Skip to main content

Bush email hacking a wake up call

By Christopher Wolf, Special to CNN
February 9, 2013 -- Updated 2248 GMT (0648 HKT)
President George H.W. Bush, left, and his son President George W. Bush appear at a World Series game in October 2010.
President George H.W. Bush, left, and his son President George W. Bush appear at a World Series game in October 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bush family e-mails were hacked, private contents posted online
  • Chris Wolf: Many offended, some amused, but all concerned about privacy
  • Wolf: Users have options already established to protect private information
  • Wolf: Use password for WiFi, use two-step verification for e-mail

Editor's note: Christopher Wolf leads the privacy and information management practice at Hogan Lovells US LLP and is the founder and co-chairman of the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank dedicated to advancing privacy.

(CNN) -- When news broke that six e-mail accounts belonging to members of the Bush family were hacked and some of the contents posted online, reactions ranged from being offended to amusement.

Many people objected to the leak of family exchanges reflecting contingency planning for the funeral of President George H.W. Bush. If ever a family deserves privacy, it is when dealing with the death, or impending death, of a loved one.

Others seized on the semi-nude bathing self-portraits of President George W. Bush to resume ridicule not seen since he left office.

Christopher Wolf
Christopher Wolf

And virtually everyone took the episode as a warning that "this can happen to you."

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



The Bush family email hack comes on the heels of reports of hacking at universities and major newspapers, and it follows urgent government warnings against our fragile cybersecurity defenses.

So, do the average users of online e-mail and Web services simply have to assume that hacking will expose their personal messages and photos? Not necessarily.

New York Times says it was hacked
2011: What Chinese hackers look for

The recent spate of security breaches and the attention focused on them will mean that government and businesses will up their game even more to secure our information infrastructure. But the security reinforcement might take time.

In the meantime, people have options to protect their information and themselves. Privacy and data security is a shared responsibility, after all, and users have a role to play.

Some Web-based e-mail services like Google's Gmail offer tools to add an extra layer of protection. Gmail offers a two-step verification to add an extra layer of security.

Such protection erects a double gate against unwanted interception. Through two-step verification, in addition to user name and password, you enter a code that the e-mail provider will send via text, voice call or on a mobile app.

Two-step verification drastically reduces the chances of someone stealing the personal information from your e-mail account because hackers would have to not only get a password and your user name, they would also have to have access to the mobile phone to which the code is sent.

And while you are taking steps to secure your e-mail, you would be well-advised to make sure your WiFi connection is secure.

Wireless routers are ubiquitous, allowing you to share your internet connection and files around the house. But without securing your router, anyone within range can access the websites you visit and may be able to access your personal information. Securing your WiFi router with a password is an easy step to take, and it is often overlooked.

If you want to get a little more technical, take a look at whether the website you are using to transmit information is using HTTPS -- hypertext transfer protocol secure. HTTPS encrypts your data so that it cannot be intercepted during transmission.

You will find that your banking transactions almost always will be conducted through the HTTPS protocol. For an extra level of security, check to see if other websites you use offer HTTPS for transmission.

So instead of throwing up your hands that Web-based e-mail and online data transfers can never be secure, seek out and use the security tools that already exist.

And no matter what your political persuasion, thank the Bush family for the wake-up call.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Christopher Wolf.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT