Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sarah Palin's email address hacked

So, you may have heard (by reading the NY Times article this past Sunday) about some of Sarah Palin's secretive practices as mayor of Wasila and governor of Alaska.  One of the interesting tidbits was that she used a private email address to conduct official government business (as some in the current Bush administration have also done, especially in the Monica Goodling fiasco).  Here is one quote from the article:
Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

and another choice section:

While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses. An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”

Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”

On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”

But here is the big news, that personal email account has been hacked, and the password was released to a hacker forum, which you may recognize from another piece in the New York Times Magazine on the hacker (or troll) culture (here is the link to that).  Here is the extensive summary of events as to how this happened.  But if you want a very brief summary from me:

1) Account was hacked (actually two :gov.sarah@yahoo, and gov.palin@yahoo), password was released to hacker forum, screenshots were taken of the inbox and some emails within.  (It was confirmed as her actual email address)
2) Some of the screenshots reference people in Alaska government, including the Lt. Gov. Parnell
Some of the screenshots are of family photos
3) A good samaritan took the password, changed it, and announced his intention to turn it back to Gov. Palin on the forum, by copying his message to one of her contacts.  (but he didn't black out the new password, doh!)
4) Everyone tries to go on and change the password at the same time, causing Yahoo to lock the account.

5) Gov Palin is notified of this security breach, and immediately deletes both accounts.  This could be viewed as destruction of evidence, since those emails are possibly involved in several current legal battles.

6) There is currently an internal battle on the hacker forum, as the members post and re-post compilations of the screenshots, and moderators take them down. 

There is also a summary on digg.

I guess John McCain should teach her how to use email...

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