The Obama Administration has confirmed that White House computers were hacked last year, however, they emphasized that the extent of the cyberintrusion was limited to systems that only carried unclassified information. It is theorized that it was Russian government hackers that were responsible for the attack and that they managed to download the malware used to access the computers’ data by way of phishing emails with tainted links that came using email addresses from the State Department which has long been infiltrated by Russian government hackers. This revelation highlights the concerns about the private email server used by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State although the most recent disclosures could bolster both her defenders and her critics. Her defenders could say that the State Department email system was unsafe and constantly targeted by Russia, China and others and that Secretary Clinton was prudent to use her own system over which she could maintain strict controls. Her critics could argue that it is unlikely that her private server would be as safe as that of the official government email system.
The revelation of the White House hacking reinforces the fact that the United States, Russia, China and others are constantly engaged in cyberwarfare. But what does this story tell us as individuals in regard to our own security and protecting our own data from hackers and identity thieves? The primary lesson is one that we constantly need to remind ourselves of again and again, namely that in almost all data breaches, whether of individuals, governments or companies, the sophisticated malware necessary to accomplish the theft of data starts with the victim clicking on a link in a phishing email. Therefore it is critical that you never click on links in emails or text messages regardless of how legitimate they appear until you have confirmed that they are legitimate. You also may wish to even consider using a separate computer for financial matters and a separate computer for emails so that even if you make a mistake and download malware, there is nothing in that computer worth stealing.