White House admits President Trump talked to Vladimir Putin about Russian sanctions, contradicting his prior claim

WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday that President Trump did briefly discuss Russian sanctions when he met with Vladimir Putin last week, directly contradicting what Trump himself declared a day earlier. "There were sanctions specific to election meddling that were discussed but not beyond that," White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday afternoon during a briefing with reporters. That's the opposite of what Trump claimed on Sunday, the latest in his constantly shifting story about what happened in the meeting with Russia's leader last Friday. "Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved!" he declared on Twitter. The White House has quietly lobbied to weaken a congressional bill that codifies sanctions against Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election, in spite of the ongoing probe into whether any Trump officials colluded with Russia to swing the election their way. Marc Short, the White House's top legislative affairs liaison, told reporters that they didn't oppose the sanctions themselves but the way that Congress was looking to put them into practice, because the bill doesn't contain loopholes for national security purposes he argued are standard practice in legislative sanctions bills. "We support the sanctions in the bill on Russia," he said. "What our concern is that the legislation we believe sets an unusual precedent… by not including national security waivers." Sanders also added further confusion to Trump's own self-contradictions on whether he was seeking to work with Russia on cybersecurity — even though Russia was the one who attacked the American election system in the first place. After being roundly mocked for saying he was doing so, Trump walked back his claim and said it wasn't on the table. "Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security Continue Reading

Republicans and White House escalate calls for crackdown on Russian hacking, but Trump keeps laughing it off

This could be cyberwar — but the next President doesn’t seem to care. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday deemed the reported Russian hacking of the presidential campaign a “form of warfare,” while the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a congressional probe. But President-elect Donald Trump just kept laughing off all talk of tech terror. “Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!” Trump tweeted in the morning. In another tweet, he added, “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?” There was in fact speculation for months before Election Day that Russia was behind the hack into the emails of John Podesta, the campaign manager for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump, in July, even asked Russian hackers to find Clinton’s deleted secretary of state emails — a comment he later claimed was a joke. But since a CIA assessment reportedly determined last week that Russian hackers intended to tip the election in Trump’s favor, the President-elect has not only denied that finding, but tried dismissing it as a left-wing conspiracy. He said on “Fox News Sunday” he believed Democrats, not the CIA, had put out the story about the Russian breach as an excuse for suffering what he called “one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.” Trump spokesman Jason Miller called the report "an attempt to delegitimize President-elect Trump's win." "That really seems to be what's going on here," Miller told reporters Monday. Otherwise, though, outrage over the CIA findings continued riling both sides of the aisle. White House spokesman said a Continue Reading

White House releases new cyber-security threat scale with color-coded levels

The White House has a new framework to handle cyberattacks. President Obama approved a new policy this week that outlines when and how government agencies will handle hacking incidents. The Presidential Policy Directive on United States Cyber Incident Coordination is a scale for cybersecurity threats that assigns specific colors and response levels to the danger of a hack. The scale is meant to involve government agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security and make sure they all respond with the same level of urgency. The scale starts at Baseline Level 0, which is assigned the color white and means it's an "unsubstantiated or inconsequential event," and it ends at Emergency Level 5, which is assigned the color black and it means the incident "poses an imminent threat to the provision of wide-scale critical infrastructure services, national government stability, or to the lives of U.S. persons." Levels 1 (green) and 2 (yellow) represent low and medium threats, which aren't likely to pose harm to public health or safety. However, Levels 3 (orange) and 4 (red) are most likely to result in either a demonstrable or significant impact to public health, safety and even national security — which would then trigger a coordination effort to address the threat. Cybersecurity has been a hot topic for both Congress and the White House given the increase in hacks and leaks in past months. The most recent incident was of a hacker — or hackers potentially linked to Russia — who breached the Democratic National Committee's servers and leaked large numbers of incriminating documents and emails. The PPD's scale does not highlight how government agencies will handle cyberattacks, or how they'll punish hackers, but it's a sign the U.S. government is getting more organized when it comes to cybersecurity. Continue Reading

Despite Clinton email scrutiny, cyber-security still largely recommendations for whoever is president

If Hillary Clinton wins the general election, questions over are sure to follow her into the White House over the measures she will take to avoid the server pitfalls from her tenure as secretary as state and to ensure that cybersecurity in her administration is strong. Even before the FBI reopened its investigation into the Democratic nominee’s private emails Friday, Clinton faced intense scrutiny over whether she had learned from the crippling email-related mistakes from her last job, leaving little room for error in the information technology-related security apparatuses within a prospective Clinton White House. But, for better or worse, when it comes to IT, Clinton will largely be able to chart her own course, according to experts. That's because the protocols guiding those decisions - which are overseen for the most part by the National Security Administration and the White House Communications Agency - are simply recommendations, albeit strict ones. "They don't have to follow those guidelines. The President can do anything he or she wants, that is really the truth," Richard George, the NSA's former technical director for the Information Assurance Directorate, a division that helped advise White House officials in how to best keep communications devices used by members of the Executive Office of the President (EOP), secure. Those guidelines remain classified, George acknowledged.  But they in all likelihood prohibit the use of the kind of homebrew private server, run out of the basement of her family's Chappaqua, N.Y., home, for official work communications. "If you have someone who cares security, he or she will do what President Obama did," said George, explaining that Obama, as the first-ever commander-in-chief to use a smartphone in office, wanted to set the bar high with cyber-security and followed all recommendations. George, who retired from the NSA in 2011 after 41 years, was part of the team Continue Reading

U.S. Central Command Twitter account hacked by ISIS cyber group as White House admits mistake over Paris march

After the U.S. military’s Twitter feed was hacked Monday — and the White House admitted it blundered badly in Paris — President Obama tried to bounce back in a cheery photo op with the San Antonio Spurs. Obama didn’t mention the failure to send a high-ranking administration official to an anti-terror march in France over the weekend and was all smiles welcoming the 2014 NBA champs to the White House. He praised the team — which has many players from abroad, including Frenchman Tony Parker — as “a great metaphor for what America should be all about.” Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Josh Earnest made a rare admission that the administration had erred. “It’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile” than the U.S. ambassador, said Earnest following the administration’s inadvertent French diss as more than 40 other world leaders marched in Paris against terror on Sunday. “We want to send a clear message, even in a symbolic context like this, that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our French ally,” Earnest added. “Sending a high-level, highly visible senior administration official to the march would have done that.” Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris to attend a pre-march security summit convened by French President Francois Hollande, but he left before the rally began to return to the U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, who was in India, tried to downplay the criticism by announcing a stopover in France on Friday on his way home. “I really think this is sort of quibbling a little bit,” he said. America’s longstanding alliance with France “is not about one day or one particular moment,” he added. The White House, without giving any details, also suggested security concerns Continue Reading

Sony hack is a ‘serious national security matter’: White House

The White House is treating the massive cyber-attack against Sony as a "serious national security matter," it announced Thursday. The U.S. is considering possible options in response to the hack, blamed on North Korea. U.S. experts said options could include cyber retaliation and economic sanctions. The hackers, enraged by an upcoming movie about the the fictional assassination of North Korea's leader, struck last month. They broke into Sony’s network and leaked emails filled with confidential information. Fearing further attacks, Sony cancelled next week's release of "The Interview," starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. On Wednesday, the U.S. said the North Korean government was behind the attack, a claim North Korea previously denied. With News Wire Services This is a developing story. Check back for updates. On a mobile device? Click here to watch video. Continue Reading

Pentagon asks hackers for help with cyber security

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon agency that invented the Internet is asking the hacker community for help in eliminating Defense Department computer vulnerabilities. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, hosted a meeting this week for defense stakeholders and civilian computer experts, acknowledging that it has to start thinking differently about cyber security, Wired.com reported. And the computer networks that run U.S. infrastructure are so vulnerable to cyber attack that the White House should think twice before even attacking emerging adversaries, a national security expert said. Richard Clarke, who advised ex-Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, added that U.S. defense networks are "as porous as a colander." Their Goliath scale leaves them especially vulnerable to tiny attacks, the Associated Press and Wired reported. Clarke, who claims his early 2001 warnings to the Bush administration about the emerging threat of Al Qaeda went unheeded, issued the new warnings as tensions escalate between the U.S., Israel and their shared adversary Iran. Last month Wired reported that a mundane virus called a key logger - one that surreptitiously records keyboard typing - was found on the computers used to remotely pilot Air Force drones targeting terrorists overseas. In 2009 national security officials disclosed that Russian and Chinese agents had penetrated the U.S. electric grid and left behind software to help map the systems. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Hacker concern on the rise, White House warns of potential cyber strikes

The United States is warning that a cyber attack -- presumably if it is devastating enough -- could result in real-world military retaliation. Easier said than done. In the wake of a significant new hacking attempt against Lockheed Martin Corp, experts say it could be extremely difficult to know fast enough with any certainty where an attack came from. Sophisticated hackers can mask their tracks and make it look like a cyber strike came from somewhere else. There are also hard questions about the legality of such reprisals and the fact that other responses, like financial sanctions or cyber countermeasures, may be more appropriate than military action, analysts say. "There are a lot of challenges to retaliating to a cyber attack," said Kristin Lord, author of a new report on U.S. cyber strategy at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank. "It is extremely difficult to establish attribution, to link a specific attack to a specific actor, like a foreign government." The White House stated plainly in a report last month that Washington would respond to hostile acts in cyberspace "as we would to any other threat to our country" -- a position articulated in the past by U.S. officials. The Pentagon, which is finalizing its own report, due out in June, on the Obama administration's emerging strategy to deal with the cyber threat, acknowledged that possibility on Tuesday. "A response to a cyber incident or attack on the U.S. would not necessarily be a cyber response ... all appropriate options would be on the table," Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said. The sophistication of hackers and frequency of the attacks came back into focus after a May 21 attack on Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's top arms supplier. Lockheed said the "tenacious" cyber attack on its network was part of a pattern of attacks on it from around the world. The U.S. Defense Department estimates that over 100 foreign intelligence organizations have Continue Reading

Howard A. Schmidt, ex-Bush official, tapped as White House cyber security coordinator

WASHINGTON - The White House Tuesday named a new cybersecurity boss to defend government, military and business computers from hacker attacks.President Obama said cybercrime is one of the "most serious economic and national security challenges we face."He picked Howard Schmidt, a former George W. Bush adviser, to be his first cyberczar following a 10-month search."Protecting the Internet is critical to our national security, public safety and our personal privacy and civil liberties," the President's homeland security adviser John Brennan said in announcing Schmidt's hiring on the White House's Web site.U.S. government computers are attacked or probed millions of times a day from intruders in the U.S. - and abroad.Schmidt, whose 40-year career includes stints with eBay, Microsoft and the FBI, is an expert in computer forensics.He'll be tasked with ensuring the best firewalls and counterattack technology are online to protect government and military systems.He'll also coordinate with the companies that operate the nation's computer networks to protect Wall Street and other private businesses. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Former White House tech chief tells Iowans: ‘You must freeze your credit’

The best way to protect against identity theft is by taking sweeping action and freezing your credit altogether, former White House tech chief Theresa Payton said in Iowa this week.Payton delivered the keynote address at this week's Iowa Technology Summit, hosted by the Technology Association of Iowa, in downtown Des Moines. She served as Chief Information Officer in President George W. Bush's White House, the first female to ever fill that post. For nearly an hour, Payton spoke about digital security and the lack thereof as cyber criminals continue to assault American's financial data. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Payton offered tips for how consumers should react to the ever-frequent occurrence of cyber attacks and data breaches.In September, credit reporting company Equifax announced a major breach of its internal database compromised the private information of some 143 million Americans, more than 40 percent of the U.S. population. Payton said consumers should take immediate action. Equifax's breach shouldn't be confused with other high-profile cyber crimes, she said. "I'm not being melodramatic about this, you must freeze your credit," she said. "You've just got to freeze your credit. Until we get this all sorted out and we figure out what's going on, just freeze it."Payton acknowledged that freezing credit cuts consumers off from applying for new credit cards, auto loans or home mortgages. "But how many times do you do that?" she said. "Until we get this figured out I can't think of any better way to stop you being a victim of identity theft."What made Equifax's breach so damaging is that the company kept the permanent private information of Americans on file. Previous breaches have often compromised a single account or credit card, which demands a relatively easy fix."You get issued a credit card and you're done," Payton said. "Social Security card, date of birth, mother's maiden name — you're not Continue Reading