Report: FBI Contacted Denver VAR That Helped Manage Hillary Clinton's Email System

The FBI contacted Platte River Networks in the past week in connection to its role managing Hillary Clinton's private email system, according to The Washington Post.

The Post reported that Platte River, a 30-person solution provider based in Denver, was hired by the Clintons in 2013 to provide better security, durability and a more professional setup.

The email system installed at the Clintons' Chappaqua, N.Y., home had previously been plagued by outages, the Post indicated, with the system crashing for days after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Platte River declined to comment for this story.

[Related: Former Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton Took Security Risk With Custom Email Server, Partners Say]

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Platte River took over management of the server from Bryan Pagliano, who had served as IT director for Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign and became an IT specialist in the U.S. State Department after Clinton was named secretary of state in January 2009.

Before that, the Post reported, the system was maintained by Justin Cooper, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton with no security clearance and no expertise in safeguarding computers.

"A good solution provider would have no issue taking over someone else's work," David Felton, owner of Canaan Technology in Norwalk, Conn., told CRN. Felton said Canaan has taken over many networks with deficient security and gotten them up to a level that the company can comfortably support and secure.

Platte River was founded in 2002 and provides managed, cloud and telecom services to 200 businesses across the country with an average of 75 employees. The solution provider expected its sales to grow from $4.7 million in 2013 to $6 million last year, according to a September 2014 CRN story.

Platte River works with nearly three dozen vendors and distributors, and is a premier member of CenturyLink's Channel Alliance, a silver Midmarket Solution Provider for Microsoft, a preferred member of Dell's PartnerDirect program and member of Ingram Micro's Trust X Alliance. The solution provider services verticals ranging from legal and financial to nonprofit and government.

Clinton's unusual email arrangement came to light in March when The New York Times reported that she exclusively used a personal email system rather than an official government one for all business-related interactions during her 2009 to 2013 tenure as secretary of state.

Those emails landed on a server registered to Clinton's family home in Chappaqua, affording Clinton greater privacy, as government officials would be unable to access her email without her consent.

The FBI inquiries follow concerns from government officials that hundreds of emails passing through Clinton's private server might have contained classified or sensitive information and could be "compromised." The intelligence community's inspector general referred the matter in July to the Justice Department, the Post reported, bringing the FBI into the fold.

Canaan's Felton said high-profile people such as Hillary Clinton often prefer working with smaller solution providers like Platte River because they are typically more dynamic and responsive if a problem arises. Canaan also services many celebrity clients, and said they typically learn of his company through referrals.

There are several steps a solution provider could take to improve the durability of a private email server in a suburban or rural community like Chappaqua, said Felton, who said he grew up in the hamlet and has some customers in the area.

Felton said he'd make the network more durable by having more than one Internet provider; a dual power supply, with electricity coming from both the grid and a generator; and redundant firewalls so that the backup firewall automatically takes over with no action required if the primary one fails.

He would also recommend teaming up with an outside provider to queue emails should the network go down and the redundant power sources fail. This outside provider could either forward the emails to a backup address not linked to the disrupted server or hold the emails until the network is back up and running, Felton said.

But despite the best efforts of a solution provider, Felton said, the federal government can provide security protections on its own email system that simply aren't available to ordinary civilians.

Although a well-heeled individual such as Clinton could purchase the same networking hardware as the government, Felton said, the government can leverage its special relationship with hardware vendors such as Cisco to get highly customized software and firmware on its devices.

Hackers will frequently disassemble software that's available to the general public to find its weaknesses and improve their odds of penetrating the system. But since the government uses highly customizable software that's available only to them, hackers have no way of disassembling it and would only be able to get into the system using more conventional means.

"The reach of the government is far greater than the reach of a civilian," Felton said.