Mexico City, Mexico — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador accuses political rivals of the security breach that resulted in the airing of personal information of 300 journalists covering the president’s morning briefings.
Presidential spokesman Jesús Ramírez Cuevas said it was not a “leak” but an illegal “subtraction” from IP addresses registered in Spain. Mexican authorities said that the affected journalists would be enrolled in a protection program if needed, and promised an official inquiry.
On January 26, a cyber security specialist reported that the personal information of hundreds of journalists accredited to cover the president’s daily press conferences was aired on internet forums. Personal data such as passport numbers, official identifications, addresses, email accounts, and phone numbers of 263 national and international journalists were aired on the internet over the weekend.
The information breach drew the concern of the affected journalists, who denounced a potential risk to their safety. During his morning briefing on January 29, López Obrador accused his political rivals of being behind the illegal data extraction.
“Yes, the security failed, or the hackers were very good. Remember that our adversaries have a lot of money and can hire the most specialized hackers in the world,” said López Obrador.
However, Cuevas later announced that there was no cyber attack and that the information was “illegally extracted” from outside the government’s network using the password and username of a former employee. It was also noted that access to the application during the theft was from IP addresses registered in Spain.
By orders of López Obrador, the affected journalists can enroll in the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, a federal government program to protect at-risk activists and journalists.
Arturo Medina Padilla, the undersecretary of Human Rights, Population, and Migration, said that some journalists already had some level of protection measures in place; those who did not could be placed under government protection.
Minister of Interior Luisa María Alcalde Luján said that the related complaints will be filed with the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic (FGR) for the illegal theft of the journalists’ data.
“We are going to go to the last consequences … We are going to give everything we have because we are also the first ones interested in knowing what happened and how this system could have been violated in order to extract this information and put journalists at risk,” said Luján.