It all started with a snipped on page A23 of Thursday’s Washington Post, which notified the public that the McCain-Palin campaign was going to sell off its used office inventory at low prices. Then, it turned into a high-tech slip-up in which the campaign headquarters accidentally sold an information-ridden BlackBerry to a Fox reporter.
Although the sale didn’t look like much when reporter Tisha Thompson arrived at the sale, she did find BlackBerry smartphones going for just $20 apiece. All of the batteries had died, and there weren’t any chargers for sale, but Thompson bought a couple anyway.
When she returned to the office and charged up one of the dead BlackBerries, Thompson found more than 50 phone numbers for people connected with the campaign, along with hundreds of emails from as early as September up until a few days after election night. Fox traced the BlackBerry to a staffer who worked for Citizens for McCain, a group of democrats who threw their support behind the Republican candidate.
Some of the emails contained an insider’s look at how the grassroots operations worked, including scheduling questions and cries for support. Most of the phone numbers were private cell phones for campaign leaders, politicians, lobbyists, and journalists.
At the sale, Thompson also saw laptops ranging between $400 and $600. They had logins such as WARROOM08 that prevented anyone from logging on without a password. Staffers assured Thompson and her crew that the hard drive would be zapped before it was sold, and that the computer would likely work.
After discovering the data, Fox contacted the McCain-Palin campaign who simply stated, “It was an unfortunate staff error, and procedures are being put in place to ensure all information is secure.”
It’s hard to say if Thompson and her team were the only ones who received an information-filled BlackBerry or if others remained as well. Regardless, with the number of information breaches and leaks now days, you’d think that everyone would know that it’s in your best interest to double-check that all data is removed BEFORE you sell any type of electronic device containing personal information.