Experts are trying to assess whether Hillary Clinton's decision to use a private email account as secretary of state compromised national security as well as governmental transparency and accountability to Congress, the National Journal
Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union said it was "irresponsible" for the "head of an agency that is going to be targeted by foreign intelligence services" to use a private email account.
If Clinton's account was compromised it could have exposed other government officials to having their own communications intercepted or tricked into opening malware, cybersecurity experts told NBC News.
In March 2013, Marcel Lazar Lehel, a Romanian hacker, infiltrated the AOL email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and later a Hillary Clinton campaign aide. The penetration offered up correspondence addressed to an email@example.com email address.
Blumenthal, no longer in government, sent the secretary policy memos about Egypt and Libya, some of which he attributed to confidential foreign sources, according to The Smoking Gun.
As secretary of state, Clinton might have been using a service that offers strict privacy protections such as Tor, or she could have had other private-sector encryption procedures in place, said Peter Singer of the nonpartisan New America Foundation, the Journal reported.
"If she is just sitting down and logging in to Google Mail or Hotmail over public Wi-Fi, that is much different than using a [virtual private network] to access a government server over an encrypted connection," cybersecurity expert Michael Ryan of South River Technologies told NBC. "That is something that needs to be investigated."
The Department of State said it had no reason to think that Clinton used her email account to send classified or highly secret material.
Under regulations then in place, Clinton was not required to use a government email account. Until Secretary of State John Kerry came into office, previous incumbents were not known to have exclusively relied on a government email address.
Nor is it certain that a State Department email account would have kept her nonclassified correspondence more secure than using a private email service. In 2014, hackers broke into
both the White House and the State Department's computer systems.
During Clinton's tenure, in 2010, Wikileaks exposed
hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables that had been purloined by then-Army Pvt. Bradley Manning.
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