Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune has written President Obama
seeking assurances that recent attacks targeting White House computers "have not compromised the personally identifiable information of our fellow Americans."
Lawmakers are trying to figure out the extent of a security breach committed last year by Russian hackers, The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.
The hackers are not believed to have gained access to classified information. But as Thune noted in his letter, this unclassified system "likely also contains personally identifiable information of many Americans."
In order to enter the White House complex for virtually any purpose, "an individual must submit his or her date of birth, [S]ocial [S]ecurity number, gender, country of birth, citizenship and place of residence," Thune observed.
Noting that much of the information is sent by email, the South Dakota Republican expressed concern that the incident "may have exposed the personally identifiable information of many individuals and they may, as yet, be unaware of their vulnerability."
A growing number of reports "of attacks across Executive Branch departments and agencies raise serious questions as to whether they are adequately prepared to address vulnerabilities and protect sensitive information," Thune wrote.
Given this recent hack —
which came on the heels of incidents in 2009 and 2011 —
"concerns remain that the White House's network infrastructure remains vulnerable," he added.
A National Security Council (NSC) spokesman declined to provide further information about the 2014 breach to the Free Beacon but said the administration is working to keep Congress apprised of cyberthreats.
"We have consistently supported timely notification in the event of data breaches, consistent with existing federal policy," said NSC Spokesman Mark Stroh.
Thune, however, is seeking more information. He has given the White House until May 15 to answer critical questions about the recent data breach and what the administration is doing to prevent future ones.
Specifically, Thune asks about whether the most recent cyber incident "involved the access or loss of personally identifiable information."
Also, the Commerce Committee chairman wants to know whether the White House has properly notified victims of the breach and asks them to explain what steps they are taking to prevent similar incidents in the future.
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