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CIA Director John Brennan speaks out on email hack

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan takes questions from reporters during a press conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, December 11, 2014.


WASHINGTON - CIA Director John Brennan says the hack of his personal email account underscores that everyone is vulnerable to the compromise of personal information on the Internet.

Brennan spoke about the matter for the first time at a George Washington University conference co-sponsored by the CIA. He said he was outraged by the publication of sensitive data, including his contact list and his wife's Social Security number. The hacker has said he is a high school student protesting U.S. policy. He has said he fooled Verizon into providing him access to Brennan's account.

Brennan said he was annoyed that some media accounts suggested impropriety on his part, but he did not cite any in particular outlets. The CIA director said he did nothing wrong.

The alleged hacker has said he got access to Brennan's account -- as well as that of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson -- more through interpersonal trickery than any particular technological acumen.

With the help of a few other people, the hacker told Wired, he used a reverse phone number lookup to determine that Brennan has a Verizon Wireless account. He called the company, posing as a technician whose "tools were down" to get details on the mobile phone account, including Brennan's AOL email address.

Then, he called AOL and told the representative he was locked out of his account. Using details gleaned from Verizon, he got AOL to reset the password. This allowed the group to access Brennan's email on October 12, where they uncovered, among another things, a spreadsheet of people, including senior intelligence officials, along with their Social Security numbers that is believed to date back to at least 2009.