Campaign PCs of Obama, McCain cyberattacked

<i>Newsweek</i> reports that the FBI and Secret Service told the presidential candidates that their files were accessed by criminal hackers over the summer.

Robert Vamosi Former Editor
As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.
Robert Vamosi

Last summer, Sen. Barack Obama's presidential-campaign computers came under cyberattack from an "unknown entity." His machines weren't alone; John McCain's computers were also attacked, according to a report appearing Wednesday on the site of Newsweek magazine.

The Obama attack was initially thought to be a piece of malware downloaded from a phishing site. Newsweek reports that "the next day, both the FBI and the Secret Service came to the campaign with an ominous warning: 'You have a problem way bigger than what you understand,' an agent told them. 'You have been compromised, and a serious amount of files have been loaded off your system.'"

The McCain campaign's computer system was also compromised over the summer. Newsweek confirmed with a top McCain official that the FBI had become involved. A federal investigation into both attacks is under way.

According to Newsweek Editor at Large Evan Thomas, the FBI and White House officials told the Obama campaign that a foreign entity or organization was likely responsible, not political opponents. Independently, Obama technical experts have speculated that the hackers were Russian or Chinese. The files accessed appear to be policy-related and thus potentially useful in future negotiations with a new presidential administration.

Earlier this year, during the primaries, an online prank had the Obama campaign site redirected to Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign site.

The Newsweek report is part of a special edition that will be on newsstands November 6 through 16, and online November 5 through 7.