Chinese hack into White House network
ByDemetri Sevastopulo in Washington

Published: November 6 2008 19:13 | Last updated: November 7 2008 00:24

Chinese hackers have penetrated the White House computer network on multiple
occasions, and obtained e-mails between government officials, a senior US
official told the FT.

The cyber attackers managed to penetrate the White House system for brief
periods that allowed them to steal information before US government experts
each time patched the system.

US government cyber experts suspect the attacks were sponsored by the
Chinese government, although they cannot say for definite.

"We are getting very targeted Chinese attacks so its stretches credulity
that these are not directed by government-related organisations," said the

The National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, a unit established in
2007 to tackle security, detected the attacks. The official stressed the
hackers had accessed only the unclassified computer network, and not the
more secure classified network.

"For a short period of time, they successfully breach a wall, and then you
rebuild the wall?.?.?.?it is not as if they have continued access," said the
official. "It is constant cat and mouse on this stuff."

The US has increased efforts to tackle cyber security in the past year,
especially since Chinese hackers penetrated the Pentagon last year, in an
attack that obtained e-mails from the system serving Robert Gates, the
defence secretary.

Separately, US government cyber investigations have determined that an
attack this summer on the Obama and McCain campaign computer networks
originated in China. Details of the attack were first reported by Newsweek.
The secret service told the Obama and McCain campaigns that their networks
had been comprised by foreign hackers.

The cyber attackers successfully downloaded large quantities of information
from the campaign networks, which security agencies believed was an attempt
to learn more about the contenders' policy positions.

A second US official said government cyber experts had determined that the
attacks originated from China, but he cautioned that they could not
determine whether they were related to the government.

"There is no doubt that foreign governments are actively targeting cyber
space not only for sensitive information but to influence our most sensitive
processes such as the US presidential election," said Sami Saydjari, head of
the Cyber Defence Agency, a private company that advises government. "This
underscores the need for president-elect Obama to take leadership in the
cyber space race that is well under way."

While the US has raised concerns about cyber attacks, many foreign
governments believe the US is also engaged in electronic spying. Bob
Woodward, the veteran Washington Post reporter, this year revealed that the
US had been spying on the Iraqi government.