James Linton (hacker)

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James Linton
OccupationEmail threat researcher
Known forEmail pranks

James Linton is a social engineer and email prankster known for duping high-profile celebrities and politicians. For five months in 2016 through to 2017, the "lazy anarchist"[1] known by the Twitter alias SINON_REBORN created over 150 look-alike email accounts and emailed high-profile individuals in the political, financial, and entertainment industries from his iPhone 7.[2]


Linton is a former designer and front end web developer. He was suspended from his job when his bosses suspected he was emailing victims at work.[2] He lives in Manchester UK with his partner and three cats.[3]

His moniker SINON_REBORN comes from Sinon, the name of the Greek Soldier who persuades the Trojans to accept the Trojan Horse, basis of the eponymous computing trick he utilised.[4]

He revealed his identity to the media in September 2017 and later became a threat researcher and speaker for email security firm Agari.[5]

Prank spree[edit]

In May 2017, Linton began his spree with Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays as chairman John McFarlane, who he pranked with an acrostic alluding to whistleblower investigation.[6] Days later, he sent sexist remarks to Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and an invitation to a fake soiree.[7] This led to a tightening of Barclay's email security procedures.[8][9][10]

In June, impersonating Jeremy Corbyn's press secretary, British politician Diane Abbott was tricked into commenting about her health.[11]

Shortly after, he tricked Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs into making a dig at president Trump, Citigroup banking chiefs Michael Corbat and Stephen Bird with links to his previous pranks[12] then and corresponded with James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley with a story about catching a salmon.[13]

In late June, right-wing media personality Katie Hopkins, was tricked into joining a fictional TV show "Adders Basket" debating feminists, liberals and vegans.[5]

In August, he targeted the White House. Posing as Jared Kushner he tricked a senior cyber security advisor into his authenticity, taunted then media chief Anthony Scaramucci as ex chief of staff Reince Priebus just before he was fired,[14] invited US Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert to a soiree, and joked with Eric Trump about his dad's similarities to Putin.[15] Personal lawyer to Donald Trump Michael Cohen was persuaded to tweet a photograph with a hidden gif[2] and Jared Kushner's lawyer Abbe Lowell incorrectly forwarded a request from the senate intelligence committee asking about Kushner's undisclosed private email account to a fake account.[16] Lawyer Ty Cobb and press secretary Sarah Sanders corresponded, joking about droning journalist Natasha Bertrand.[17]

In early August, former UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd briefly corresponded from her personal address about upcoming announcements to a fake advisor account.[4][18]

Later in August, Breitbart editors Alex Marlow and Joel Pollak commented they would do Steve Bannon's 'dirty work' to fake a Steve Bannon account, ousting Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and shared a personal smear about their private lives.[19]

In September, former United States Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick briefly fell for fake emails from her client Jared Kushner but didn't reveal anything confidential.[20]

In October, Linton posing as now disgraced Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein, confessing regrets for his actions to his former lawyers Lanny Davis and Lisa Bloom.[21]

Later in October, he targeted Shark Tank personality Robert Herjavec as the company CEO, inviting him to a toga party. Later the fake account was copied into official financial projection documents.[2]

In late October, UK National Cyber Security Centre technical director Dr Ian Levy was targeted with a fake industry event, however Levy correctly identified the unexpected link to mail.com.[4] Linton was then asked by Levy to co-write a blog about the experience.[22]

Linton's last prank was targeting conservative media pundit Ann Coulter, posing as Sheriff David Clarke persuading her to review an article about immigration.[23]

Other pranks[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Schlagenhauf, Wes (8 November 2017). "One of the best online pranksters of all time is hanging up his keyboard". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Mac, Ryan (7 November 2017). "This Man Pranked Eric Trump And Harvey Weinstein — Now He Just Wants A Job". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  3. ^ Jeffries, Adrianne (4 August 2017). "How to prank the rich and powerful without really trying". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Stokel-Walker, Chris (28 September 2017). "Revealed: The real identity of prankster king SINON_REBORN". Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b Scammell, Robert. "Linton Reborn How the Email Prankster Became a Cyber Crimefighter". Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  6. ^ Treanor, Jill (12 May 2017). "Barclays boss Jes Staley fooled into email exchange with prankster". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  7. ^ Allen, Katie (23 May 2017). "Bank of England governor falls for email prank but maintains his composure". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  8. ^ Post Staff Report (22 May 2017). "Barclays tightens email security after prankster fools its CEO". Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  9. ^ Arnold, Martin (22 May 2017). "Barclays tightens email security after Jes Staley hoax". Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  10. ^ Martin, Ben (22 May 2017). "Barclays tightens email security to prevent hoaxes after boss fell for fake chairman prankster". Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  11. ^ Hughes, Laura (6 June 2017). "Diane Abbott appears to fall victim to a hoax email conversation with online prankster". Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  12. ^ Sonenshine, Jacob (12 June 2017). "Goldman CEO gets duped by email prankster". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  13. ^ English, Carleton (14 June 2017). "Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman falls for email prank". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  14. ^ Booth, Robert (1 August 2017). "Prankster says he targeted Scaramucci over mental health insult". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  15. ^ Tapper, Jake (1 August 2017). "White House officials tricked by email prankster". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  16. ^ Farhi, Paul (28 September 2017). "Email hoax comes back to haunt Jared Kushner's attorney". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  17. ^ Bertrand, Natasha (7 September 2017). "Trump lawyer Ty Cobb, fooled by 'email prankster,' asks for 'drone' in private emails slamming reporter". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  18. ^ Booth, Robert (9 August 2017). "Amber Rudd latest to fall victim to email hoaxer using fake account". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  19. ^ Darcy, Oliver (22 August 2017). "Emails: Breitbart editor pledges to do 'dirty work' for Bannon, smears Ivanka". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  20. ^ Rubino, Kathryn (5 October 2017). "It Happened AGAIN — Another Biglaw Partner Falls For Internet Prank". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  21. ^ Digg Team (10 October 2017). "Email Prankster Strikes Again, Fooling Harvey Weinstein And His Legal Team". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  22. ^ Levy, Ian (30 October 2017). "The serious side of pranking". Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  23. ^ Braue, David (20 September 2019). "If Scott Morrison emails you, check the header". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  24. ^ Gray, Jasmin (1 August 2017). "Anthony Scaramucci Sent Some Seriously Bizarre Emails To A Prankster Pretending To Be Reince Priebus". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  25. ^ "Email Prankster™". Retrieved 10 April 2020.