The son of a democratic state representative from Tennessee is at the center of an online investigation into who broke in to the email account of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and shared some of its contents with the world.
Representative Mike Kernell, told a reporter with the Tennessean that his 20-year-old son, David, is the individual believed by bloggers to be involved in the hacked account. David Kernell is a student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The FBI and Secret Service, which were reported to be investigating the breach, have yet to publicly identify David Kernell as a suspect.
The revelation follows a first-person account that was briefly posted to the 4chan website by a user who went by the name Rubico. Bloggers quickly linked the user to an email address belonging to David Kernell, but until now, that connection had not been confirmed. Some bloggers say that the elder Kernell is a supporter of democratic candidate Barack Obama, but those claims couldn't immediately be verified.
According to Rubico's account on 4chan, it wasn't until after he broke into Palin's account that he realized the seriousness of the offense.
"it finally set in, THIS internet was serious business," he wrote. "yes I was behind a proxy, only one, if this shit ever got to the FBI I was fucked, I panicked."
Rubico's mention of a proxy refers to Ctunnel.com, which as previously reported, was the service the the person posting accounts details online used in an attempt to cover his tracks. As it turns out, the poster left almost the entire contents of the Ctunnel URL in screenshots, which is probably enough for the operator of the service to identify him.
Said operator, Gabriel Ramuglia, has been contacted by an FBI special agent and plans to turn over logs being sought in the investigation.
Rubico claimed the actual intrusion into Palin's account was a relatively easy matter. It began after Rubico read news accounts claiming Palin used firstname.lastname@example.org in her official capacity of governor of Alaska - which, if true, would skirt the state's open government laws. Rubico then hacked Yahoo's password recovery feature. In 45 minutes, he had her birth date, and two possible zip codes, and soon after that online research revealed Palin met her spouse, Todd, while they were students at Wasilla High School, in Alaska.
Presto, he had all the information he needed. Rubico "promptly changed the password to popcorn and took a cold shower."
The episode underscores the growing ability of computer security to interject itself into the highest echelons of politics. Obama supporters are already using it as proof that a republican running for one of the highest offices in the land skirts laws she has sworn to uphold. And it's only a matter of time before Republicans claim the hack was part of a secret Democratic operation.
And for all this election drama, we have the startlingly weak security of Yahoo mail to thank and someone unscrupulous enough to exploit it. Who would have thought? ®