Feeds

Email snafu gifts federal informants' names to press

Witless protection

Build a business case: developing custom apps

An email error inadvertently disclosed the names of more than 20 confidential informants in a federal investigation to reporters.

An official in US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's Chicago office mistakenly attached a sensitive document listing the names to a press release announcing criminal charges against two men - John Walsh and Charles Martin - accused of a multi-million dollar fraud. Walsh and Martin were partners in a foreign-exchange dealing firm called One World Capital Group that recently went bust, leaving behind suspicions that its executives had systematically defrauded customers out of $15m, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Instead of just including a copy of a 62-page complaint, the legal bungler also including a one page document listing the real names of 25 sources, identified only anonymously in the main document. These witnesses included a former One World Capital staffer alongside aggrieved customers, and two investment groups.

Copies of the document - with names blanked out - were posted on the Smoking Gun website here. The email error was quickly discovered, prompting a second message asking reporters to get rid of the first document, in a magnificent example of closing the virtual barn door after the horse has galloped into everyone's inbox.

This kind of electronic slip-up is rare but not unprecedented. Back in October 2007 a clerical error meant that anyone passing on information to the US House's Committee on the Judiciary received an email containing the email addresses of 150 other would-be whistle blowers. The slip-up reportedly happened after a junior staffer failed to realise the difference between to "To" and bcc fields in an email advising about changes in the website.

In the same month, a glitch on an email list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security turned it into a social networking utility, of sorts. A change of email request was broadcast to the entire list, instead of just the the administrators of the DHS's Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report.

People replied to this message, again to the whole list, which had the effect of disclosing names, telephone numbers and other personal details they had in their email signatures to all and sundry, as well as generating a message storm. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Rupert Murdoch says Google is worse than the NSA
Mr Burns vs. The Chocolate Factory, round three!
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Germany 'accidentally' snooped on John Kerry and Hillary Clinton
Dragnet surveillance picks up EVERYTHING, USA, m'kay?
Know what Ferguson city needs right now? It's not Anonymous doxing random people
U-turn on vow to identify killer cop after fingering wrong bloke
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.