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Palin Email Hack Investigation Leads FBI to Son of TN State rep Mike Keller

Oh man… This just keeps getting better and better. Last week we told you about the recent invasion into an email account belonging to Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. At the time, it was thought that a group of hackers known as Anonymous sloppily battled their way into Palin’s Yahoo account, snapped some screen shots and stole a handful of family photos. Well people, the plot thickens. At around midnight Sunday evening, the FBI raided a party being held in the on-campus residence of University of Tennessee student David Kernell who has been implicated in the Palin email scandal. According to witnesses, Kernell reportedly fled the scene when agents arrived but that of course didn’t stop them from photographing his residence and collecting evidence. Kernell and his three roommates have been subpoenaed to appear in court in Chattanooga later this week, though no formal charges have been filed. So what, you might ask, is so interesting about David Kernell? It just so happens that he is the son of Mike Kernell – Tennessee’s Democratic state representative.

What lead the FBI to Kernell? Firstly, no one “hacked” Palin’s account. The intruder used Palin’s birthdate, zip code and other publicly available information to reset the password on her Yahoo account to “popcorn”. He or she then posted the password along with screen shots to a public forum where others used the information to access Palin’s account as well. The user name of the person who originally posted this information, “rubico”, also happens to be included in a yahoo email address used by David Kernell. In addition (and as suggested by San Fransisco blogger Dan Goodin), the proxy URL found in screen shots of Palin’s email account was eventually traced to an IP belonging to Pavlov Media, the ISP that provides internet access to the dormitory in which Kernell resides. It is likely, though not disclosed at this point, that the FBI worked with Pavlov Media to further trace the attack.

If Kernell is charged, it will likely be with a misdemeanor and he will face little or no time in prison.


Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.