Hillary Clinton’s IT team accidentally told John Podesta to open a hacker’s email
Emails released by WikiLeaks on Friday show that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was inadvertently burned by the campaign’s IT staff, who misidentified a phishing attempt as a legit email from Google.
Reports from earlier this month said his email account had been hacked but didn’t explain exactly how. Now, from the newly released emails, it appears Podesta suspected he was being targeted by a phishing attack but got bad advice from the campaign IT team.
In an exchange from March, an email from “firstname.lastname@example.org” with the subject line “*Someone has your password*” made its way into Podesta’s Gmail inbox, with a bit.ly-shortened link asking him to reset his Google account password.
Podesta’s chief of staff, Sara Latham, passed the email to the campaign’s IT support staff, and Help Desk team member Charles Delavan told her the email was, in fact, from Google, and that Podesta had to reset his account.
“This is a legitimate email. John needs to change his password immediately, and ensure that two-factor authentication is turned on his account,” Delavan said. “He can go to this link: https://myaccount.google.com/security to do both. It is absolutely imperative that this is done ASAP.”
When Gmail users receive messages from Google about attempts to get into their account, they come from accounts.google.com — which Google confirmed to VICE News. And while Delavan provided Podesta with an authentic link where he could go change his password, it appears that Podesta clicked on the bit.ly link sent in the phishing email, which could have allowed hackers to access his account.
Though it’s surprising that Clinton’s IT team didn’t immediately detect this as a phishing attempt, Podesta and the Hillary team are hardly alone. Phishing attempts are some of the most common ways that hackers try to gain access to users’ private information.
This year’s edition of Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report said that “30 percent of phishing messages were opened” by the targets in Verizon’s study. The report said that a further 12 percent of those targeted went on to “click the malicious attachment or link and thus enabled the attack to succeed.”
Neither the Clinton campaign nor Charles Delavan immediately responded to requests for comment.