Mitt Romney's tax returns are allegedly no longer secret. An unidentified group claims to have stolen Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's tax returns from PricewaterhouseCoopers' Tennessee offices.
Mashable is reporting a hacker group claims to be in possession of "all available 1040 tax forms for Romney." The group, which is yet unidentified, posted on the text-hosting site PasteBin that they had illegally entered PricewaterhouseCoopers' Nashville office on Aug. 25, 2012, accessed the computers, made copies of the returns and escaped. PasteBin is popular with the hacker group Anonymous.
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The unnamed group is threatening to release the returns to the public unless a ransom is met. They're asking for $1 million USD in Bitcoins. The Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic currency with no central banking authority -- thus, it's very difficult to track.
If PricewaterhouseCoopers pays by Sept. 28, the information the hackers claim to hold will "remain a secret forever." However, a statement addressed to PricewaterhouseCoopers, again on PasteBin, states that "other interested parties will be allowed to compete," for the release of the tax returns. The second statement also admits that the returns will be sent to "all major media outlets."
As reported by The Tennesseean, the Williamson County Republican Party in Tennessee notified local police when a suspicious package arrived at their offices last Friday. The package allegedly includes, "copies of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax returns hacked from an accounting office." The local Democratic party office admits to receiving a package as well. Both contain a thumb drive and a letter matching the details on PasteBin.
If PricewaterhouseCoopers fail to act before Sept. 28, "the entire world will be allowed to view the documents with a publicly released key to unlock everything," reads the hacker's statement.
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Romney's tax returns have been to this election what Barack Obama's birth certificate was to the 2008 election. Romney released his 2010 returns and the Washington Post extrapolated his 2011 filings, but his full tax history is still a closely guarded secret. Even after its release and authentication, Obama's birth certificate is a topic of discussion amongst some groups. If the hackers do have Romney's tax information, it would take some time to ensure there was no forgery or tampering.
The Obama campaign and other Democrats have challenged Romney to release the information. According to Politifact, "only two general election candidates have revealed no more than two years of tax returns." One is Sen. John McCain in 2008 and the other is Gov. Romney. In the 2008 Democratic primary, Sen. Barack Obama released seven years of tax returns, and Sen. Hillary Clinton followed suit shortly thereafter.
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Phone calls to PricewaterhouseCoopers' Nashville and United States central offices by Discovery News were not answered.
As a final statement, the hackers allegedly wrote, "Who-ever is the winner does not matter to us."
UPDATE: USNews is reporting PricewaterhouseCoopers' statement which said, "We are aware of the allegations that have been made regarding improper
access to our systems. We are working closely with the United States
Secret Service, and at this time there is no evidence that our systems
have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the
data in question."
The hacker's statement explaining the caper at the Nashville PricewaterhouseCoopers office
Romney's 1040 tax returns were taken from the (PricewaterhouseCoopers) office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied. A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney's tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives.
The other statement explaining the situation and how payment is to be delivered:
Using your Office @ 830 Crescent Centre Drive, Suite 260, Franklin, TN 37067 Telephone:  (615) 503-2860 we were able to gain access to your network file servers and copy over the tax documents for one Willard M Romney and Ann D Romney. We are sure that once you figure out where the security breach was, some people will probably get fired but that is not our concern.
All major news media outlets are going to be sent an encrypted copy of the most recent tax years that your company had on file since you did not have them all in a convenient electronic form. The years before 2010 will be of great interest to many. If the parties interested do not want the encrypted key released to the public to unlock these documents on September 28 of this year then payment will be necessary.
The deal is quite simple. Convert $1,000,000 USD to Bitcoins (Google if if you need a lesson on what Bitcoin is) using the various markets available out in the world for buying. Transfer the Bitcoins gathered to the Bitcoin address listed below. It does not matter if small amounts or one large amount is transferred, as long as the final value of the Bitcoins is equal to $1,000,000 USD at the time when it is finished. The keys to unlock the data will be purged and what ever is inside the documents will remain a secret forever.
Failure to do this before September 28, the entire world will be allowed to view the documents with a publicly released key to unlock everything.
Bitcoin Address to Stop Release: [redacted]
And the same time, the other interested parties will be allowed to compete with you. For those that DO want the documents released will have an different address to send to. If $1,000,000 USD is sent to this account below first; then the encryption keys will be made available to the world right away. So this is an equal opportunity for the documents to remain locked away forever or to be exposed before the September 28 deadline.
Who-ever is the winner does not matter to us.
Sources: Mashable, The Tennessean, Nashville CityPaper, Politifact
Credit: Paul Cunningham/Corbis