Russia-linked hackers tried at least five times to pry into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email account while she was secretary of state, released emails show.

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It is unclear if she clicked on any attachment and exposed her account.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential race, received the infected emails, disguised as speeding tickets from New York, over four hours early the morning of August 3, 2011.

The emails instructed recipients to print the attached tickets. Opening the attachment would have allowed hackers to take over control of a victim’s computer.

Security researchers who analysed the malicious software in September 2011 said that infected computers would transmit information from victims to at least three server computers overseas, including one in Russia. That doesn’t necessarily mean Russian intelligence or citizens were responsible.

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaign, said: “We have no evidence to suggest she replied to this email or that she opened the attachment. As we have said before, there is no evidence that the system was ever breached. All these emails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam.”

Practically every Internet user is inundated with spam or virus-riddled messages daily. But these messages show hackers had Clinton’s email address, which was not public, and sent her a fake traffic ticket from New York state, where she lives. Most commercial antivirus software at the time would have detected the software and blocked it.

Clinton has faced increasing questions over whether her unusual email set-up amounted to a proper form of secrecy protection and records retention.

The emails themselves – many redacted heavily before public release – have provided no shocking disclosures thus far and Clinton has insisted the server was secure.

The hacking attempts were included in the 6300 pages the State Department released on Wednesday, covering a period when US forces killed Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring rocked American diplomacy.

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