Secret Service Investigating Email Hack, Theft of Bush Family Files

Investigative Website The Smoking Gun published details of a hack that garnered personal emails and photos from former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.

A criminal investigation has reportedly been launched into the hacking of email accounts belonging to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and members of their family.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Jim McGrath, a spokesman for George H.W. Bush, said that the situation is being investigated by authorities.

"There's a criminal investigation and that’s the extent of my knowledge," he told the Times. "I know they’re looking into who might have done this."

The Smoking Gun broke the story of the hack Feb. 7. In a series of emails, a person who claimed responsibility for the hack stated to have stolen "a lot of stuff," including communications about George H.W. Bush's recent hospitalization as well as private photos and uploaded the data to an online account.

The stolen material also includes a confidential October 2012 list of home addresses, cell phone numbers and emails for dozens of Bush family members–including both of the former presidents, their siblings and their children, according to The Smoking Gun. The photos and emails contain a watermark with the hacker's alias, "Guccifer."

According to The Smoking Gun, the correspondence obtained by the hacker appears to show that at least six separate email accounts have been compromised, including the AOL account of Dorothy Bush Koch, daughter of the elder Bush and sister of George W. Bush, as well as an online account belonging to CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz - a long-time friend of the Bush family.

Among the family photos is a picture of George H.W. Bush being visited by former president Bill Clinton at the Bush family compound in Maine as well as George W. Bush posing with fashion designer Ralph Lauren and Lauren's son David, who is married to Neil Bush's daughter Lauren.

“It is an unfortunate violation of personal privacy when anyone's email is publicly shared, but when it relates to former U.S. presidents, national security becomes a concern as well,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at Zscaler ThreatLabZ, the research arm of Zscaler. "The fact that the attacker was all too willing to make the email contents public suggests that the attack was done for the challenge, as opposed to something more nefarious."

"This should serve as a reminder to everyone that public email systems are accessible to the world and protected solely by a password," he continued, cautioning that if a password is easily guessable, compromising an account can be trivial.

This is hardly the first time a political figure has had a private email account compromised. In 2008, Sarah Palin, who at the time was the vice presidential candidate running alongside Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in his bid for the White House, had her email account hacked by David Kernell, son of Tennessee politician Mike Kernell who was then a Tennessee state representative. David Kernell was eventually convicted of misdemeanor unauthorized access to obtain information from a computer and one count of obstruction of justice. The jury acquitted him of the more serious charge of wire fraud.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Secret Service spokesman George Oglivie confirmed the agency was investigating reports of the hack on the Bush family, but offered no further details and would not confirm the hack itself.