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Celebrity hacker Guccifer's confession gives us all a lesson in security

Lucian Constantin | May 27, 2016
He pleaded guilty to unauthorized access to a protected computer and aggravated identity theft.

It might be a good idea then, especially for high-ranking politicians, to attend training courses on how to protect themselves and their online accounts from social engineering attacks. Other politicians whose personal email accounts were compromised in the past by hackers using social engineering techniques include former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and CIA Director John Brennan.

Once they achieve a certain level of fame that could make them a target, everyone should go back and review their online accounts: Do those websites really need so much real personal information or can some be removed? Are passwords strong enough and different between accounts? Do the websites offer two-factor authentication? What account recovery or password reset options do they offer? Are they easy to bypass using public information? Are the answers to security questions for those accounts easily guessable? Are those accounts even needed anymore? If not, is there an account delete option?

These are good issues for anyone -- not just the rich and famous -- to address. It might be a time-consuming process, but not more than having to later deal with a potential data breach and having your private conversations with friends, family or past lovers dumped in the public domain.

Guccifer was extradited earlier this year to the U.S. from Romania, where he was already serving a prison sentence for hacking into the email accounts of various local public figures.

His sentencing in the U.S. is scheduled for Sept. 1. After that he could be returned to his home country to serve out his sentence there, as the Romanian courts granted extradition for a maximum of 18 months.

In Romania, Lazar is serving two prison sentences, for a total of seven years. In June 2014 he was sentenced to four years in prison for hacking into the personal email account of George Maior, the former head of the Romanian Intelligence Service and current Romanian ambassador to the U.S.

However, at that time he was already under a six-year supervised release term after receiving a three-year suspended prison sentence in 2012 for hacking into the email accounts of other Romanian celebrities. Because he violated the release terms, the older three-year prison sentence got activated and he must serve seven years.

It's not clear if the U.S. sentence, which can carry a punishment of between two and seven years in prison, will be served separately.

 

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