The FBI and the Secret Service have launched an investigation into an incident involving a teenaged hacker successfully cracking his way into the personal online accounts of CIA Director John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
According to the New York Post, a high school student claims he gained access to the private AOL account of the CIA Director, which contained many sensitive CIA files, including an application for top-secret security clearance. The Post interviewed the young hacker, who claims he didn’t hack the CIA Director for malicious reasons, but rather to demonstrate an opposition to United States foreign policy, especially pertaining to Palestine.
In addition to hacking the CIA Director, the high school student also claims to have hacked the private Comcast account of Jeh Johnson.
The identity of the teenager has not been revealed, but the FBI is considering seeking criminal charges for the high-level security breach.
“I think they’ll want to make an example out of him to deter people from doing this in the future,” said a source close to the agency.
At the time of the hacker’s interview, he said that law enforcement officials have not yet contacted him.
According to CNN, the CIA issued a statement acknowledging the CIA Director’s hacked account, as did the Department of Homeland Security.
“We don’t discuss the Secretary’s security information. We have forwarded this matter to the appropriate authorities,” said the DHS spokesperson.
Among the private files in the AOL account of the CIA Director was a list of Social Security Numbers and the personal information of many high-ranking American intelligence officials. The high school hacker even claimed to have found an official government letter that hints at the use of torture on suspected terrorists.
While no classified information appears to have been hacked or leaked from the CIA Director’s account, the teenager claims his actions were a calculated attempt to shame the United States government for the war crimes he believes they commit overseas.
“John and Jeh are both very big people and high-ranking people, so, I mean, if we hacked them, they would be ashamed,” he said. “But it was really because the government are killing innocent people, they also fund (Israel) for killing innocent people.”
Another source claimed that the CIA Director was hacked as a result of older officials not being as keen to Internet security.
“I can’t believe he did this to the head of the CIA. [The] problem with these older-generation guys is that they don’t know anything about cybersecurity, and as you can see, it can be problematic.”
CIA Director John Brennan [Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
In fact, the high school student claims hacking the CIA Director was remarkably easy to do. He used a hacking technique called “social engineering,” which utilizes information about an individual that’s already available to the public to acquire more personal information. The hacker was able to reset the AOL password of the CIA Director by tricking Verizon employees into giving him John Brennan’s private details. Once the hacker had access to his password, he could use the personal account however he pleased, and even lock the CIA Director out if he wanted to.
This isn’t the first time the unnamed hacker has toyed with CIA Director John Brennan. Since August, the teenager has been sending prank calls to the official, even reciting Brennan’s own Social Security Number to him.
“He waited a tiny bit and hung up,” said the hacker.
In anticipation of the FBI investigation, the hacker tweeted this message from the Twitter account @phphax:
If i go quiet on this account, the CIA losers have found me and I’m being tortured by their stupid methods of ruining a guys thoughts.
— cracka (@phphax) October 14, 2015
What would you do if you were CIA Director John Brennan in this situation?
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]