A number of White House officials were reportedly fooled by a self-styled “email prankster” based in the U.K. who posed as other senior White House figures to solicit responses. On one occasion, an official in charge of U.S. cybersecurity mistook the prankster as President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and disclosed his personal email address unprompted, CNN reports.
“Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soirée towards the end of August,” the prankster wrote to Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert from an Outlook email account purportedly belonging to Kushner, reports CNN. “It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible (sic) quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening.”
Bossert replied: “Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can’t refuse,” Bossert reportedly answered, then went on to provide his personal email address without being prompted. CNN said it had obtained copies of the emails in question, parts of which were also shared by the prankster on Twitter under the handle @SINON_REBORN.
The mystery emailer also posed as other administration figures, including Eric Trump and Russian ambassador-designate Jon Huntsman. Masquerading as former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the anonymous prankster also engaged in a lengthy exchange with Anthony Scaramucci, who at the time was serving as the White House Communications Director before being fired Monday.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged the incident, telling CNN that the administration takes “all cyber related issues very seriously” will be “looking into these incidents further.” The individuals involved in the email exchanges, however, declined to comment.
The prankster, who refers to himself as a “lazy anarchist” in his Twitter bio, carried out similar shenanigans earlier this year, emailing several bank executives to see if he could elicit a response. “I try and keep it on the humorous side of things,” he told CNN. “I’m not trying to get the keys to the vault or anything like that.”
Experts told CNN the prank highlighted just how vulnerable officials are to spear-phishing tactics, which are among the most common techniques used by hackers to gain access to users’ private information. John Podesta, then campaign chairman for former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, infamously fell for a similar phishing scam that gave hackers a direct line into his emails. Luckily for the White House, this messenger does not appear to have had any ill intentions.