Russia-linked hackers tried at least five times to trick former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton into infecting her computer systems while she was in office, newly released e-mails show.
It is unclear whether she was fooled into clicking any attachments to expose her account.
Clinton received the virus-riddled e-mails, disguised as speeding tickets from New York, over four hours early on the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The e-mails instructed recipients to print the attached tickets — and opening them would have allowed hackers to take over control of a victim’s computer.
Security researchers who analyzed the malicious software in September 2011 said that infected computers would transmit information from victims to at least three server computers overseas, including one in Russia. That does not necessarily mean Russian intelligence or citizens were responsible.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign, said: “We have no evidence to suggest she replied to this e-mail or that she opened the attachment. As we have said before, there is no evidence that the system was ever breached. All these e-mails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam.”
Practically every Internet user is inundated with spam or virus-riddled messages daily. However, these messages show hackers had Clinton’s e-mail address, which was not public, and sent her a fake traffic ticket from New York state, where she lives. Most commercial antivirus software at the time would have detected the software and blocked it.
The phishing attempts highlight the risk of Clinton’s unsecure e-mail being pried open by foreign intelligence agencies, even if others also received the virus concealed as a speeding ticket from Chatham, New York. The e-mail misspelled the name of the city, came from a supposed New York City government account and contained a “Ticket.zip” file that would have been a red flag.
Clinton has faced increasing questions over whether her unusual e-mail setup amounted to a proper form of secrecy protection and records retention. The e-mails themselves — many redacted heavily before public release — have provided no shocking disclosures thus far and Clinton has insisted the server was secure.
During Clinton’s tenure, the US Department of State and other government agencies faced their own series of hacking attacks. US counterterrorism officials have linked them to China and Russia. However, the government has a large staff of information technology experts, whereas Clinton has yet to provide any information on who maintained her server and how well it was secured.
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