March 3, 2017 by

Vice President Pence Used AOL Email as Indiana Governor, Got Hacked

United States Vice President Mike Pence used his private AOL email account to conduct state business as governor of Indiana. His personal email account was hacked last summer.

According to a report from the Indianapolis Star, the publication requested public records to reveal that Pence had used his personal AOL account to communicate with advisors in a varying list of topics. One of the emails reportedly saw Pence’s homeland security adviser forward an update from the FBI about the arrests of several men on terror-related charges in the state.

Personal email accounts, while less secure than government email accounts, are not subject to the same transparency laws compared to official state accounts. In other words, it’s entirely up to the official to hand over sensitive emails for archiving purposes. Meanwhile, state account emails are, by default, stored on sate servers and can be accessed via a public records request.

The office of the vice president in Washington released a statement on Thursday, which read:

Similar to previous governors, during his time as Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account. As Governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention. Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity experts have opined that Pence’s emails are just as likely to be insecure as Hillary Clinton’s, the former presidential candidate who has seen plenty of criticism for her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

“In this case, you know the email address has been hacked,” said Cory Nachreiner, CTO at WatchGuard Technologies. “It would be hypocritical to consider this issue any different than a private email server.”

Pence’s account was hacked last summer by a scammer, who reportedly sent an email to the vice president’s contacts demanding an urgent transfer of money after claiming that Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines.

Public officials aren’t explicitly prohibited from using personal email accounts by Indiana law. However, it’s understood that official business and communication conducted via private platforms including emails ought to be archived as a public record.

The state’s public access counselor, Luke Britt, who was appointed by Pence in 2013 revealed he advises state officials to copy or forward all emails involving state businesses to their government accounts in order to preserve the record on state servers. However, the report claims there was no indication of Pence following those measures to archive his AOL emails until he was leaving the governor’s office.

Image credit: Flickr.

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LIFARS is a digital forensics and cybersecurity intelligence firm based in New York City. LIFARS is ranked as one of the top Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigations companies in 2016 and as one of the top cybersecurity companies in the New York metropolitan area for 2015 on the Cybersecurity 500 – a directory of the hottest and most innovative companies to watch in the cybersecurity industry.

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