A British Twitter user who goes by the name @Sinon_Reborn and who calls himself the Email Prankster has tricked several current and former White House officials by using fake emails to pretend to be their colleagues.
His pranks on the White House and others in the orbit of President Donald Trump come after months of tricking British politicians, top bankers and others. According to Sinon_Reborn’s Twitter feed and a CNN report, the officials and others who have fallen victim to his pranks include outgoing White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, Scaramucci’s friend Arthur Schwartz, Eric Trump and Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sinon_Reborn Calls Himself a ‘Lazy Anarchist’ & Says He Tries to ‘Keep It on the Humorous Side of Things’
On Twitter, @Sinon_Reborn urges people to Google, “email prankster,” to find out more about him, adding, “everything is 100% real. lazy anarchist.” He is based in Britain and his real name is not known.
“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.”
The “Email Prankster” is a 39-year-old web designer from Manchester, England, according to the Financial Times. He told the newspaper he ,”wanted to highlight how few cast-iron indicators everyone has … that they are communicating with the person they think they are.”
His email pranks have been attracting attention in his home country for several months, but have only recently been spotted by the media in the United States, after he successfully convinced Anthony Scaramucci’s friend, Arthur Schwartz, that he was former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and that he had accepted his apology after Schwartz attacked Priebus on Twitter Sunday, accusing him of having a mistress.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged the incident in a statement to CNN. “We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further,” she told CNN.
The prankster tried to reach President Donald Trump, but got blocked:
“This shows how susceptible government officials are to spear-phishing in general,” Adam Malone, a former cyber specialist and special agent for the FBI, told CNN. “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.”
2. His Email Prankster Has Targeted Scaramucci, Cybersecurity Adviser Tom Bossert & Eric Trump
Sinon_Reborn exchanged multiple emails with Anthony Scaramucci while pretending to be Reince Priebus, according to CNN and his Twitter feed, where he has posted screenshots of several of the emails.
“I had promised myself I would leave my hands mud free,” he wrote as the fake Priebus, “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.”
The real Scaramucci replied, “You know what you did. We all do. Even today. But rest assured we were prepared. A Man would apologize.”
The “Email Prankster” replied as Priebus, “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 responded,”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.”
He also pretended to be soon-to-be-Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman in an exchange with Scaramucci, convincing him to say he wanted both Priebus and White House adviser Steve Bannon out.
The prankster also tricked Eric Trump, but the president’s son eventually figured him out and told him he would be reporting him to the police. It is not clear if the younger Trump followed through on that threat.
He then pretended to be Eric Trump in an email to Huntsman:
In a troubling incident, the prankster also tricked Homeland Security aide Tom Bossert, whose expertise is cybersecurity, by creating an @Mail.com account in Jared Kushner’s name, according to CNN. He invited Bossert to dinner and was able to get Bossert to send him his personal email after sending messages to his White House account.
The prankster wrote, according to CNN, “Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soirée towards the end of August. 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.”
“Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can’t refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is” (redacted),” he wrote, according to CNN.
3. He Has Previously Targeted British Politicians, Including Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott
The “Email Prankster” has previously targeted politicians in his native Britain, according to The Sun.
One of his targets was Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who was tricked in early June by the prankster, who was pretending to be an aide for her party, Labour, The Sun reports.
Abbott had pulled out of interviews with the media while claiming to be unwell, and the emails called into question whether she was truly sick, The Sun reports.
In the email, which he posted to his Twitter account, he posed as the Labour party’s director of strategy, Seumas Milne, and told Abbott he wanted to add “colour” to the announcement that she was too ill to make a TV appearance.
“I am not sure what colour I can add. I have always enjoyed good health until the last few years. And diabetes, in itself, would not stop me doing Women’s Hour,” she responded. “I am worried about telling untruths about my health which are easily disproved.”
The Labour party declined to comment, saying, “We’re not commenting on fake emails.”
He also pranked Katie Hopkins, an English media personality and commentator:
He even exchanged emails with Hopkins’ manager pretending to be from the Howard Stern Show.
4. He First Gained Notoriety by Pranking British Banking Executives
Sinon_Reborn first gained notoriety in May 2017 by pranking top British banking executives, including Barclays boss Jes Staley, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, James Gorman of Morgan Stanley and Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, according to the Financial Times.
He wrote about his reason for going after bankers in the Evening Standard:
I’ve fooled two of the biggest names in the City, not from a prankster’s lair stroking a drone and observing pinned-up effigies of my nemeses but from my bedroom watching Netflix. My Barclays feud is a long story that centres on a meeting I had with one of their advisers when I admitted I had a runaway gambling problem compounded by mental health issues. They offered no help or protection, even though I was spending five times my monthly salary. Flash forward a few months: my partner is in hospital for a serious operation and I’m £15,200 in debt and hypnotised by the roulette wheel. Angry but fruitless conversations with Barclays followed. I emailed Staley, who I’d never heard of, multiple times, receiving one extremely brief response: “we will review, thanks.” In my final email, I had said I’d planned a crescendo for Barclays’ AGM (with no concrete plan). Angry but fruitless conversations with Barclays followed. I emailed Staley, who I’d never heard of, multiple times, receiving one extremely brief response: “we will review, thanks.” In my final email, I had said I’d planned a crescendo for Barclays’ AGM (with no concrete plan).
According to the Financial Times, “All three exchanges were innocuous, if embarrassing, but security experts warned that the episodes have exposed weak spots in the big banks’ defences.”
His emails pranks targeting those bankers led firms to tighten their email security, according to The Telegraph.
“We work in a highly regulated industry where all communications are subject to disclosure, and we live in an increasingly transparent world where private communications are regularly made public,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement to the Financial Times. “Technology has an important role in protecting our ability to interact securely with clients, but judgment is the most critical quality to ensuring that we meet the high standards we set for ourselves.”
Other non-political targets include Uber, Boeing and Tesco:
After the pranks on the bankers, Sinon_Reborn told the Financial Times, “My intentions weren’t malicious, no secrets were really pushed for, but that could easily not have been the case. In the end I expected it to become impossible to do very quickly after Staley. But things move slowly it seems; it has been easily repeatable, worryingly so.”
5. He Has Started a Crowdfunder Page to Help Him Continue to ‘Prank & Write’
He has started a Crowdfunder website to help him continue to “prank and write.” He said on Twitter, “There’s a million causes more deserving than mine. I just want a life that makes me content. Zero pressure xx.”
“I hate to ask for money as i’ve always stood on my own two feet, even during the times they were incredibly shakey. I’ve suffered with mental health issues my whole life, and things been hard at times,” he wrote on the page. “My partner sadly suffers from Spina-bifida which leaves her in chronic pain, it also means we are fairly reliant upon my wages. Money is tight, but we are lucky, we have 3 cats to keep us entertained and amazing families. Life important stuff is great.”
He continued, “I’d dearly love to be able to dedicate my time to my writing/pranking, and my family. Any amount you feel like giving, will be massively appreciated. Honestly though, don’t feel even remotely obliged. There are many causes so much more deserving than my own, I’d urge you to only donate if you truly feel you’d like to help me make a better life for my family. Peace and love xx.”