Emails released by the State Department Wednesday show that Russia-linked hackers tried to gain access to Hillary Clinton’s personal email no less than five times during her time as secretary of state.
According to the Associated Press, the phishing emails were disguised as New York speeding tickets and were sent to Clinton’s private email during a four-hour period on the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The email directed recipients to print the speeding tickets attached to the message. If Clinton opened any of the attachments, she would have given hackers permission to take control of her computer.
It is unknown whether the former secretary of state clicked on attachments, thereby exposing her email account to the hack. Her campaign insisted that there exists "no evidence" that the Democratic presidential candidate opened the attached files.
According to security researchers who examined the phishing messages in September 2011, the hacked computers would send information to at least three server computers abroad, one being in Russia, though that isn’t enough to indicate that Russian citizens or government sources were behind the attacks.
"We have no evidence to suggest she replied to this email or that she opened the attachment," Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill stated. "As we have said before, there is no evidence that the system was ever breached. All these emails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam."
Curiously, the presence of the phishing emails indicates that computer hackers had somehow obtained Clinton’s email address, which was not public, and knew enough to send her a phony speeding ticket from the state in which she lives.
Russian hackers are known to have launched cyber attacks on U.S. government computer systems. Defense officials confirmed in August that Russia was behind a "sophisticated cyber attack" on the Pentagon’s unclassified email system used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in July.
Moreover, personal email systems of government officials have fallen victim to Chinese cyber spies. Top secret documentation recently indicated that China has been accessing the private emails of many top Obama administration officials since at least April 2010, which overlaps with the time during which Clinton served as secretary of state.