Ms Rudd was lucky not to have given away any sensitive private information – beyond the fact that she is taking a holiday soon – before the “prankster”, who uses the name “Sinon Reborn” gave the game away.
But she chose to take part in an exchange on a personal email account, rather than the government’s more secure system. Why?
It is also notable that the hoaxer posed as the new Downing Street communications chief, former BBC bigwig Robbie Gibb.
Serious questions need to be asked about this. Ms Rudd’s decisions – to respond to a hoax email address, and to use her personal email account rather than the government’s system – represent a serious security risk.
This is a person with one of the most responsible jobs in the government.
Former US Secretary of State (equivalent to the UK’s Foreign Secretary) Hillary Clinton was investigated by the FBI – twice – after it was revealed that she relied on a personal email account for all her electronic correspondence.
Current US President Donald Trump beat her in last year’s Presidential election because he said she was “guilty as hell” of breaking the rules regarding government emails.
Democrats blamed the way that investigation was handled for Mrs Clinton’s loss of the election.
Now our Home Secretary is found to have been behaving in the same way – and giving out information to a hoaxer.
No doubt this will be treated as a joke and brushed under the carpet.
But who will be on the receiving end of her secrets next time?
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, has apparently fallen victim to an email hoaxer who has previously tricked members of Donald Trump’s inner circle and the governor of the Bank of England.
The hoaxer posed as a senior Downing Street aide and managed to hold an email conversation with the home secretary on her personal email account. Rudd revealed she was working with her special adviser Mohammed Hussein on a series of announcements to be made in August before realising she was corresponding with a hoaxer.
The self-styled “email prankster”, who uses the moniker Sinon Reborn, set up an email address in the name of Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s recently appointed communications chief, using the free email service GMX. He emailed Rudd’s publicly available parliamentary email address and she replied using a separate personal email account.
The “relative ease” with which the 39-year old website designer from south Manchester claims to have tricked Rudd is likely to be embarrassing for the home secretary, who has overall responsibility for cyber security.
One computer security expert warned that external email systems, such as Microsoft Outlook, which Rudd used with the hoaxer, are more vulnerable to intrusion than government email accounts.
When Rudd realised she was not talking to Gibb, she ended the correspondence, but not before she had talked about plans for “positive announcements” and a forthcoming holiday.
The anonymous hoaxer told the Guardian he decided to see if he could fool UK government ministers when he spotted that the prime minister had hired Gibb, a senior BBC journalist, to run Downing Street’s communications. He set up [email protected] and sent emails to publicly available addresses for Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and Rudd, saying it was “great to be on board and that I’d be talking to them at some stage and that if they’d got any questions, my door is always open”.
Only the home secretary replied.
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