Russian hackers attacking the White House might have gotten away with more than President Barack Obama’s schedule, jeopardizing the personal information of many Americans, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee said in a letter to Obama.
Committee Chairman John Thune said that even though hackers couldn’t break through systems containing classified data, the unclassified systems contained personal information such as schedules, policy discussions and emails, including exchanges with diplomats, according to a Reuters report.
Noting that unclassified systems may also contain personal information of White House visitors that can only enter after submitting the details, he said, “this unclassified computer system likely also contains the personally identifiable information of many Americans.”
“Just like any entity that handles personally-identifiable information, the White House has a responsibility to notify Americans if the recent, or any future breach, results in a compromise,” Thune said in a statement on Sunday accompanying the letter.
White House National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh said “we have consistently supported timely notification in the event of data breaches, consistent with existing federal policy.” Stroh declined Reuter’s request for additional comment.
Thune’s letter indicates that the White House might have tried to downplay the data breach incidence. After the breach came into public eye, Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, said the public shouldn’t be “overly concerned” about safety of information as classified and unclassified systems were treated somewhat differently.
“We’re constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system, but we’re frankly told to act as if we need not put information that’s sensitive on that system,” Rhodes said.
The U.S. government recently announced plans to form a new agency called Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center to combat cyber threats from hackers and spies infiltrating and affecting commercial and government business.