Report: Obama's cell records improperly accessed

Verizon Wireless tells Obama reps that workers improperly accessed records of a cell phone the president-elect used recently, exposing calls and phone numbers but not e-mail, according to a CNN report.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

President-elect Barack Obama's cell phone billing records were improperly accessed by employees of Verizon Wireless, CNN reported late on Thursday.

Obama's transition team was informed of the breach by Verizon Wireless representatives on Wednesday, team spokesman Robert Gibbs told the news agency. The Secret Service has been informed, Gibbs said.

The phone, a voice flip-phone with no e-mail access, is no longer active or being used by Obama, the report said. Lists of phone numbers and calls made by Obama could have been accessed, but "nobody was monitoring voicemail," Gibbs is quoted as saying.

Verizon Wireless has notified federal law enforcement authorities, Verizon Wireless President and Chief Executive Lowell McAdam wrote in an internal company e-mail distributed on Wednesday that CNN obtained. In a press statement, McAdam wrote:

"This week we learned that a number of Verizon Wireless employees have, without authorization, accessed and viewed President-Elect Barack Obama's personal cell phone account. The account has been inactive for several months. The device on the account was a simple voice flip-phone, not a BlackBerry or other smartphone designed for e-mail or other data services."

"All employees who have accessed the account - whether authorized or not - have been put on immediate leave, with pay. As the circumstances of each individual employee's access to the account are determined, the company will take appropriate actions. Employees with legitimate business needs for access will be returned to their positions, while employees who have accessed the account improperly and without legitimate business justification will face appropriate disciplinary action."

"We apologize to President-Elect Obama and will work to keep the trust our customers place in us every day."

Employees who viewed the records without authorization could be fired, McAdam said in the internal e-mail.

This is the latest in a string of technology-related security incidents to hit this election season. Earlier this month, Newsweek reported that PCs used by the campaigns of Obama and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain were compromised last summer.

In September, McCain's running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin had her Yahoo e-mail account broken into. And back in April, someone exploited a weakness in the Web site for Obama's campaign and redirected some visitors to then-Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's site.