You might think that senior diplomats, engaged in top-level international negotiations, would be too busy or too wise to be tempted into checking out unsolicited pictures of naked ladies, sent from anonymous sources, on their work emails.
According to a report this week by US-based internet security firm FireEye, however, the prospect of seeing ex-topless model and singer Carla Bruni – wife of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy – in all her glory, was too much to resist for several, as yet unnamed, European officials.
According to FireEye a three-year campaign by hackers, with alleged links to the Chinese government, included one particularly salacious ploy during a 2011 meeting of G20 finance ministers in Paris.
An email with the subject “French First Lady nude photos!” was sent to officials at the foreign ministries of several European countries during the October 2011 summit.
The email in question. Photo: FireEye/Screengrab
The New York Times deduced the intended recipients of the spammy email from a list of email addresses in FireEye’s report.
The newspaper found that officials from the Czech Republic, Portugal, Bulgaria, Latvia and Hungary apparently found themselves incapable of turning down the chance to see nude photos of the wife of French head-of-state Nicolas Sarkozy.
“Almost everybody who received the email took the bait,” an official in Paris was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.
Perhaps predictably, however, the inexplicably generous offer proved too good to be true. The email was a "Trojan Horse" – when the diplomats clicked on the link, they unwittingly downloaded a virus which gave the Chinese hackers access to confidential information stored on the target’s computer.
The Chinese campaign began in 2010, with the most recent cyber attack taking place in August. In total, 21 targets within European governments were breached, according to the New York Times.
Carla Bruni, in her supermodel days, on the catwalk in Paris in 1994. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP
If the diplomats from the five named European countries were keen to view Carla Bruni “au naturel”, they needn’t have looked too far and wide – the former First Lady, who married Sarkozy in 2008, was a prominent model in the 1980s, and was snapped in the nude on several occasions.
The pictures resurfaced at perhaps the worst possible time – just as Sarkozy and Bruni were meeting Queen Elizabeth, shortly after their marriage. Although it's not certain if Britain's head of state ever viewed them.
In November 2009, a nude photo of Bruni, taken in 1993, was withdrawn from auction in Paris after bids for it failed to meet the reserve price. An identical print had sold in 2008 in New York for $91,000, the Daily Telegraph reported.