Reality TV mother-of-eight Kate Gosselin sues husband for "hacking" email, phone, revealing private info

Filed Under: Data loss, Featured, Law & order, Privacy

Kate Gosselin. Image courtesy of s_bukley and Shutterstock.Kate Gosselin, who shot to fame in the US after appearing in a reality TV docusoap 'Jon & Kate Plus 8' about her life with her eight children, including sextuplets, is suing her husband for allegedly hacking into her personal email account, her phone and her bank account, as well as stealing a hard drive full of personal files including family photos.

The information yielded by the alleged hacking and data theft went into a much-hyped book on the couple's very-publicised divorce, written by Robert Hoffman, a tabloid journalist and friend of Jon Gosselin, the celebrity husband who is also named in the suit.

The book was pulled by Amazon after allegations that it relied on improperly-sourced information.

Hoffman claims to have found the information by rummaging through Ms Gosselin's bins, but is also quoted as hinting he has over 5,000 personal photos belonging to her - an unlikely find for a dumpster-diver.

The story has been carried by huge numbers of celeb-loving media outlets, including the notorious Mail Online website, probably mainly as an excuse to carry plenty of photographs of the plaintiff in a variety of outfits.

All stories of course refer to the heinous act of hacking.

The legal papers on the case, filed in the US District Court Eastern Division of Philadelphia and dug out by celeb site Radar Online among others, also make occasional use of the terms "hacking" and "hack", but as so often in these cases it would appear that the words are being used in the loosest possible sense.

A more accurate way of describing the husband's activities might perhaps be "guessing her password", and possibly even "knowing the password having been married to her for 10 years". There certainly seems to be no evidence of any special technical skill involved in accessing the information.

The moral of the story will of course be that you should ensure your passwords are fit for purpose and kept private.

Padlock. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.If you are a celebrity with oodles of private information you don't want leaked in a bestselling memoir - and you have a grumpy and possibly vindictive former partner who might know (or have enough knowledge of you to guess) that your email account password is 12345 - you are best advised to change it as soon as possible.

And to change it to something that cannot be guessed, even by someone who knows the names of all your favourite pets, former teachers and most beloved sports teams.

The same advice holds true for normal people, as well as celebrity octomoms. Better still, let a password manager utility create properly complex passwords for you, different ones for all sites, and all hidden behind a single extra-strong passphrase.

There is of course another side to this story, as it would be unkind to put the blame entirely on someone who seems to be guilty of nothing more than the almost universal crime of poor password hygiene.

There have been many cases of partners falling out and using their intimacy to get at information about their estranged other halves that they really should not be seeing, and many of these cases, quite apart from being rather sad, involve some sort of crime being perpetrated.

In a lot of cases, those involved are not fully aware of the criminal nature of their activities.

So if you find yourself on the other side, trying to get at information which is not rightfully yours, ask yourself, should I really be doing this?

If it were, say, an expensive wristwatch or a fancy pair of shoes, rather than some digital bank records or racy celeb photos, would that make a difference? If it was secured by a physical lock rather than a password, would it be right to bust in and make off with the swag?

The answer should be, probably not - so leave that data alone.


Image of Kate Gosselin courtesy of s_bukley / Shutterstock.com. Image of padlock courtesy of Shutterstock.

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7 Responses to Reality TV mother-of-eight Kate Gosselin sues husband for "hacking" email, phone, revealing private info

  1. Lee · 398 days ago

    Who???

  2. kellysketchbook · 398 days ago

    I've watched my daughters suffer when their former boyfriends did all sorts of mischief because of knowing or guessing passwords. One took over a daughter's Facebook page and wrote a bunch of degrading comments. Another took over a daughter's email acct and sent faux emails to all her friends. This actually happened a couple of times. Another got into daughter's bank account. These girls really trusted their bf's thinking that 'he'd never do anything like that to me.'

    Best advice is in your column: create complex passwords that can't be guessed, different ones for dif. accts, and don't trust anybody with your pin's & passwords!!!

  3. I thought they all died in a motorcycle accident

  4. Juan · 398 days ago

    Theft is taking stuff that you don't own, without the owner's permission. Theft is wrong. Voluntarily making false statements about others is lying. Lying is fraud, and fraud is wrong. Theft and fraud are also illegal, but they were wrong before they were illegal. In fact, they’re wrong even when they’re legal. That’s why I don’t trust politicians.

    Anyhow, it's not completely clear to me Mr. Gosselin has actually done any of those things. He's a defendant in a lawsuit...that's all. I won't pretend to know who's right and who's wrong.

    Meanwhile, Mrs. Gosselin is guilty of poor judgment at the very least. I mean, she was already involved in an acrimonious relationship (divorce), but she apparently didn't take precautions to ensure the safety of her information.

    That doesn't excuse theft or fraud (if indeed her ex-hubby is guilty thereof), but it doesn't exactly make her look like the sharpest tool in the shed. If I were judging this case, that would weigh in my decision. This business of using litigation to cover one's own irresponsibility just encourages people to act stupid.

  5. Richard · 398 days ago

    This isn't hacking at all. If he knew the passwords, then it was her responsibility to change them. That's like accusing someone of breaking and entering because they have a key and you didn't bother to change the locks.

    • Brian · 397 days ago

      Yes, common sense says she should have changed everything, however, whatever term you select, using another person's pass phrase, password, PIN, key, whatever, is wrong.
      It isn't my responsibility if you carry out a criminal act.

  6. Guest · 396 days ago

    Don't blame the victim. Perhaps Kate Gosselin did change her passwords after she divorced Jon Gosselin. Regardless of whether she did, her ex is not entitled to access her online accounts without her permission. But even if she did, her ex would still be able to hack her accounts without much difficulty.

    Changing your passwords might deter someone who is not determined to hack into your online accounts. The determined hacker does not need to spend hours at a keyboard trying to guess your dumb passwords. Hackers can, and apparently do, use cheap and readily available spyware that enables to them discover your passwords and break into your accounts within a few hours or even minutes. The lay literature about hacking that I've read indicates such hacking is not hard to do.

    Last year, an out-of-state individual with whom I'd exchanged emails years ago but not personally met, broke into my Hotmail account and deleted everything except for a folder that was partially named after the individual. I realized what happened some four days after the fact. By then, a Microsoft representative told me neither Microsoft nor I could restore the emails the hacker had deleted. (Strange that, considering Microsoft's servers probably store all communications for years.) I'd changed my password (which included upper and lower cased characters, numbers, and symbols) and wiped my computer's hard drive many times since I last wrote to said individual.

    I assume the individual is still breaking into my Hotmail account (and other accounts) and that the individual is doing the same to others. I wish the FBI would take seriously such federal crimes, even when they happen to people other than well connected businessmen or politicians.

    On a related note:

    How much protection from hackers does Two Step Verification (I'm upper-casing this for emphasis) really add? Does it substantially protect you from hackers or does it just give you a false sense of security? Are all Two Step Verifications equal or is it more effective at some sites than at others?

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About the author

John Hawes is Chief of Operations at Virus Bulletin, running independent anti-malware testing there since 2006. With over a decade of experience testing security products, John was elected to the board of directors of the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organisation (AMTSO) in 2011.