June 5, 2012 at 6:32 PM ET
An anonymous tipster claims to have hacked into Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's private email account.
The tipster told Gawker Tuesday that by guessing the answer to a security question — What is your favorite pet? — he was able to gain access to firstname.lastname@example.org, the account Romney used to communicate with his staff as recently as 2006.
In an email to Gawker, the tipster said he learned of Romney's Hotmail address through a batch of old emails released Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal. In his tip, he included the answer to the security question, and the new password he allegedly set up for the email account as well as Romney's Dropbox account. (Gawker blacked out both the answer to the security question and the new password.)
SecurityNewsDaily sent an email to the alleged hijacked account. It was not immediately returned.
Romney's campaign communications director, Gail Gitcho, said in a statement Tuesday evening that the "proper authorities are investigating this crime and we will have no further comment on it."
Also, the Associated Press reported, Gitcho would not say whether Romney still uses the Hotmail account. The address became public because Romney used it to conduct state business when he served as governor of Massachusetts, and some of his private emails were obtained under the Massachusetts Public Records Law, the AP said.
Romney isn't the first politician to face security problems with a private email account. Just weeks before the 2008 presidential election, a Tennessee college student accessed the private emails of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The student, David Kernell, was convicted in April 2010 after Palin and her daughter Bristol testified about harassment and disruption they suffered. Kernell had correctly guessed answers to security questions guarding Palin's account, giving him access.
Romney's private Hotmail account was accepting email as recently as March 2012. As of Tuesday evening, the address was returning emails to the AP as undeliverable, citing an "unknown address."
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