Even Presidents get the blues

Malware hits the Mac but is it worth worrying about?
Malware hits the Mac but is it worth worrying about?

It is 23 years since President Bush Senior talked of a ‘new world order' of a trusted and peaceful world.

Now in 2013, he and his family have been the victims of a modern threat – cyber crime.

The Bush family, who spawned two US presidents, were been the victim of an email hacker who accessed personal photos and sensitive correspondence.

According to the Smoking Gun website, the details were on both George H.W. Bush's Bush (senior), who served as president between 1988 and 1992, and George W. Bush, who served two terms between 2000 and 2008.

The hacker told the website that they had got ‘a lot of stuff', including ‘interesting mails' about Bush senior's recent hospitalisation, ‘Bush 43' and other Bush family members, after they accessed at least six separate email accounts.

Among the details were a confidential October 2012 list of home addresses, Bush junior's home address, mobile phone numbers and emails for dozens of Bush family members. The posted photos and emails contain a watermark with the hacker's online alias ‘Guccifer'.

Jim McGrath, a spokesman for George H.W. Bush, told the Los Angeles Times that the situation is being investigated by authorities, while the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the US Secret Service is investigating how Guccifer gained access to material including pictures of Bush senior in a hospital bed, and the security code for a gate to one of his son's homes. CNBC reported that the FBI was keeping quiet, with Houston FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap, saying: “We do not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation.”

There was little detail of how the email accounts were breached, although as email accounts were accessed it can be assumed that this was done by guessing the passwords to the accounts. A similar incident occurred in 2008 when the Yahoo account of Sarah Palin was attacked.

Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at Zsacler ThreatLabZ, said: “It is an unfortunate violation of personal privacy when anyone's email is publicly shared, but when it relates to former US presidents, national security becomes a concern as well. 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.

“The attacker did however clearly target the Bush family directly, having compromised accounts from multiple family members and friends. This should serve as a reminder to everyone that public email systems are accessible to the world and protected solely by a password. If that password is easily guessable, compromise is trivial.”

While he was in power some ten years before malware became prominent and the technology and cyber rules were detailed by his successor Bill Clinton at December's Dell World conference, it could be argued that Bush senior had visions of the world of cyber crime from his comments in the early 1990s.

Bush senior spoke in 1991 about creating a new world order, where ‘the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations'. He said: “When we are successful, and we will be, we have a real chance at this new world order. An order in which a credible United Nations can use its peace-keeping role to fulfil the promise and vision of the UN's founders.”

Of course this was delivered around the time of the first Gulf War, but bearing in mind the recent moves to encourage collaboration, this stance by Bush shows that the need to share and work together is crucial. Would that have stopped this hacking happening? Arguably not, as what Sutton said about this being a glory hack ‘for the challenge' shows that anyone can be attacked if the hacker is hard working enough.

For the new world order, maybe the idea is still yet to be achieved.

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