Monday, September 22, 2008

FBI is going after the Hack on Gov. Palin's Yahoo Email and getting lots of help along the trail...

The FBI has served a search warrant against a 20-year-old college student in connection with the hacking of Sarah Palin’s personal e-mail account.
A witness told WBIR-TV that FBI agents served the warrant at the college residence of David Kernell, a student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Kernell is the son of Mike Kernell, a Democratic state representative from Memphis.
The FBI and Secret Service launched a formal investigation on Sept. 17 into the hacking of one of Palin’s Yahoo! e-mail accounts. Yahoo! declined to comment Sept. 18 on details of the investigation, citing Palin’s privacy and the sensitivity of such investigations.
A Department of Justice spokesman told WBIR-TV that there has been “investigatory activity” in Knoxville regarding the investigation. A witness told the station that several agents arrived at Kernell’s apartment complex early Sunday morning.
A witness told the station they took photos inside Kernell’s apartment and that his three roommates were subpoenaed to testify this week in Chattanooga.
The hacker who compromised Palin’s account used, an Internet proxy site, which renders Web users anonymous, to get into Palin’s e-mail. The site is run by Gabriel Ramuglia, 25, a Web developer from Athens, Ga., who said the hacker left behind revealing clues after posting screen grabs of Palin’s inbox.
Ramuglia said he saw the screenshots and recognized his site. He is now working with the FBI to provide agents with his business logs to help identify the criminal.
“I should be able to find out who is involved by going through my logs,” he said. “The FBI called me last night and they wanted to know that the logs weren’t deleted — as long as they weren’t deleted — and they asked me to help, so I’m downloading them.”
Ramuglia said the FBI told him they also reached out to Yahoo! to ask for help. The hope is that information from Yahoo! can be matched with something in the proxy site’s logs, identifying the hacker. The logs from both and Yahoo! were to be delivered to the FBI last week, Ramuglia said.
“As long as they didn’t use a second proxy, I should be able to find them,” Ramuglia said. “I don’t think they were careful enough to do that.”
There is widespread speculation about who was behind the attack and what the motivation was.
Jose Nazario, a senior security engineer with Arbor Networks Inc., said he knows “through personal contacts” that members of the group Anonymous were involved in the Palin e-mail attack.
He said Anonymous is a loose network of a few dozen people who live in the United States and abroad and range from teenagers to 30-year-olds who share what he said is a “sociopathic sense of humor.”
“Anonymous sort of takes pride in doing this publicly and pissing people off. There are other groups that do this, but they aren’t as public about it,” Nazario said.
The confession read: “i am the lurker who did it, and i would like to tell the story.” It continued to say that what started as a prank was cut short because of panic over the possibility the FBI might investigate, the hacker wrote.

The hacker said the he guessed that Alaska’s governor had met her husband in high school, and he or she knew Palin’s date of birth and home Zip code. Using those details, the hacker tricked Yahoo Inc.’s service into assigning a new password, “popcorn,” for Palin’s e-mail account.

“I found out later though [sic] more research that they met at high school, so I did variations of that, high, high school, eventually hit on ‘Wasilla high’,” said the Internet posting.

The McCain campaign said Wednesday that the attack was “a shocking invasion of the governor’s privacy and a violation of law.”

“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,” the campaign said in a statement.

The break-in of Palin’s private account is especially significant because Palin sometimes uses non-government e-mail to conduct state business. Previously disclosed e-mails indicate her administration embraced Yahoo! accounts as an alternative to government e-mail, which could possibly be released to the public under Alaska’s Open Records Act.

At the time, critics of Palin’s administration were poring over official e-mails they had obtained from the governor’s office looking for evidence of improper political activity.
Jana Winter and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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