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Guccifer’s Celebrity Email Hack: Downton Abbey’s Finale

Guccifer: this guy is just on fire. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a notorious hacker who has hacked George Bush and Colin Powell. Here’s an article at TheSmokingGun covering his latest escapades:

Along the way, “Guccifer” has also gathered the cell phone numbers of Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, the private e-mail addresses for Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and other celebrities, and even the script for the fourth-season finale of “Downton Abbey” (which the hacker swiped six months before the TV episode first aired in England).

How to Hack Secure Email? Pet Names

How does this guy get all this stuff? Email. Email. Email. And, it makes sense because we all send the most sensitive stuff on email without even thinking about it. People send financial documents, love letters, gossip – if someone can get into your email account it isn’t just that they can own you, they can own your contacts. That’s just what Guccifer does. He hacks the famous and then he devours contact lists, which also happen to contain the famous. Here’s some details from TheSmokingGun’s article:

While “Guccifer” has declined to discuss how he has been able to hack so many e-mail accounts – spanning an array of providers like Comcast, Cox, Yahoo, AOL, Earthlink, Verizon, and the British-based Btinternet – it appears he compromised some accounts by correctly guessing security questions. Work files show that the hacker reviewed the Wikipedia pages of prospective victims, obtained the names of a target’s relatives, and even referred to a list containing the most popular names for dogs and cats.

The weakest link of email security is “security questions.” Once you realize this, you’ll realize that Guccifer, while talented, isn’t really doing much more than learning very easy-to-learn facts about his targets. Think about it: all you need to get back into some email providers is your mother’s maiden name and the name of your favorite pet, and if you happen to be famous this stuff is probably easy enough to find.

Tips for the Celebrity Email Senders

Let’s say you read this news story and you are wondering if there are steps you can take to protect yourself from hackers like Guccifer.  Here are a few strategies if you happen to be famous:

    • Don’t be Famous – Most of us don’t have this problem, but if you don’t want to be the target of an invasive email hack, just never become famous. Famous people, well-known government officials, people in places of responsibility all need to understand immediately that everything you do online is an opportunity to be attacked. If you don’t want to be under constant threat of an email hack, maybe you should call your agent up and tell them that you’d like to be more obscure.
    • Don’t Use Email, Don’t Use Facebook, Don’t Use Twitter – There are plenty of celebrities that do without. Vince Vaughn, Angelina Jolie, Elton John, Paul McCartney: these celebrities might explain away the lack of an email address as a commitment to digital-free living, but let’s face it, the real reason is that the more famous you are, the less excited you are about sharing anything personal in a wholly unencrypted format that can be forwarded to anyone.
    • Encrypt and Secure Your Communications – Another option that seems more sensible than being less famous and/or giving up email altogether would be to take a few sensible steps toward protecting the email you send with a service like Virtru. Virtru was designed to ensure that private messages stay private, and a technology like Virtru can also encrypt attachments.

Now, back to Guccifer. If more celebrities started using Virtru we’d see a lot less scandal driven by leaked emails. Maybe TheSmokingGun and TMZ would have a hard time coming up with great content, but would that be such a bad thing? Again, we’d just like to reemphasize that private communications should stay private.