Skip to main content

Bush email hacking a wake up call

By Christopher Wolf, Special to CNN
updated 5:48 PM EST, Sat February 9, 2013
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
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT