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Home » Technology » Cybersecurity » Romney’s Tax Returns Hacked/Stolen & Threatened for Release

Someone anonymously claims to have stolen Romney’s tax returns, sends data to Republican and Democratic leaders, and threatens to release the information publicly unless Romney pays $1 million.

The U.S. Secret Service is looking into claims that this unknown person has hacked PriceWaterhouseCooper (PWC) to obtained the tax returns of the presidential nominee and the threats to release them. The agency is still investigating but has given no comment yet.

The claim was made on a PasteBin post and details how copies were sent and how they can be verified. In short, it reads that a team gained access to the third floor of a PWC office in Tennessee, went downstairs to the second floor, and throughout the night managed to make copies (paper and digital) of Romney’s 1040 tax returns. Copies of the tax returns were distributed on flash drives to Republican and Democratic county leaders as well as to the PWC office.

Yesterday, another PasteBin post indicates that news outlets will be given encrypted copies of the tax returns. If Romney does not pay the $1 million dollars (to be transferred into a BitCoin account), the key will be made public on September 28. Similarly, for the immediate release of the encryption key, another BitCoin account has been setup for anyone else to contribute a $1 million equivalent.

PricewaterhouseCoopers released a statement saying it had not found evidence of a system breach. “We are aware of the allegations that have been made regarding improper access to our systems,” the statement said. “We are working closely with the United States Secret Service, and at this time there is no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question.”

Romney’s campaign headquarters in Fairfax, Va., did not respond to a request for comment.

Both the Democratic and Republican party offices in Williamson County where the PWC office is located received packages late last week with thumb drives, but it is unknown what was on the storage devices.  A package containing a sheet of paper with the hackers’ message and a thumb drive arrived at the offices of the Williamson County Democratic Party in Franklin, Tennessee, last Thursday afternoon or early evening, Peter Burr, chairman of the county Democratic Party, told CNET today.

“I opened it and found inside a piece of paper folded into quarters and a black Cruzer 4 gig thumb drive,” Burr said. He said he handed over the package, letter and thumb drive to the Secret Service without making any copies or looking to see what was on the thumb drive.  “Unfortunately, I have nothing in the way of evidence that I can give you other than a representation of what the letter said,” he added. “We almost threw the letter away. We passed it around and it drew some laughs.”

Jean Barwick, executive director of the Williamson County Republican party, similarly described the package and contents that workers in her office found on the ground outside the front door last Friday morning.  “It didn’t look credible,” she said, explaining why she didn’t report it to authorities until today. “It was handwritten with magic marker.”

Burr also said he received a phone call from a Secret Service agent on Wednesday morning after county GOP officials reported their drive to the authorities. But he lost his chance to have a look when he handed over the documents.

“I asked them if they would be able to get back to us and let us know if anything came of it from their end and they said ‘no,’” he said.

Mario Stylianou


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