Obama, McCain Web Sites Hit By Foreign Hackers


The Newsweek report on the phishing attacks came just two days after the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, in which Obama won the Presidential race in a sweeping victory at the polls Nov. 4.

According to Newsweek, federal officials determined the attack was conducted by an "unknown foreign entity" some time during the summer. FBI officials warned Obama's campaign team that their computer systems had been compromised and a significant amount of files were stolen from the system. Officials at the FBI told Obama's aides in late August that the McCain campaign computer system had also been the victim of a similar attack, which the federal agency was investigating.

Officials at the FBI and Secret Service told the Obama campaign that they believed foreign hackers had sought to obtain information from both the Democratic and Republican campaigns regarding policy positions, which they might have intended to use as a tool for future negotiations with the winning candidate.

Federal officials also told the Obama campaign that it had not been hacked by political opponents, and technical experts later suggested that the intrusions might have originated from Russia or China. An Obama security team secured the campaign's network and ridded the systems of information-stealing Trojans and other malware.

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Officials at the White House and FBI declined to comment for the Newsweek story.

The report comes just two days after hackers launched a global organized spam campaign exploiting Obama's Presidential victory Tuesday. Throughout the malicious spam campaign, first detected Nov. 5, attackers sent copious amounts of spam to millions of computers around the world that purported to be videos featuring Obama's acceptance speech. However, when users clicked on the link contained in the body of the e-mail message, they were prompted to download what they thought was the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. As they clicked on the link, their computer systems became infected with a Trojan that silently recorded valuable information from their systems and subsequently sent it to foreign servers.

Experts at SophosLabs determined that spam exploiting the U.S. election comprised about 60 percent of all spam messages following Obama's win Nov 4. And in the days leading up to the election, MessageLabs security experts said the majority of election-related spam -- 95 percent -- featured Obama's name somewhere in the subject line.

Security experts say that while phishing attacks capitalizing on political figures is nothing new, this election was a particularly attractive target for hackers and spammers.

"Spammers have become quite a bit more sophisticated, capturing the latest news headlines," said Matt Sergeant, senior antispam technologist for MessageLabs. "It's probably been one of the most fascinating U.S. elections in years. To be fair, it's been very influential in the world landscape and there's a great deal of interest from the global community."