Most embarrassing email hacks in history

Customisable business insurance
20 February 2017
2 minute read

We hear a lot about the financial cost of cyber-attacks and data breaches, with system downtime, loss of data, fines and legal costs to consider. But in many cases, the biggest cost is reputational – and sometimes it gets personal!

Imagine if somebody got their hands on your emails and made them available to anybody on the web. Your most personal conversations plastered over social media, emailed to your friends, family and work contacts, even written about in papers and magazines.

It might not sound that likely for us mere mortals but if you're famous, that's exactly what can happen. Here's some of the most embarrassing email hacks in history:


You couldn't have missed the hack that shocked the nation earlier this month, involving star footballer, global celebrity, UNICEF ambassador and father of the UK's most famous family – the one and only David Beckham. It took just one email, with Becks mouthing off about not having been awarded a knighthood and calling the honours committee "a bunch of c***s", and his carefully crafted 'just a normal guy' image was shattered. No doubt he'll bounce back, but it's a reminder that even millionaire celebrities aren't safe from hackers.

Hollywood hack

In November 2014, a group calling themselves 'Guardians of Peace' gained access to Sony Pictures' systems, leaking emails, employee details, and copies of unreleased films. The hack caused all sorts of problems for Sony, not least because of some of the confidential email conversations released. In one of the most damaging, between film producer Scott Rudin and Sony exec Amy Pascal, Rudin laid into Angelina Jolie, calling her a "minimally talented spoiled brat", while in another exchange, the pair traded racist jokes about Barack Obama. The leak led to Pascal being fired, while Sony endured months of negative headlines as a result.

Hillary's never-ending email scandal

Hillary Clinton must feel like she never wants to send another email in her life after all the stresses they've caused her in the last couple of years. During last year's presidential election campaign, while still reeling from the scandal of using her private email server for official government communications, Hilary was rocked by yet another email disaster. Tens of thousands of emails were hacked from her campaign chairman's account, leaking unprecedented details of what goes on behind closed doors. Some of the most personally embarrassing for the Clintons were exchanges about Bill's secret mistress, hilariously dubbed by the campaign team as "the energiser"

Russian hackers target Colin Powell

Another blow for the Clinton campaign came when Ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell also had his emails stolen, reportedly by Russian hackers. Again, the target appeared to be Clinton, and embarrassing exchanges were released, including Powell's views on Clinton's poor health, questioning relations between Hilary and Barack Obama and referring to Bill Clinton's habit of "d****** bimbos". The hack was just one more nail in the coffin for the ill-fated Clinton campaign.

You may not be a celebrity, film star or politician but that doesn't mean you're not a target for hackers. Even the smallest cyber-attack or data breach can have serious financial and reputational repercussions, so it makes sense to prepare your business for the threat of cyber attacks. Find out more here about how cyber liability insurance can help.

This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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