Feds investigate alleged hacking of Romney’s tax returns

1040 Tax Form

Covered by Venturebeat earlier today, the United States Secret Service is looking into a claim that hackers stole several years worth of Mitt Romney’s tax returns from the offices of PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Franklin, Tennessee. Posted on Pastebin earlier this week, the hacking team that allegedly stole Romney’s tax returns detailed an account of the theft. According to the account, the thieves gained access to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers office on August 25 through the third floor of the office building. Moving down to the second floor, the group allegedly accessed the PriceWaterhouseCoopers office in question and copied scans of all available Romney tax returns to a USB drive. After leaving the offices, the hacking team allegedly copied the documents onto three USB drives. They had flash drives delivered to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers office as well as the local branches of the Republican and Democratic party.

romney-floridaAfter the group threatened to release all files to the public on September 28, they posted a follow-up threat on September 4 regarding payment by Bitcoins. Detailed in the second Pastebin post, the group claims to have accessed the network file servers at the Tennessee office of PriceWaterhouseCoopers and copied the tax documents. The second threat states that all major news organizations will be sent an encrypted copy of the files and the key to unlock Romney’s tax returns will be distributed on September 28. 

However, the group setup two separate Bitcoin addresses in an attempt to force a bidding competition between parties that want to see the Romney’s old tax returns and parties that want to keep the tax returns out of the public’s eye. According to the group, they want $1,000,000 million in Bitcoin currency in order to make any decision prior to September 28. The group doesn’t seem to care if the entire amount comes from a single donor or multiple donors, nor are they particularly interested in either outcome. 

PricewaterhouseCoopers released a statement that denied the hacking attempt on the servers as well as the theft from the office building. Regarding the threats, company representatives stated “We are aware of the allegations that have been made regarding improper access to our systems. We are working closely with the United States Secret Service, and at this time there is no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question.”

Top Secret packageAccording to CNET, both the Democratic and Republican offices within Williamson County received a package last week with a black Cruzer 4GB USB drive, a letter with the first threat that was eventually posted on Pastebin and a stamp of Mitt Romney’s signature.

Peter Burr, the chairman of the county’s Democratic Party headquarters, noted that they found the envelope dropped through the mail slot. People within the office didn’t take the package seriously and it apparently caused quite a bit of laughter as the package was passed around the office.

Also mentioned in the Tennessean, representatives at the GOP office in Williamson County were equally skeptical. Executive director Jean Barwick jokingly stated “A million dollars seemed kind of low. If you’re going to go for a million, why not go for $100 million?” Neither office attempted to access any information on the flash drives and both drives have been turned over to representatives with the United States Secret Service.