Holding stolen documents for ransom a new cottage industry? Hackers alledgedly steal Mitt Romney’s tax returns

In William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer, cyber-criminals traffic in stolen information and data; now an anonymous group of hackers have claimed to have cracked into the servers of PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Franklin, Tenn. office and stolen Mitt Romney’s tax returns prior to 2010. I doubt that this is the kind of inventive entrepreneurship Romney has been touting on the campaign trail: ransoming stolen documents for start-up capital.

On Sunday, the presumptive data-kidnappers posted this ransom note on Pastebin, a site which allows people to paste text anonymonously:

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

This line is on all the package letters for authenticity of the email being sent.

all these considerations did not deter me from the path of duty

The hackers are demanding $1 million in digital currency (Bitcoins) from any takers, whether it’s Mitt Romney or TMZ. If payment is not forthcoming by a September 28th deadline, the group intends to release the purloined tax returns for all to see, stating that “the entire world will be allowed to view the documents with a publicly released key to unlock everything.” A package containing a letter and flash drive were each sent to the Tennessee offices of both Republican and Democratic parties.

Democratic Party Chairman Peter Burr said that the package looked rather amateurish. “We had an executive committee meeting at headquarters on Thursday night. When we arrived for the meeting we found this envelope on the floor, dropped through the mail slot,” Burr said. “It was a small, manila envelope with bubble wrap lining.” On the package “Dem Party Ldrs” was scrawled in thick green felt marker. Burr opened the package and “found inside a piece of paper folded into quarters and a black Cruzer 4 gig thumb drive,” Burr said. He said he handed over the package, letter, and thumb drive to the U.S. Secret Service without making any copies or looking to see what was on the thumb drive. “Unfortunately, I have nothing in the way of evidence that I can give you other than a representation of what the letter said,” he added. “We almost threw the letter away. We passed it around and it drew some laughs.”

Burr said that even if the contents had been authentic, he would not have released them to the public, preferring instead to turn them over to the U.S. Secret Service. “We considered this probably a scam and didn’t really think much of it until these inquiries began happening today,” he said. “Obviously, we would have no interest in obtaining information like this from a source like this as the Democratic Party. We’re very interested in knowing what Mitt Romney’s tax returns look like, but we would only be interested if it came from official sources.”

Jean Barwick, executive director of the Williamson County, Tenn. Republican Party gave a similar description of the package she received. The package had been dumped on the ground outside the front door of the Party’s office. “It didn’t look credible,” she said. “It was handwritten with magic marker.” The word ‘leaders’ was misspelled as ‘learders.’ Barwick also added, “A million dollars seemed kind of low. If you’re going to go for a million, why not go for $100 million.” Or MILLIONS!

PriceWaterhouseCooper spokesman, Chris Atkins, assured that “at this time there is no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question.”

For now, this appears to be just an unsophisticated hoax. For all we know it’s probably the work of giggly teenagers trying to pull a fast one or Somali pirates deciding to shift from water corridors to the information super highway. Most likely September 28th will arrive and pass into the 29th with no more travail than the Y2K ‘scare’ did. These ‘hackers’ might even be the same mooks who produced the error-ridden bogus Kenyan Obama birth certificates.

Posted in campaigns, GOP, Mitt Romney, Politics, Republicans, Tax returns and tagged , .