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Hacker who leaked George W Bush's nude self-portraits sentenced to jail

The hackers responsible for breaking into George W Bush's private email and releasing his nude self-portraits to the world has been sentenced to four years in jail by a court in his native Romania.

Marcel Lazar Lehel, 42, a former cab driver in Arad near the Romanian border with Hungary, went by the online handle "Guccifer" and "Small Fume", which he used while hacking into the email accounts of various high-profile people, also including Jeremy Paxman, three members of the House of Lords and the head of the Romanian secret service.

He managed to gain access to accounts belonging to prominent personalities simply by googling the answers to security questions. This incident has highlighted just how easy it can be for hackers to gain access to online accounts and compromise identities.

Lehel shot to fame in 2013 when he hacked into the AOL email account of former US president George W Bush and those of his family. He further stole private photos, artwork and correspondence belonging to the Bush family, including self-portraits depicting the former US president in the shower and bath, which he had emailed to his sister.

Lehel also gained access to a confidential list of home addresses, phone numbers and emails of dozens of members of the Bush family, including both former US presidents and their children.

The hacker also leaked personal emails sent between the former US secretary of state Colin Powell and the Romanian European parliament member Corina Cretu, an embarrassing disclosure that forced Powell to deny allegations of an affair in 2013.

Lehel was convicted of hacking into the email accounts of Romanian public figures in 2012, but was given a three-year suspended sentence. Back then, the court ordered the defendant to pay 11000 Romanian Leu (£2,020) in legal costs to the state and confiscated his laptop.

"lacks any sort of conceptual depth or skill"

George W Bush said he took up painting after reading an essay by Winston Churchill on the subject. Bonnie Flood, the art teacher who Bush hired to guide him in his artistic quest of self discovery, claimed that the controversial former US president will "go down in the history books as a great artist".

She added: "He started out painting dogs. I think he said he's painted over 50 dogs."

However, his artworks have been widely panned by critics.

"George W. Bush paints like a beginning college art major," Mat Gleason of the Coagula Art Journal told CNN.

"The haste in which these pictures appear to have been completed reveal an artist who wants to finish what he starts, pleased with delivering something good and pleasant instead of great and overwhelming. This is the kind of artist who will never make a masterpiece."

"My feeling about George W. Bush's art is that it lacks any sort of conceptual depth or skill," said Evan Pricco of Juxtapoz Art and Culture Magazine wrote for CNN.

"It appears to be the work of someone who is trying to establish himself as a creative, introspective artist, but lacks both the technical chops or even knowledge of painting to make it something more than a hobby that should happen between clearing brush on the ranch or eating breakfast."