The White House is putting itself at greater risk of being hacked because of recent personnel changes, an outgoing administration official warned in a memorandum leaked Wednesday.
Dimitrios Vastakis expressed related concerns in a memo informing colleagues of his resignation as chief of the White House’s computer network defense branch, according to a copy published by Axios.
Citing an “alarming rate” of resignations among fellow members of the former Office of the Chief Information Security Officer, or OCISO, Mr. Vastakis argued the White House is teetering toward experiencing a serious breach.
The OCISO was established after the White House was on the receiving end a major cybersecurity incident in late 2014, and in recent months it was absorbed into the Office of the Chief Information Officer, or OCIO, Mr. Vastakis wrote in the memo, resulting in what he called a “significant shift” in how the president’s network is protected and by whom.
“It is my express opinion that the remaining incumbent OCISO staff is being systematically targeted for removal from the Office of Administration (OA) through various means, such as revocation of incentives, reducing the scope of duties, reducing access to programs, revoking access to buildings and revoking positions with strategic and tactical decision making authorities,” Mr. Vastakis wrote in the memo dated Oct. 17. “In addition, habitually being hostile to incumbent OCISO staff has been a staple tactic for the new leadership … It is for this very reason why I submitted my resignation today.”
“Unfortunately, given all the changes I’ve seen in the past three months, I foresee the White House is posturing itself to be electronically compromised once again,” Mr. Vastakis added, according to the memo. “Allowing for a large portion of institutional knowledge to concurrently walk right out the front door seems contrary to the best interests of the mission and the organization as a whole.”
At least a dozen top- or high-level officials have either resigned or been removed from the White House cybersecurity mission in recent months, Axios reported.
The Trump administration took issue later Thursday with aspects of the Axios report. Only five career staffers, not dozens, have resigned, and none were “targeted” or “forced out” as alleged by Axios, Judd P. Deere, White House deputy press secretary, told The Washington Times.
“Career staff has been hired, or is being sought to replace those employees who have departed,” he added.