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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Did hackers acquire Romney's tax returns?

A group of hackers says that they broke into PriceWaterhouseCooper and snagged the tax returns of Mitt Romney and his wife. This Pastebin posting shows a message from the alleged hackers:
Romney's 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied. A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney's tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives.

The group will release all available files to the public on the 28 of September, 2012
A manila envelope containing a thumb drive was slipped into the mail slot of Democratic Party headquarters in Williamson County, Tennessee.
Peter Burr, the chairman of the Williamson County Democratic Party, said he thought the package was “obviously a scam.”

“We did not plug the thumb drive into anything,” Burr told TPM. “I almost threw this thing away when we got it.”

A similar package was discovered at the offices of the Williamson County Republican Party last Friday.
Well, I would have plugged in that thumb drive. (Not into my main computer, of course: One must be wary of viruses.)

Allegedly, the hackers want a million bucks from the Romney camp to safeguard this presumably-damning information. The money is to be sent via Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer no-bank money transfer system. (Gotta look into that!)

As you read, bear in mind: The story is quite young, so some details are confusing at the moment.

If I understand correctly, it seems that the thumb drives contain the tax returns in encrypted form. If the ransom is not met, the hackers will send out a key which will decode the files.

But where's the proof that the thumb drives contain the goods? You would think that the hackers would include a partial, redacted version of the tax forms in non-encrypted form. Maybe they hackers did just that. The Secret Service has gotten involved; conceivably, they have asked that some details of the story remain hidden.

Another question: If the Secret Service has taken possession of the jump drives -- well, to whom do the hackers intend to send the key?

This article indicates that the alleged break-in was a physical robbery, not a computer hack. PriceWaterhouseCooper says that they have found no evidence of an intrusion.

My take: It all sounds a bit iffy. If there is any truth to this claim, then a million bucks isn't much recompense for so risky an operation. I'm reminded of the scene in Austin Powers when Dr. Evil would ask for "One million dollars!" -- and everyone, both on screen and off, would laugh at so paltry an amount. Conceivably, this caper is a Democratic party black bag job disguised by a million-buck ransom demand.

(I'm trying not to bash the Dems right now, but you know how wicked little theories just pop into my head...)
I would sooner attribute it to Karl Rove and his ilk as the deed appears to be more in line with the infamous TANG memos.
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