(Newsroom America) -- Hackers associated with the Chinese government managed to break into a system used by the the White House Military Office to issue nuclear commands, a report said Monday.
The Washington Free Beacon, quoting unnamed military and intelligence officials, reported the cyber attack and breach was one of China's most brazen to date, "and highlights a failure of the Obama administration to press China on its persistent cyber attacks."
The online newspaper noted that the attack came as tensions ramped up in the Asia Pacific theater, with the Pentagon having ordered a two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups and Marine amphibious units near waters by Japan’s Senkaku islands.
Japan and China are locked in a heated dispute over the islands; China has claimed them as part of its territory.
Intelligence officials said the hack attack took place earlier this month and involved unidentified hackers who were believed to have been using servers in China. They "accessed the computer network used by the White House Military Office (WHMO), the president’s military office in charge of some of the government’s most sensitive communications, including strategic nuclear commands," the Beacon reported.
"This was a spear phishing attack against an unclassified network," the paper quoted an Obama administration national security official as saying.
Spear phishing is a form of cyber attack utilizing emails that attempt to convince recipients to provide confidential information. That type of cyber attack has been linked to China in the past, as well as other nations with high-end cyber capabilities.
The Obama official described the type of attack as “not infrequent” and said there were unspecified “mitigation measures in place."
"In this instance the attack was identified, the system was isolated, and there is no indication whatsoever that any exfiltration of data took place," the official said, according to the Beacon.
The report said it wasn't clear how such a sophisticated network could have been breached.
Regarding the Senkakus, Tokyo recently purchased them from private Japanese owners, prompting threatening statements from Beijing.
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