One Typo Exposed John Podesta's Email to Hackers

According to a massive 'New York Times' investigation into Russian hacking
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2016 5:28 PM CST
Updated Dec 14, 2016 1:33 AM CST
Typo Led to John Podesta Email Hack
Russian hackers got into Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's emails because of a typo.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A single typo may have changed the course of history. In a massive report on the scale and method of Russian hacking from 1996 to the 2016 election, the New York Times reveals exactly how 10 years' worth of emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chief were used against him. In the lead-up to the election, Russian hackers sent out hundreds of phishing emails to American politicians, pretending to be Google and warning the recipients that someone had logged into their account and they needed to change their password. One of those emails went to John Podesta, whose aide forwarded it on to a computer technician to see if it was actually from Google.

"This is a legitimate email," Clinton campaign technician Charles Delavan replied. "John needs to change his password immediately." Clicking the "change password" button in the email immediately gave hackers access to 60,000 or so of Podesta's emails, which promptly ended up on WikiLeaks and in the headlines. Delavan now says he knew the email was fake, as the campaign had gotten dozens of them. He says he meant to type "illegitimate." The Times reports Delavan has been "plagued" by his typo ever since. Read the full, fascinating piece—which includes the detail that a tech-support guy dragged his feet on investigating a cyberattack reported by the FBI because he thought the FBI agent might have been a prank caller—here. (More Russian hackers stories.)

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