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Feds search Palin hack suspect's flat

Investigators interrupt student party

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Federal investigators served a search warrant on a suspect in the Sarah Palin webmail hack case in the early hours of Sunday morning.

They reportedly interrupted a student party to search the apartment of David Kernell, 20, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Reports of the raid itself remain confused amid reports that Kernell and his flatmates fled the scene.

No charges have been filed against Kernell or anyone else yet, but his three roommates have been served with court summons, Wired reports. A grand jury is reportedly due to convene and consider the case in Chattanooga on Tuesday.

Kernell - son of state democrat rep Mike Kernell - came to the attention of the feds after his email address was linked to an admission in a post on the 4Chan discussion board made under the pseudonym of Rubico.

Rubico claimed he was easily able to break into the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate's email account after resetting her password to popcorn, after a modicum of internet research and a little guesswork turned up the likely responses the three challenge questions needed. Palin's date of birth, zip address and information on where she met her husband were all that were needed to reset the gov.palin@yahoo.com account.

Not much of political substance was revealed by the attack. Screenshots of the webmail account posted on the net showed the hacker used a web proxy service called Ctunnel.com in an attempt to cover his tracks. But he slipped up badly by posting the full URL of screenshots. As previously reported, Ctunnel.com Gabriel Ramuglia is in touch with federal investigators and willing to turn over Ctunnel.com logs, a move likely to yield valuable clues.

The affair highlights concerns about how easy it might be to reset a target's webmail account. Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail all use similar systems. Political questions have also been raised by Palin's use of a webmail account on government business.

Virus writers have wasted little time in posting booby-trapped webpages that pose as screenshot's from Palin's email account, net security firm Aladdin Knowledge Systems reports. Palin aides shut down the account following the attack. ®

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