John Holdren, President Obama’s senior adviser on science and technology, is one of the latest government officials to be targeted by hackers, the White House has confirmed.
Phone calls placed with the home and cell phone numbers for Mr. Holdren, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), were being automatically forwarded to a hotline for the Free Palestinian Movement this week after a hacker gained access to the official’s Comcast account, Motherboard reported on Tuesday.
The alleged perpetrator, an ex-member of the defunct hacking collective Crackas With Attitude (CWA) identified by the website only as “Fearz,” accomplished the hack by tricking Mr. Holdren’s wife into giving up the password to the couple’s Comcast Xfinity account, two former members of the group explained to Motherboard.
“[Fearz] sent [Holdren’s wife] Cheryl an email claiming to be John LOL,” a former CWA hacker known as “Cracka” told Motherboard. “[S]omething like ‘Hey honey, do you have the password for our joint Xfinity account? I lost it.’ “
Once the hacker had the password, he reportedly logged on to the White House official’s account and changed the settings so that all of his phone calls would instead be routed to a number for the Free Palestine Movement, a California-based nonprofit, exactly as hackers did one week earlier with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Paul Larudee, the founder of the Free Palestine Movement, told Motherboard that he received a phone call on Monday morning from an individual who told him he would be receiving calls intended for Mr. Larudee, and said that he recognized the voice on the other end of the line as the same person who warned him last week ahead of pranking the spy chief.
“I did it again,” the hacker reportedly told the Free Palestinian Movement founder.
A spokesperson for the White House OSTP declined to comment when reached by Motherboard aside from confirming that the agency’s director had indeed been targeted.
“We are aware of this issue and have reported it to law enforcement,” the representative reportedly said.
Within the last year, CWA successfully breached the AOL account of CIA Director John Brennan and an email account belonging to the FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano, among others, which prompted the FBI to issue a bulletin warning politicians and law enforcement agents to implement security measures to avoid having their online accounts similarly compromised.
After Mr. Clapper’s account was breached last year, whistleblower group WikiLeaks published sensitive documents that had been pilfered from his inbox.