Home News Gmail Account Hacked, Personal E-mails Circulated

Gmail Account Hacked, Personal E-mails Circulated

by Archives February 17, 2009

A handful of Concordia Student Union (CSU) members awoke Wednesday to find their e-mail inboxes stuffed with over 20 messages from a sender named “ALG Concordia.”
The e-mails, forwarded to CSU executives and some councillors as well as campus media, contained private communications held between several student politicians.
The account from which the e-mails were sent belonged to CSU councillor Alejandro Lobo-Guerrero, although he denied sending the messages. “My account was hacked by someone,” he alleged.
He also raised questions regarding the legitimacy of the e-mails, claiming some had been altered. Lobo-Guerrero said he has gone to police to file a report, and that an investigation is under way.
Regardless of whether or not any content within the e-mails was altered, the act of hacking into someone’s account is criminal. “The Criminal Code prevents people from breaking into an account,” said Dr. Sunny Handa professor of law at McGill University. “Breaking in to the account violated the account owner’s privacy and the privacy of anybody else whose messages were in those e-mails.”
Reprinting the e-mails in any form would be a further invasion of the concerned parties’ privacy, Handa said.
When a “cyber-crime” occurs, a victim or witness should make it known to police. “The crime is unauthorized use of a computer and server,” Handa said.
An investigation into this type of crime can be difficult to close. “For police to get a warrant, you have to be able to prove that, at this time and this place, someone used this IP address to break in to an e-mail account,” Handa said.
An officer from the fraud unit with the Montreal Police Service said this kind of investigation can sometimes take up to six months.
The penalty for breaking into an e-mail account is dependant on many factors. The perpetrator would likely receive a fine and a criminal record.
Not every CSU councillor received copies of the forwarded messages last week. Louise Birdsell Bauer, one of the CSU councillors implicated in the e-mails, did not receive a copy. She said it appeared the list of recipients was deliberate and malevolent. “They were forwarded to councillors who are not suspected of being rebels,” she said. “They were sent with a purpose of defaming a specific group.”
Fearing someone might find these communications and use them maliciously, Birdsell Bauer said she deleted all records “a few weeks ago.
“Call it a ‘trick of the trade,'” she said.
Glancing quickly at the e-mails councillors and media received from ALG Concordia, she said she noticed some information had been fabricated. “Negative comments about [certain councillors] were completely untrue,” she said. There is no proof of this, however, since nobody provided original copies of the e-mails in question.
Brent Farrington, interim chairperson for CSU, printed the series of messages and passed them around to councillors at a recent council meeting, held the same day the e-mails were made public.
The e-mails, as they were presented to council, suggest a group of student politicians were working to taint the reputation of the current CSU executive. “My executive has been accused of everything under the sun,” said Elie Chivi, CSU VP communications. Now, he said, it appears the individuals implicated in the e-mails “were working within a web to bring down the CSU executive.”

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