Russian-linked hackers went after Obama's YouTube interviewers

A long-standing cyber espionage group is stepping up efforts to infiltrate the White House, according to security researchers.

TrendMicro has long been tracking the group known as Operation Pawn Storm, which some speculate is backed by the Russian government. Its efforts have historically targeted specific government and military officials.

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But researchers noticed in late January the group had turned its attention to a seemingly odd target — three popular YouTube content creators.

It turned out the three people — Hank Green, Bethany Mota and GloZell Green — were the YouTube stars who had interviewed President Obama days earlier in a much-hyped event.

According to TrendMicro, all three received the same the same fraudulent emails in their Gmail accounts, known as a phishing attack.

“This is a classic island hopping technique, in which attackers focus their efforts not on the actual target but on companies or people that might interact with that target, but which may have weaker security in place,” wrote TrendMicro Senior Threat Researcher Feike Hacquebord in a blog post.

Many have questioned the White House’s digital security since an intrusion last fall, during which hackers got into the State Department and then hopped into the White House networks.

Months later, both agencies are still struggling to fully repair their systems.

Unnamed government officials have indicated Russian hackers were behind the incident, but the administration has declined to publicly confirm the suspicions.