The Home Secretary, who said last week that “real people” do not want secure communications, fell for the hoaxer who pretended to be a senior Downing Street aide.
The email prankster, known as Sinon Reborn, a 39-year-old website designer from south Manchester, told the Guardian: “I managed to speak to a home secretary with relative ease on her personal email address.”
In the exchange, Reborn pretends to be Robbie Gibb, the newly-installed No 10 communications director.
Posing as Gibb, he wrote a message to Rudd’s public parliamentary address from a free email account.
He sent the same message to Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond, but neither responded.
Yet Rudd did respond, writing back from a personal Outlook account on 7 July: “Thanks for your email Robbie.
“I am delighted you are on board. We must have a chat when you are a bit settled …
“Meanwhile Mo [Hussein, Rudd’s special advisor] and I are working on plans to ensure we have some positive announcements during Aug, when I expect to be on holiday – at last! Best, Amber.”
Again as Gibb, Reborn replied: “Yes, a proper sit-down would be superb. I’m just finding my feet as I am sure you can imagine. I’m excited though.
“Positive announcements sound ideal! What is it you are working on, if you don’t mind me asking?
“Sadly a summer holiday for myself looks unlikely. Maybe autumn, unlike you I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve one as yet! Robbie.”
Yet after a two hour pause, Rudd returned to the exchange - this time appearing to have grown wise to the ruse.
She wrote: “Well, as you can imagine a few things on the agenda but getting tough on people impersonating others is definitely up there. Amber.”
Reborn said: “I replied again saying: ‘Don’t you think you should be more aware of cyber security if you are home secretary?’ and I never got a reply from that.”
A Home Office source told HuffPost UK on Wednesday night that the exchange was legitimate.
“The Home Secretary does not use her personal email address to discuss Government business,” the source said.
“As the email exchange shows, she rapidly established that this was a hoax and had only exchanged pleasantries up to that point.”
Announcing plans to crack down on apps that secure the communications of terror suspects, Rudd last week said “Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security.”
She added in a column for the Daily Telegraph: “Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family?
“So this is not about asking the companies to break encryption or create so called ‘back doors’.
“Companies are constantly making trade-offs between security and ‘usability’, and it is here where our experts believe opportunities may lie.”
Earlier this month, Reborn encouraged Trump’s ousted Communications Director, Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scarmucci, to send a series of bizarre messages to whom he believed was Reince Priebus, the now former White House chief of staff.
Reborn had earlier tricked the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney into replying to an email about a predecessor’s alleged drinking habits.
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