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White House loses email connection

White House loses email connection

The Obama White House lost its email for several hours yesterday, at the same time officials were battling hackers attempts to use the presidents' official site to host trojans.

The White House uses Outlook servers that apparently crashed, but the administration didn't explain the exact cause of the outage.

The outage was announced at 1:30 p.m. during a regular briefing at which Press Secretary Robert Gibbs apologized to reporters for the administration's failure to answer e-mails, reports say.

The e-mail blackout is embarrassing to the new president, whose campaign embraced all forms of technology and made masterful use of it to raise funds, organize volunteers and disseminate information.

Obama himself is deeply wedded to his BlackBerry and he has committed to having traceable e-mails to ensure transparency of government processes..

However, Obama's staff were reduced to using ancient technologies such as photocopiers. Rather than send attachments containing executive orders Obama signed, the press staff distributed printouts.

The administration wouldn't comment on whether the problem extended to other systems. "We don't comment on security issues," one aide is quoted as saying.

Elsewhere, hackers have registered bogus accounts on Obama's online community, my.barackobama.com, where they are posting images designed to set off a chain of events that lead to malicious Trojan horse programs. These programs are stepping stones used by hackers to download more and more malware onto a victim's computer

"The US Presidential campaign has shown the world how governments can leverage Web 2.0," Websense wrote on a company blog outlining the issue. "However, this... is yet another opportunity to spread more malicious code."

The scam starts when the victim sees what appears to be a video posted to the my.barackobama.com website. It reads simply 'click here to see movie'. By clicking on the fake video, the user is taken to another website that looks like a YouTube page filled with pornography. Clicking on the fake YouTube link prompts the victim to download what appears to be a piece of video decompression software called a codec. The fake codec is actually the Trojan programme.

To make matters worse, hackers are also putting links to the malicious Barackobama.com pages in comment forms all over the web, making them likely to come up as Google searches results. Because of the way search engines work, pages hosted on a popular site like Barackobama.com are typically given a higher search result ranking than other web pages.

Only about a third of the major antivirus vendors are now detecting this Trojan program, Websense said.


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