Top White House officials were tricked into believing an “email prankster” who posed as various members of the Trump administration, CNN reports.
In a series of emails, the UK prankster pretended to be White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and recently-nominated ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. The prankster exchanged emails with Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert and former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, among others.
"Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soirée towards the end of August," the fake Jared Kushner wrote to the official email account of Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. "It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible (sic) quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening."
Bossert replied, "Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can't refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is [____]."
The prankster shared the emails with CNN, including exchanges between the real Scaramucci and fake Priebus, shortly after his resignation was announced.
"I had promised myself I would leave my hands mud free," the fake Priebus wrote, "but after reading your tweet today which stated how; 'soon we will learn who in the media who has class, and who hasn't', has pushed me to this. That tweet was breathtakingly hypocritical, even for you. At no stage have you acted in a way that's even remotely classy, yet you believe that's the standard by which everyone should behave towards you? General Kelly will do a fine job. I'll even admit he will do a better job than me. But the way in which that transition has come about has been diabolical. And hurtful. I don't expect a reply."
Scaramucci replied: "You know what you did. We all do. Even today. But rest assured we were prepared. A Man would apologize."
Fake Priebus responded: "I can't believe you are questioning my ethics! The so called 'Mooch', who can't even manage his first week in the White House without leaving upset in his wake. I have nothing to apologize for."
Scaramucci answered: "Read Shakespeare. Particularly Othello. You are right there. My family is fine by the way and will thrive. I know what you did. No more replies from me."
Eric Trump was also emailed by the prankster who pretended to be Donald Trump Jr., but he didn’t fall for it, responding, "I have sent this to law enforcement who will handle from here."
The White House acknowledged the incident and said they were looking into the matter.
“We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN.
Adam Malone, a former cyber security specialist and special agent for the FBI, said the incident “shows how susceptible government officials are to spear-phishing.”
"Spear-phishing is the most common technique used by hackers to gain access to their victims. This information shines a light on how easy it is for people to build trust with unverified individuals," he told CNN.
The prankster said he had no malicious intentions with the emails.
"I try and keep it on the humorous side of things," he told CNN. "I'm not trying to get the keys to the vault or anything like that."