political system, and the digital data held within it,” he said.

“While only unclassified data has been accessed on this occasion, the consequences of a similar hack revealing classified data are huge — this accusation must be taken seriously and we’ll likely see the ramifications play out in the coming weeks and months.”

Marta Janus, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab said linking Russia to the attacks was no easy task and it may only have been possible because the hackers made a “major mistake”.

“It should always be kept in mind, however, that in the virtual world attribution is an extremely difficult task, much more complicated than analysing code,” Janus explained, adding that fake evidence such as language, nationality and coding styles can often be left as red herrings.

“For reliable attribution it is essential to find several factors — not just one or two — that indicate a hacker group of a certain nationality or belonging to a certain organisation is involved in a crime. This is a long process that requires close interaction between security companies, victims and law-enforcement agencies from several countries.”

She argued that such a process “often fails to yield a result” unless the hackers slip up.

If the article suppose to have a video or a photo gallery and it does not appear on your screen, please Click Here

8 April 2015 | 2:27 pm – Source:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.