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White House confirms cyberattack but no information lost

Susan Walsh/AP

The White House is confirming a cyberattack on an unclassified computer network, but officials deny that any information was lost.

Speaking on background a White House official told media outlets that the attack was aimed an an unclassified network and that there is no "indication whatsoever" that any information was lost.

The official called the incident a "spear-phishing" attack, which implies the attack was aimed specifically at the White House. Spear phishing entails using things like a personalized e-mail to trick someone into clicking on a malicious link or downloading a file. The attack, according to the White House, was "isolated" and never attempted to breach any classified networks.

Such attacks are not rare, federal agencies publicly reported at least 42,887 cybersecurity "incidents" in 2011 alone. And phishing attacks account for more than half of all cyberattacks reported around the country.

But the White House sought to downplay the incident on Sunday after the conservative Washington Free Beacon reported that the attack was linked to China and compromised "one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive computer networks" that controls nuclear weapons.

The White House would not confirm a link to Chinese hackers, nor expand on what the attackers may have been seeking.

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