Sunday, November 9, 2008

White House Computers Hacked, Probably by China: News That's Not Fit to Print?

Hackers, probably Chinese and maybe Russian, got into the Barack Obama and John McCain campaign computer systems. And, they got into the White House computers.

High Heels in the News: And Campaign Computers Hacked, Too

Odds are pretty good that you heard about hackers getting into the Obama and McCain computers. That was news. Particularly, I think, since the breaches were in both campaigns. And, as Newsweek put it, "The Feds assured the Obama team that it had not been hacked by its political opponents. (Obama technical experts later speculated that the hackers were Russian or Chinese.)"

The hacking was seen as being so important, that Newsweek used about as much space to cover the hacking, as they gave to "'Caribou Barbie'" - their account of Sarah Palin's wardrobe. (More at "Sarah Palin AKA 'Caribou Barbie' - News, Politics, and Cheesecake" (November 9, 2008).)

Back to Obama, McCain, Chinese (or Russian) Hackers, and the White House

White House computers have been hacked, too.
  • Good News
    • The emails and documents copied were confidential, not secret
    • Somebody noticed
  • Bad News
    • The attacks were focused - this wasn't a bunch of random hackers
    • The hackers got in, copied data, and were done before federal techs noticed and could respond
That last point isn't necessarily a criticism of the technicians who run America's government computers.

Things can happen fast in cyberspace, and the people actually doing the cybersecurity work only have the resources they're given. I get the impression that the higher-ups are still in the process of realizing that security is needed for computer networks.

I could be wrong about the higher-ups: I was born in the Truman administration, and I tend to assume that a lot of people my age think like people my age. And, they're the ones who have the seniority and experience it takes to be in the higher management and executive positions. Growing up in an era when electric typewriters were high tech, and then having a secretary to take care of 'mere' clerical details1 doesn't help someone understand the Information Age.

Campaign Networks Hacked is News, White House Networks Hacked is Not News?!

I didn't find much about the White House hacking in American news services. Over in the United Kingdom, it's a different story. More to the point, over there it is a news story. Several, actually.

The Irish Times wrapped up its article with a pretty good summary of what happened:

"Security agencies believe the attack was an attempt by either the Chinese government or other unspecified agencies to learn more about where the different candidates stood on issues such as the One-China Policy (policy towards Taiwan) and other questions of importance to the Chinese.

"The Pentagon claims the Chinese army has established units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems, although China argues it is as much a victim as a perpetrator in this conflict."

That China-as-victim seems to be pretty much standard-issue for the Chinese government. And, it's possible that someone
  • Hacked into China's servers
  • Just happened to launch a hack attack on
    • American presidential candidates
    • The White House network
  • Looking for information about policies that concern China
Possible, yes. Likely, no.

So, why is American news media (the old school anyway) so quiet about Chinese Hackers - or China being victimized by hackers?

I simply don't know. Maybe they don't
  1. Get the Financial Times
  2. Want to embarrass China
  3. think that two 'hacker' stories in the same week would be interesting to their readers
None of those notions sounds reasonable: although #2 and #3 may be 'possibles.'

Still, as far as I'm concerned, the lack of American news coverage of a cyber break-in at the White house is odd.

In the news:
1 Please: don't jump down my throat. One of my clerical jobs included secretarial work. It's important, and demanding. That doesn't mean that management types always understand what's going on.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.