A number of Verizon Wireless employees accessed and viewed President-elect Barack Obama's personal cell phone account without authorization, Verizon Wireless President and CEO, Lowell McAdam said in a statement issued late Thursday.
The account has been inactive for several months. The device on the account was a voice flip-phone, not a BlackBerry or other smartphone designed for e-mail or other data services, McAdams said.
Verizon is currently investigating the breach and all employees who accessed the account – authorized or not – were placed on immediate paid leave.
“As the circumstances of each individual employee's access to the account are determined, the company will take appropriate actions,” McAdams said in the statement. “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.”
Verizon declined to provide additional information Friday about the breach.
“I think most of these type of attacks are driven by curiosity,” Slavik Markovich, CTO of database security company Sentrigo, told SCMagazineUS.com on Friday. “It's the same curiosity as someone going to an HR database and seeing salaries of their bosses and colleagues. This is very common; I have encountered it many times.”
This is a classic case of the internal threat facing many businesses, Geoff Hogan, senior vice president of business development and product management for authentication provider Imprivata, told SCMagazineUS.com Friday.
Hogan also said the breach was probably curiosity-driven because it occurred within the telecommunications industry. If the breach had occurred in the banking industry, the motivation would have likely been more nefarious.
Obama is just the latest in a number of other high-profile breaches recently. In September, criminals got hold of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's bank account login information and stole small sums of money. In the same month, the Yahoo email account of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was hacked.