Surprise: Hillary e-mails held in cloud storage

And the hits just keep on coming. Not only did Hillary Clinton’s unsecured and unauthorized e-mail system get used to store and transmit classified information, in some cases Top Secret/compartmented intelligence, the data may have gotten stored on a backup firm’s “cloud” — unbeknownst to the Clintons. McClatchy reports that the subcontractor to the firm that Hillary used to store her server had server-image backups across a potentially wide range of hardware, image files which the FBI now has in its possession:

A Connecticut company, which backed up Hillary Clinton‘s emails at the request of a Colorado firm, apparently surprised her aides by storing the emails on a “cloud” storage system designed to optimize data recovery.

The firm, Datto Inc., said Wednesday that it turned over the contents of its storage to the FBI on Tuesday. …

Datto, based in Norwalk, Conn., became the second data storage firm to become entangled in the inquiry into Clinton’s unusual email arrangement, which has sparked a furor that has dogged her campaign. In August, Clinton and Colorado-based Platte River Networks, which had managed her primary server since June 2013, agreed to surrender it for examination by the FBI.

Datto and Platte River seemed at odds, however, over how Clinton’s emails wound up on Datto’s cloud storage, which may have resulted from a misunderstanding.

Platte River spokesman Andy Boian said the firm bought a device from Datto that constantly snaps images of a server’s contents and connected it to the Clinton server at a New Jersey data storage facility. Platte River never asked Datto to beam the images to an off-site cloud storage node and never was billed for that service, he said. Company officials were bewildered when they learned of the cloud storage, he said.

“We said, ‘You have a cloud? You were told not to have a cloud.’ We never received an invoice for any cloud for the Clintons.’”

This raises all sorts of new questions about the transmission of classified material. Neither Datto nor Platte River would have known of specific classification of information on the server, but Platte River seems to have understood that it was at least sensitive. Cloud storage, even in a closed system like Datto’s, would mean that the data would be transmitted and parsed through several server and storage systems, making it nearly impossible to isolate and secure to any level that would satisfy government specs for even routine traffic.

The vulnerabilities for classified data, especially intelligence information, are rather obvious. As reader and commenter DogSoldier asks, “How many other copies of Hillary’s “personal” (LOL) email are out there. Maybe we could start a pool?”

Not only did the firms end up spreading these images around, they knew that requests to limit data backups didn’t smell right. At the same time that the State Department began requesting access to Hillary’s e-mails, her team was telling Platte River to delete old backups:

His letter also cited internal emails recounting requests in late 2014 and early 2015 from Clinton representatives for Platte River Networks to direct Datto to reduce the amount of her emails it was backing up. These communications led a Platte River employee to air suspicions that “this whole thing really is covering up some shaddy (sic) shit,” according to an excerpt of an email cited by Johnson. …

Despite Boian’s statement that Platte River set up a 30-day revolving retention policy for Clinton’s emails, Johnson’s letter noted that Platte River employees were directed to reduce the amount of email data being stored with each backup. Late this summer, Johnson wrote, a Platte River employee took note of this change and inquired whether the company could search its archives for an email from Clinton Executive Service Corp. directing such a reduction in October or November 2014 and then again around February, advising Platte River to save only emails sent during the most recent 30 days.

Those reductions would have occurred after the State Department requested that Clinton turn over her emails.

The discovery of cloud backups may negate those efforts. Small wonder Platte River may have had an anxiety attack when they learned of it. The FBI should be able to reconstruct the server based on image storage (which is its purpose), and if those go back far enough, they may be able to reconstruct the deletions and erasures that took place on Hillary’s server, too. Team Hillary may want to prepare for a few rainy days as a result of this cloud storage surprise.