Advanced fee fraudsters have broken into the webmail account of UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw to mount an audacious, and potentially politically embarrassing, scam.
Hundreds of Straw's contacts received a bogus (and frankly implausible) message on Thursday claiming the cabinet minister was stranded in Nigeria and in desperate need of $3,000 dollars to settle expenses get a flight home. Constituents, Ministry of Justice officials, Labour members and council bosses all received the bogus assistance pleas, The Daily Telegraph reports.
The email, sent from a Hotmail account, claimed Straw was in Nigeria promoting a charity called Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, and was supposedly in trouble after losing his wallet. One constituent reportedly replied to the bogus email, but no money was offered.
The Hotmail account used in the attack was later suspended but Straw's official website still lists firstname.lastname@example.org as an email contact address for those interested in reaching the Blackburn MP.
It's unclear how miscreants broke into the account but the use of a brute force dictionary attack to uncover the password is one possibility. Trickery that allowed the password to be reset, as in the hack on a Yahoo! webmail account maintained by Sarah Palin, is another possibility. Fraudsters have hacked into Hotmail accounts to punt similar person in peril scams in the past but rarely have they picked on such a conspicuous target.
Straw confirmed the attack but said that the webmail account attacked was only used for constituency business and unrelated to his work in government.
"It was an issue for constituents, not the Government. We are checking all that and I am assured there's no evidence that confidentiality of constituents was affected," the former Home Secretary told The Telegraph. ®