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Vandals break into congressman's office, install Linux on PCs

Grimm: 'Very ignorant' attack

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A US congressmen has been left incensed after miscreants installed Linux on computers at his campaign office, possibly thrashing some data in the process.

Michael Grimm, a Republican who represents a district in New York covering Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, has slammed the weekend break-in to his offices on as a "politically motivated" crime against the democratic process.

"Whoever did this, the people responsible are very ignorant [sic], and they don't understand that this is not just an attack against me or my campaign," Grimm told the Staten Island Advance. "This is an attack against a federal campaign office, which is an attack on our democracy as a whole. It's an attack against what we stand for, for free elections."

Police sources told the New York Daily News that in the absence of evidence of forced entry to Grimm's campaign headquarters, the case is being investigated as an act of criminal mischief rather than a burglary. Three windows were broken at the offices, which were not fitted with a security alarm, on Saturday night. The damage was discovered by campaign staff on Sunday morning (23 September).

According to a statement by the Grimm campaign, large stones and concrete were thrown through the campaign office windows during or around the same time miscreants "corrupted and erased the hard-drive of the campaign computer server, which contains confidential campaign files and polling data", by installing Linux*.

Fortunately staff reportedly backed up hard drives hours before the crime. Staten Island Advance added that Linux was installed on the office computers without revealing the flavour of open-source OS the perps used or the number of machines affected.

The Grimm campaign said it keeps the personal information of its volunteers, such as addresses and phone numbers, at a separate location, so that information was not stolen or compromised.

Grimm characterised the break-in as cowardly and suggested it might be part of some wider dirty tricks campaign.

"Violence is violence. Throwing large stones and concrete through the window is an act of violence, and we've got to take it seriously," Grimm said. The incident follows the theft of lawn signs promoting Grimm's re-election bid as well as a "mysterious computer shutdown in the middle of the night" at Grimm campaign HQ.

First term congressman Grimm, 42, a former FBI agent and Marine, is running for re-election in November against Democrat Mark Murphy. A Murphy spokesman condemned the break-in.

In addition to the NYPD, US Capitol Police have also been notified about the break-in.

Grimm is the subject of a federal investigation into fundraising that took place during his successful 2010 campaign. Rival Murphy has called on Grimm to return controversial campaign contributions obtained via an Israeli businessman, which Murphy alleged had been extorted from the congregation of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto. ®

Bootnote

*Data from the congressman's computer would probably be recoverable, even after Linux was installed, according to data recovery experts. Simon Steggles, a director of UK-based computer forensics and data recovery firm Disklabs, said that data would be recoverable "unless the data on the hard drive has been overwritten… in which case, it will be impossible to recover."

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