Activist hackers suspected to be from the group Anonymous have hacked into Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Yahoo mail account and posted e-mails and photos from it online.
Initially, the e-mails and address book were available on Wikileaks.org, a site for anonymous whistleblowers to post documents detailing corporate improprieties or government misconduct. That site can no longer be accessed on the Web, but Palin’s e-mails and photographs are still available online at gawker.com.
Governor Palin is being criticized in the media for using private e-mail accounts for government correspondence. Some hours after the breach occurred, that e-mail account, [email protected], and another used by Palin, [email protected], were deleted and could not be accessed.
Rick Davis, campaign manager for the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign, issued a statement about the e-mail hack. “This is a shocking invasion of the Governor’s privacy and a violation of law,” he said, adding that the matter “has been turned over to the appropriate authorities.”
Davis also expressed the hope that anyone in possession of Palin’s e-mails will destroy them. The campaign declined further comment when contacted by InternetNews.com.
Kelley Benander, Yahoo’s director of public affairs, told InternetNews.com in an e-mailed response to questions that “Yahoo treats issues of security and privacy very seriously.” However, she declined to discuss how the Palin account was hacked in order to protect the privacy of Yahoo’s users.
“Generally, if Yahoo receives reports that an account has been compromised, we investigate for suspicious activity and take appropriate action,” Benander said. “As the largest Web mail service in the U.S., Yahoo Mail seeks to help educate consumers with online safety tips at security.yahoo.com.”
Keeping their lips sealed
Anonymous is believed to be a group of hackers loosely connected with image Web site 4Chan, which has received media attention for its attacks on the Church of Scientology and other public figures. Security experts asked about the group by InternetNews.com declined to comment about the group on the record because they were afraid of being hounded by the group.
While the Secret Service is charged with protecting candidates in presidential elections, a request for an interview with the Secret Service went unanswered. The McCain-Palin campaign would not state whether or not the Secret Service had been alerted about the incident.
Palin’s e-mail account was most likely hacked because she had a weak password, Adam O’Donnell, director of emerging technologies at messaging security and anti-spam vendor Cloudmark told InternetNews.com.
Protecting online e-mail accounts is easy: “Use strong passwords, with long strings of random letters, numbers and characters, and be careful about the information you put out for password resets,” O’Donnell said.