Hackers were able to intercept a classified online phone call between the FBI and the UK’s Scotland Yard in January because a member of An Garda Síochána, the Irish national police force, forwarded an email invite, that had been sent to his work account, to his personal Gmail account, which had been hacked.
According to documents released by the United States Attorney’s Office in New York today an Irish hacker hacked into the personal email account of two members of the Gardaí, one of whom “routinely sent email messages” to his Gmail account.
The FBI reports that, in total, two Garda Gmail accounts were compromised as was the iCloud account for “the supervisor of the Garda’s cybercrime unit.”
Speaking about the hacked email account containing the invite the United States Attorney’s Office said;
“Because the Garda officer had forwarded work emails to a personal account, [the hacker] learned information about how to access a conference call that the Garda, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies were planning to hold on January 17, 2012, regarding international investigations of Anonymous and other hacking groups.”
It is understood this is the phone call which was released online in early February, during which the FBI and Scotland Yard discussed hacking and cybercrime matters.
According to the indictment documents released today, the Gmail accounts were hacked in December 2011 or January 2012.
The indictment reads,
“Based in part on information provided to the FBI by An Garda Síocána, the National Police Service of Ireland (the “Garda”). I know that in or about December 2011/January 2012, the personal Gmail webmail accounts of two Garda officers (the “Garda Officers”) were compromised by a computer hacker (the Compromised Gmail Accounts”). I also know that one of the Garda Officers whose accounts were compromised routinely sent email messages from an official Garda email account to one of the Compromised Gmail Accounts.
“…I know that in or about January 2012. email messages were circulated among various FBI agents and foreign law enforcement officers, including law enforcement officers in Ireland, for the purpose of scheduling a conference call on January 17, 2012 to discuss law enforcement investigations of Anonymous and other hacking groups. These email messages contained a telephone number and pasecode that was to be used to access the conference call. Based upon information provided by the Garda [sic] to the FBI, I know that one of the Garda Officers forwarded these emails to one of the Compromised Gmail Accounts.”
The indictment goes on to say that “in and about January” the compromised Gmail accounts were accessed 146 times using the virtual private network Perfect Privacy. The report also suggests that the compromised iCloud account belonged to one of the officers whose Gmail account was hacked.
With access to the iCloud account the FBI reports that the hacker claimed he could track the Garda’s movements in realtime. The hacker boasted in one IM,
“I just got into the iCloud for the head of a national police cybercrime unit. I have all his contacts and can track his location 24/7”
Speaking to this site today the Gardaí said said that the hacking of officers’ personal accounts is “subject to an ongoing investigation by the Gardaí.”