A top Kremlin spokesman on Wednesday ridiculed reports by U.S. news media that computer hackers based in Russia had gained access to an unclassified White House computer system. He also expressed mock relief that at least Americans weren’t searching for Russian subs in the Potomac River.
The comments by Dimitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, came after CNN reported on the alleged intrusions Wednesday. The hackers successfully penetrated unclassified computer systems at the State Department last year and used their access to those systems to gain entry to the White House, the news network reported.
The system they reportedly accessed did not contain important national security information or other classified data. Yet it did host details about President Obama’s travel schedule and other information described as “sensitive,” according to the report.
Obama administration officials would not go on record about any belief that Russia was behind the intrusion. Yet CNN reported that members of the administration briefed on an ongoing investigation said various clues related to the method of the attack left investigators certain of its origin.
“In regard to CNN’s sources, I don’t know who their sources are,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the government-run news agency RT. “We know that blaming everything on Russia has already turned into some sort of sport.”
He continued, “But what’s most important is that they aren’t looking for any submarines in the Potomac River like has been seen in other countries.”
Peskov seemed to be referring to a search launched by Swedish authorities last year after a reported sighting of a submarine, presumed to be Russian, in its territorial waters. The Swedes’ concern, though mocked by Peskov, was understandable. Russian warplanes flying with transponders off now regularly fly provocative patrols near their neighbors’ airspace.
The extent of the intrusion into the White House public computer system appears to have been far less severe than the attack suffered by the State Department last year. It took months for officials at State to regain control of the network – and led to the department shutting down its unclassified email system.
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