Pretending to be someone else and conversing with politicians via email seems to be the next big thing in online trolling. Recent victims include members of Donald Trump's family, former White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci, and our own nonsense-spewing home secretary Amber Rudd.
The troll, who claims to also be responsible for the fake emails to the Trumps and WhiteHouse staff, was pretending to be Robbie Gibb, Theresa May's new head of communications. He managed to initiate a conversation with Rudd on her personal email account, using the opportunity to ask her about future government announcements.
Apparently Rudd was quick to realise that she wasn't speaking to Gibb and replied that "getting tough on people impersonating others" was high on the government's agenda. Though this was not before revealing she and special adviser Mohammed Hussein were working on a number of special announcements due later this month, and the fact she is due to go on holiday soon.
The prankster, who goes by the name Sinon Reborn, spoke with The Guardian about the emails, claiming to have used the free email service GMX and publicly available parliamentary information to initiate the conversation. It was Rudd herself who chose to reply from a different, personal email account.
"I managed to speak to a home secretary with relative ease on her personal email address. I replied again saying: ‘Don’t you think you should be more aware of cyber security if you are home secretary?’ and I never got a reply from that."
. . . .
"I sent a message to Amber afterwards, as me but not saying my name, saying: ‘Look, I was only trying to make a point about your security there. I am from Manchester which was bombed not all that long back."
He told the Guardian that he also had used the email account to send messages to Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond, but only Rudd responded.
The Home Office confirmed that the conversation had taken place, but insisted that Rudd did not use her personal email account for government business, saying "As the email exchange shows, she rapidly established that this was a hoax and had only exchanged pleasantries up to that point."
It doesn't take a genius to know that using personal emails for potentially sensitive work isn't a very smart thing to do, particularly since third-party systems store everything on outside servers that could be hacked or subpoenaed by law enforcement agencies. Presumably official government email systems are more secure, and while they're not perfect any extra security measures are a good thing.
I have a feeling we might see the future of political information leaks right here. One where politicians freely give it out because they think they're speaking to someone they're not. It's probably a good idea that governments around the world streamline their methods of communication then, maybe with, I don't know, encrypted messaging services. [The Guardian via The Telegraph]