March 12th, 2013
07:10 PM ET
2 years ago

Officials investigate purported web posting of private info on first lady, others

Washington (CNN) - The Secret Service and FBI are investigating how personal information purported to relate to first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former first lady Hillary Clinton ended up on an Internet site, officials said Tuesday. It was not clear how much of the information was accurate and whether it was obtained through hacking or by scrutinizing public records.

Asked about the hacking in an interview Tuesday, President Barack Obama couldn't confirm the details of the incident, but said "we should not be surprised that if you've got hackers who want to dig in and devote a lot of resources, that they can access peoples' private information. It is a big problem."

He was speaking to ABC News.

The FBI also is looking into postings of information about a number of high-profile celebrities and other public figures. The site claims to have Social Security numbers, addresses of homes and financial information for a variety of people, including Beyonce, Jay Z, Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton, Ashton Kutcher, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder. Others listed include former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and wrestler Hulk Hogan. The amount of purported information on each person varies.

On Tuesday afternoon the website added information it said involved former Vice President Al Gore.

"We will confirm the Secret Service is investigating the matter," Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said in response to inquiries about material posted on Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Biden. "We cannot comment further as it is an ongoing matter."

But as an indication the situation is being treated seriously, a law enforcement official told CNN that investigators will seek administrative subpoenas to obtain records from Internet service providers. "This is a potentially complex investigation and it will take some time," the law enforcement official said.

An FBI official said it's possible the information posted was available from publicly available sources. Some of the information, including a number of addresses, could be obtained from public records. Some public records also contain part of an individual's Social Security number.

The material posted on the website - which CNN is not naming - has entire Social Security numbers, but law enforcement officials would not comment on the accuracy of the postings.

The material allegedly involving the first lady has a message at the top saying, "Blame your husband, we still love you, Michelle."

The site posted what it claims is a TransUnion credit report on Obama listing bank accounts, credit cards, and mortgage information.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked whether the information on the web is accurate, referred all questions to the Secret Service.

The Los Angeles Police Department said it has been getting a lot of inquiries about the posted information; Officer Bruce Borihanh said the department isn't saying whether it's accurate.

Borihanh said the department and federal investigators are working to find out where the information came from and "whether any of it was illegally obtained."

Two credit agencies said some of their reports were fraudulently obtained. Equifax and TransUnion did not name the people whose records were improperly accessed, but said that whoever was behind it had personally identifiable information. The agencies said they are working with law enforcement officials. TransUnion said its systems "were not hacked or compromised in any way."

A former Justice Department cyber-crime prosecutor said the celebrities and public figures may have been victims of "dox" attacks. Marc Zwillinger said perpetrators of such attacks obtain personal data to seek records and then put them online where anyone can see the information.

Zwillinger and other experts said people go looking for Social Security numbers and birth dates and don't necessarily need to hack into computers to find the information, with which they can impersonate an individual to obtain credit reports.

Evan Hendricks, the author of "Credit Scores & Credit Reports" said the information posted on the website about Michelle Obama and other high profile people has "no obvious signs it's bogus, but only the person themselves would really know if it's legit."

Hendricks said credit bureaus often lock the profiles of well-known people to protect the information.

"This is a grotesque invasion of privacy," Hendricks said.

CNN's Dugald McConnell, Brian Todd, Terry Frieden and Emily Fox contributed to this report.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Joe Biden • Michelle Obama • Secret Service
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. cat

    She's on the phone planning her next very expensive vacation that the hard working middle class tax payer will have to pay for. Sure wish I could afford to take our family on a vacation, but with Obama's dismal economy, we can't. Just trying to keep gas in the car at these Obama high gas prices is killing us.

    March 12, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  2. ALittleBird

    "The site claims to have Social Security numbers, addresses of homes and financial information for a variety of people .... "
    Hmmm, I wonder if it has copies of Mitt Romney's tax returns.

    March 12, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  3. a little sad

    Stories like this always make me glad I'm a "nobody".

    March 12, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Seth A Drekin

    @Cat You can't blame the President or the First Lady for your personal finances. Maybe they had a little bit of luck along the way, but they worked for what they have achieved and you could too.

    March 12, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Yeah im with you on that. Im glad you are a nobody......

    March 12, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  6. a little sad

    J'Cincinnati'Redd

    "Yeah im with you on that. Im glad you are a nobody......"

    That was mean, but I'm alright with that. Peace, sweety.

    March 12, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. cat

    Seth A Drekin

    @Cat You can't blame the President or the First Lady for your personal finances. Maybe they had a little bit of luck along the way, but they worked for what they have achieved and you could too.
    **************************************************************************************************************

    What to bet, Seth, just like you and folks just like you blamed Bush for everything. By the way, I'm not blaming we have to pay for her expensive vacations, I'm stating a fact we the hard working middle class tax payer has to pay for her vacations. No blame here, just the truth.

    March 12, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  8. Bob

    cat

    She's on the phone planning her next very expensive vacation that the hard working middle class tax payer will have to pay for. Sure wish I could afford to take our family on a vacation, but with Obama's dismal economy, we can't. Just trying to keep gas in the car at these Obama high gas prices is killing us.

    -------------------------------------------–

    One more sign... you just can't fix stupid.

    March 12, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. Wake up People!

    And who's surprised??? The GOP have pulled every trick in the book since 2008, everybody and their mama knows they are simply looking for SOMETHING to bring President Obama down.

    Can anyone say Benghazi??

    March 12, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. Bob

    Hmmm, I wonder if it has copies of Mitt Romney's tax returns.
    ------------------------------------------–

    If it does, I'm sure whoever posted them is already dead.

    March 12, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Bill Ayers

    @seth a drekin. I agree with you to an extent. But then again the obama's didn't build their political careers. Someone had to help them along the way. Don't believe it? Look up Barak's comments from last election year. Sorry but you cannot have it both ways.

    March 12, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Debbie

    @cat, when other Presidents take vacations at the expense of the tax payers, how do you feel about that??? The Obama's are only getting the same thing that other presidents and their families get....Not sure why you would think they shouldn't....Gas has NOTHING to do with the President, stop spending money unwisely and you could probably take your family on a vacation....I have not had a vacation since before Bush, 2001.....

    March 12, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. lottie

    sounds phoney to me a number listed for the vp Biden was a feed store. Sounds like repos trying to create a stir no mitts not on the list neither is paul ryan or any of them.

    March 12, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    @sad we are all somebody and so are you. We may not be well known by the general public but we all contribute one way or the other. Blessings.

    March 12, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |