In 2008, someone hacked the website of British MP Harriet Harman.
Harman, who was deputy leader of the Labour Party at the time, had a spoof message posted on her blog claiming that she had resigned and was switching to the Conservatives:
To friends, foes and fans,
Below is a copy of the resignation letter that landed on Gordon’s desk this morning.
I couldn’t be bothered to type a completely new one, seeing as Quentin Davies (LO-SER!) had written a perfectly good one here, I thought I’d just change the relevant sections… a swap for a swap if you like.
In another update, the hacked website claimed that Harman was lending her support to Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.
Oh dear oh dear. Of course, it wasn’t to be the last time that British parliamentarians were found to have a poor grasp of computer security.
So, why talk about this 2008 hack now? Well, we now know who hacked Harriet Harman’s website.
Last year, Kemi Badenoch was elected the conservative MP for Saffron Walden. Badenoch is perhaps not your typical Tory MP. She studied computer systems engineering at university, and has worked within as a software engineer and systems analyst.
And, when she starred in a video answering quirky questions, she revealed her naughty secret between giggles:
Interviewer: What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?
Kemi Badenoch: About 10 years ago I hacked into… a Labour MP’s website and I changed all the stuff in there to say nice things about Tories.
Breaking into someone else’s website is, of course, an offence under the Computer Misuse Act (unauthorised access), and changing its content is also an offence (unauthorised modification). No laughing matter.
It doesn’t matter a jot that Harriet Harman had such an appalling password.
The version of the video published on YouTube, perhaps sensibly, chose to edit out the naughty secret. But the Mail on Sunday managed to get its paws on a copy regardless last weekend.
This media interest motivated Badenoch to issue an apology, describing the incident as “a foolish prank over a decade ago, for which I apologise”.
With so much time having passed I don’t think Kemi Badenoch is going to find herself in any legal trouble, and Harriet Harman has forgiven her.
But regardless that Badenoch’s hack was motivated more by mischief than malice or money, I think it’s a pretty poor show. Badenoch was 28 years old at the time of the offence, and can hardly shrug off the incident as the result of a heady cocktail of political fervour and youthful exuberance.
To hear more about this incident, be sure to listen to the latest episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast: