Experts Don't Yahoo! Over Palin's E-Mail Practices

Palin's e-mail habits echo worst practices of Bush administration says expert.

ByABC News
September 18, 2008, 9:40 AM

Sept. 18, 2008— -- It's not a great idea to run a government using Yahoo! e-mail accounts.

That's the word from experts, anyway, reacting to news that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's Yahoo! e-mail had been hacked earlier this week. McCain's vice-presidential pick reportedly used the accounts to communicate with key aides about government business.

The practice is dangerous, said experts, and can run counter to laws ensuring government is open and accountable -- a tough point for Palin, who has made "open government" a catchphrase of her political identity.

By using non-governmental email systems, "Your information is out there available, beyond the official mechanisms there to protect it," said Amit Yoran, the nation's first cybersecurity chief. Yoran is now CEO of Netwitness Corp., a computer security firm for government and private entities.

"When she's communicating about government programs, that information is not being protected with the typical precautions the government has put in place in its own risk management process," said Yoran.

Moreover, a hacked account could be used to falsify communications, noted Yoran – a point proven by one of the hackers, who used Palin's account to send a message to one of her assistants.

Two Yahoo! email accounts belonging to Palin were hacked early Tuesday by a group calling itself 'Anonymous'. Screen shots of her inbox were posted online, as well as a screenshot showing an email of an apparently personal nature from a Palin appointee to the governor.

Palin's use of the private account to discuss public business – a practice reportedly shared by her top aides – also raised concerns from open-government advocates, who fear the practice could impede the spirit of laws designed to preserve government communications and documents.

Recently, Palin's office has fought to withhold some emails from public release, saying they were exempt from disclosure because state law protected certain categories of communication, such as those related to the "deliberative process."