Bush Family Hit by Email Hacker
A detail of a Bush family photo taken in the White House in 2005. Dorothy Bush Koch is in the upper left, next to her husband Robert P. Koch.
CREDIT: White House/Public domain
The family of former presidents George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, has been hit by an email hacker.
The website The Smoking Gun late Thursday (Feb. 7) posted family photos that the site said came from six email accounts belonging to Bush friends and family members.
The photos include one showing the elder President Bush during his December hospital stay, which was so serious that some of the stolen emails discussed funeral arrangements. (He later recovered.)
The compromised accounts are said to include those of Dorothy Bush Koch, the younger President Bush's sister; Jim Nantz, a CBS sportscaster and old family friend; Willard Heminway, another family friend; and two unnamed in-laws.
A spokesman for the elder President Bush told the Houston Chronicle that he could confirm only that there was a criminal investigation.
Most of the photographs seem to have been taken at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. They include images of the elder President Bush with former President Bill Clinton, and of the younger President Bush with Ralph Lauren and the clothing designer's son, who is married to model Lauren Bush, a niece of the younger President Bush.
Four photos display the younger President Bush's artistic endeavors, including two paintings, a photo of him working on a third painting and a photo of him posing with a cardboard cutout of himself dressed as a Parisian artist, complete with mustache and beret.
All the photos are watermarked with the word "Guccifer," which The Smoking Gun says is the hacker's alias.
The Smoking Gun said it corresponded with the hacker, who told the website he had accessed lists of Bush family contact information as well as emails among family members concerning the elder President Bush's health.
The Smoking Gun did not publish any of the emails, but did post some excerpts, a few of which reveal misgivings by the younger President Bush and his siblings about their father's friendship with Bill Clinton.
"Dad probably helped Bill Clinton [more] than anything he himself has done" to "restore his [Clinton's] sordid reputation," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush allegedly wrote.
The younger President Bush asked his siblings for family stories in case he would have to soon deliver a eulogy for his father.
"Hopefully I'm jumping the gun," George W. Bush allegedly wrote. "But since the feeling is that you all would rather me speak than Bubba, please help," he added, using Clinton's somewhat pejorative nickname.
Poor password protection?
The Smoking Gun said it had contacted Dorothy Bush Koch, who until then was not aware her email account had been compromised.
"Why would someone do this?" she reportedly asked.
The Smoking Gun did not disclose how "Guccifer" broke into the accounts, but Web-based email accounts are often protected by weak passwords.
The case resembles the 2008 hack of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was at the time the Republican candidate for vice president.
A Tennessee college student, the son of a Democratic state representative, guessed the password to Palin's Yahoo Mail account and posted several of her messages online. He was later sentenced to a year in prison.
To protect a Web-based email account, make sure you have a strong password of at least eight characters, including numbers and punctuation marks. Better yet, turn on two-factor authentication, which Gmail and Yahoo Mail offer as an option — any attempt to log in from an unfamiliar computer will ask for a code sent by text message to the registered user's cellphone.