A hacker claiming to be a member of the shadowy Internet consortium Anonymous infiltrated a Yahoo email account belonging to vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, R-Alaska.
Word of the hack leaked earlier this week, and yesterday the McCain-Palin campaign confirmed that one of the Alaska governor's Yahoo accounts, email@example.com, had been compromised. The campaign called it a "shocking invasion of the Governor's privacy and a violation of law."
Yahoo wouldn't confirm or deny whether Palin and her staff had deleted the accounts.
The hacker browsed through the account and posted screenshots to various image-sharing sites. Those images have since been deleted, but Gawker.com posted copies of them.
The hacker boasted of the successful invasion on the free-form message board 4Chan.org, specifically on the site's "random" board, aka the /b/ board, which is known for its freewheeling users and overall anarchic tone.
The hacker posted screenshots of several emails, some family photographs, Palin's entire contact list and her password, "popcorn." A user on 4Chan.org's /b/ board changed the password and alerted one of Palin's assistants, but that user accidentally included the new password in a subsequent screenshot. This set off another flood of hacks into Palin's account. Yahoo then locked down her account.
The incident shed a light on the need for security among high-level government officials. Attorney Donald Mitchell, who represents an Alaska citizen who has been seeking the disclosure of Palin's email records, complained about Palin's lack of vigilance.
"There's a reason the governor should be using her own official email channels, because of security and encryption," Mitchell told The Washington Post. "She's running state business out of Yahoo?"
As for the Internet organization known only as Anonymous, a spokesperson for the group denied involvement in the attack.
Information about Anonymous remains difficult to nail down, as the group lacks any formal hierarchy or leadership. Instead, the group's actions spring out of a collective will seen mostly on message boards like 4Chan.org, where all users post anonymously. Anonymous gained mainstream exposure this year with an ongoing, high-profile protest against the Church of Scientology.