Prominent and outspoken Zimbabwean politician, Jonathan Moyo, said yesterday that his Gmail account was hacked and his password changed. As a result, he’s been locked out of his mailbox. The hack, according to him, happened yesterday around 3PM (16 September).
Moyo also said yesterday that Google has so far refused to give him back control of the mailbox. After reporting the matter to the global internet company, Moyo was told that the information he provided is not enough proof that he owns the account. Google needs additional information to act.
In case you’re wondering why Moyo went public with this information immediately, it is important so people know that onward, any communication from the account is not from Moyo himself.
Jonathan Moyo is Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher & Tertiary Education, Science & Technology Development. He’s also the Zanu-PF Secretary for Science & Technology.
The Gmail mailbox is likely Moyo’s main email address. Our observation is that he gives it out online for official communication. Using Gmail and Yahoo mailboxes for official business is not uncommon among government officials in Zimbabwe.
Jonathan Moyo hasn’t said yet what suspicious things happened just before the hackers took control of his account. However, after someone on Twitter suggested some preventive security tips (2 Factor Authentication) Moyo responded, “Yes indeed. Very important but not foolproof. Social engineering technics are known to override that!”
It may, therefore, be that he (or someone on his staff) was tricked into handing over passwords of the mailbox.
Moyo also hasn’t mentioned if he suspects he was specifically targeted or that it was a random hack. If it’s the latter and the hacker pays attention, they might discover what they’ve stumbled upon and this could get tricky. If the former, then something sinister could be at play, and that’s also not good for the minister.
Whatever happened, it seems his online security was (or is) lax for someone in his position. Email is used as a verification method for many online services (including Twitter itself), so after gaining access to his email, the hacker could easily take control of other internet accounts of the minister and cause some damage.
Moyo being an outspoken, brash, somewhat controversial, and one of the key drivers in recent political events in the country (well, his party), there’s also the possibility, albeit small as nothing suggests it so far, that all this could be staged. Moyo’s alert could part of a move to preempt certain future events or to provide a reason for doubting the credibility of information linked to his Gmail account in the future.