The personal email accounts of several high-ranking White House officials have been directly targeted by Chinese cyberspies — and some are still actively under attack, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
NBC News obtained a classified document from an internal National Security Agency presentation given last year that suggests China has sought the private correspondence of top Obama administration figures since at least 2010, with varying degrees of success.
The hackers are said to have broken into the accounts, read the emails, harvested the contacts from the targeted officials’ address books and then attempted to infect the contacts’ computers by sending malware.
A senior U.S. intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the document’s authenticity to NBC, adding that the campaign is still active today.
“All top national security and trade officials” have been targeted by the hackers, and the personal emails pertaining to “many” of them had managed to become compromised, the official said.
Heightened security measures kept federal email accounts existing on the .gov domain from being hacked, the source said. According to NBC, however, personal accounts registered by officials on Gmail and other email providers had been hacked.
One week earlier, NBC published a similar classified NSA file in which China was attributed with cyberespionage operations waged against more than 600 unique targets in the U.S., including Google and Lockheed Martin, since the dawn of the Obama administration.
Google acknowledged in 2011 that Gmail accounts belonging to certain American officials had been hacked.
U.S. officials had originally codenamed the email campaign “Dancing Panda” before changing it to “Legion Amethyst,” NBC reported.
The NSA declined to comment to the network for either report.