Video: How was Palin's e-mail hacked?

By Bob Sullivan Technology correspondent
msnbc.com
updated 9/17/2008 6:35:08 PM ET 2008-09-17T22:35:08

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account was hacked Tuesday night, the McCain-Palin campaign confirmed Wednesday, calling the break-in “obscene.”

"This is a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law,” the campaign said in a statement. “The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them. We will have no further comment."

Reports of the hack began surfacing in blogs early Wednesday afternoon.

Campaign spokesperson Meghan Stapleton told NBC News Producer Aram Roston that it is still investigating.

"We're trying to figure out exactly what's happening, but I can say that we believe this is absolutely outrageous and unprecedented that a vice presidential candidate's personal e-mail could potentially be hijacked, is what we believe, and distributed," she said. "And it's just obscene the level to which people are stooping at this point I don't care what party you're a part of, you don't do this."

Material described as e-mail from Palin's Gov.Palin@yahoo.com account have appeared on several Web sites, including one named Wikileaks.org, which archives hacked data. The e-mails posted there appeared relatively innocuous: one, purportedly from an appointee, urged Palin not to worry about negative press. In another, Palin appeared to offer sympathy to Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, a fellow Republican, for criticism he had received in the media.

Palin's personal e-mail account recently became an issue in the presidential election, with some accusing the Alaska governor of trying to circumvent public records laws by using private e-mail to conduct some government business. It also has been in dispute over records requests made in relation to the "Troopergate" investigation.

While only a handful of Palin e-mails were released by the hackers, a file allegedly containing subject lines of about 100 e-mails suggested slightly more controversial content.

One e-mail dated Aug. 19 had a subject line referenced personnel and budget issues. Another, dated Aug. 15, referenced a records request. The body of the e-mails did not appear in the posting.

Yahoo Inc., which stated that it takes e-mail security seriously, refused to answer questions about Palin's e-mail.

“To protect the privacy of our users, we are not able to comment on the details of a specific user account," the company said in a statement.

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It's unclear how hackers may have accessed her account. A recent article in msnbc.com's Red Tape Chronicle discussed the ease with which hackers can use "Forgot Your Password?" links to bypass security measures. In one screen shot associated with Palin's e-mail, a hacker actually discussed changing Palin's password.

Another post on Gawker.com, accompanied by a screen shot of what appeared to be the inbox of Palin’s account indicated that hackers weren't able to copy the entire e-mail directory because a “white knight" changed the password and then alerted authorities about the hack. The e-mail account was shut down soon after.

"Epic fail," one writer said. 

The Gawker account and the Wikileaks post both attributed the hack to a group called "Anonymous," which has made a name for itself by hacking Web sites and e-mail accounts related to Scientology.

This is not the first privacy-related incident involving Palin and the Internet.  Earlier this month, part of Palin's Social Security Number was published by a news Web site when it released a document containing research performed by Palin opponents in Alaska.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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