John McCain and Sarah Palin’s leaky data

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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Sarah Palin using her BlackBerry

The dramatic US election campaign brought with it a swathe of computer security stories this year.

Amongst other headlines, we saw Sarah Palin’s email account being hacked, malware posing as sex videos or victory speeches from Barack Obama, and spammers claiming John McCain had died from a heart attack.

Now word reaches us that the losing McCain-Palin team sold Blackberries to reporters last week still containing confidential information and emails.

Reporters Tisha Thompson and Rick Yarborough bought two Blackberries for $20 each at the “going out of business” sale, held at the former McCain-Palin campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

One of the Blackberries contained more than 50 phone numbers connected with the failed presidential election campaign, as well as “hundreds of emails from early September until a few days after election night”. According to the reporters, most of the phone numbers were the personal cell phone details for politicians, lobbyists, journalists and campaign leaders.

The latest Sophos Security Threat Report discussed the potential for more data leaks as businesses lay off staff in response to economic downturn, and sell unwanted hardware. It seems a careless breach of security policy – by not ensuring that all sensitive data has been wiped – has brought this danger home to the political parties too.

(Image of Sarah Palin using her BlackBerry from

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the cybersecurity industry, having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.