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E-Crime Police Raid Melbourne Newspaper

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the e-police-they're-coming-to-arrest-me dept.

Australia 52

beaverdownunder writes "Police from the 'E-Crime Squad' have raided The Age's offices in Melbourne today, executing a warrant in relation to an investigation following allegations of illegal access to the ALP (Australian Labor Party) database. 'Victoria Police E-Crime Squad is investigating the allegation personal details of Victorians were electronically accessed by a media outlet via a confidential political party database without authorization,' a police spokeswoman said. Last November, The Age revealed the Labor Party held the personal details of thousands of Victorians — including sensitive health and financial information — in a database that was accessed by campaign workers before the Victoria state election."

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Witchhunt (5, Insightful)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381410)

Whether or not the allegations are true I guess we can expect such attacks to happen on any media publicist that isn't friendly to the government..

Re:Witchhunt (3, Interesting)

martinX (672498) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381544)

The Age is friendly to the government*. Maybe they aren't friendly to the police.

(The Age and other Fairfax papers are generally considered to be friendly to the ALP and the Greens. The ALP is currently in power federally. At the time The Age published the story, the ALP was also in power in Victoria, though they were recently replaced there by the Liberals. The story was about the state ALP database, though it is widely acknowledged that the Libs also use a database system to collate information they gather from correspondence and surveys.)

Re:Witchhunt (3, Interesting)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381604)

The age is generally considered to be unfriendly by whichever party is in power although the general perception is that they tip the scales a little towards the ALP (Labour Party)

However, the Liberal (read Conservative) Party is in power in the state of Victoria, so even by your logic, even though they are 'Friendly' to the Federal Government, They are considered 'unfriendly' to the state government.

as someone once said, "The best laid plans of mice and men are filed away around here somewhere......"

Re:Witchhunt (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38383114)

Adapting off Yes, Minister:

The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph are read by people who think they run the country; The Age is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Australian is read by the people who actually do run the country; The Sydney Morning Herald is read by the wives of the people who run the country; The Australian Financial Review is read by people who own the country; The Green Left Weekly is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and Lloyd's List DCN is read by the people who are going to see that it is.

* Appendix: The Courier Mail is read by people who think that everything south of the Murray River is another country, The Perth Now is read by people who might as well be in another country, The Adelaide Now is read by people who wish the rest of the country didn't think they were in another country, and The Mercury is read by people who get angry when their state isn't drawn on a map of the country.

The Australian is read by the people who think they run the country.The Age is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Sydney Morning Herald is read by the people who dThe Financial Times is read by the people who own the country.

Re:Witchhunt (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38383138)

Adapting off Yes, Minister:

The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph are read by people who think they run the country; The Age is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Australian is read by the people who actually do run the country; The Sydney Morning Herald is read by the wives of the people who run the country; The Australian Financial Review is read by people who own the country; The Green Left Weekly is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and Lloyd's List DCN is read by the people who are going to see that it is.

* Appendix: The Courier Mail is read by people who think that everything south of the Murray River is another country, The Perth Now is read by people who might as well be in another country, The Adelaide Now is read by people who wish the rest of the country didn't think they were in another country, and The Mercury is read by people who get angry when their state isn't drawn on a map of the country.

Re:Witchhunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387638)

However, the Liberal (read Conservative) Party is in power in the state of Victoria, so even by your logic, even though they are 'Friendly' to the Federal Government, They are considered 'unfriendly' to the state government.

but the database they got into was an ALP database, not a state government database.

I don't entirely agree with the "media outlet A is friendly with political party X" scenario here, they seem to be more a guideline than an actual rule.

Re:Witchhunt (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38390476)

To be fair, it is true that it is a "general perception", for a sufficiently broad definition of "general". The Australian is a Murdoch paper, which therefore has an interest in enforcing the perception that anyone not toeing the Murdoch line is in bed with the other side.

Media Watch (JH), the Australian & paper wars (3, Insightful)

tqft (619476) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381794)

a turf war fought through other means?
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-23/holmes-hacking-scandal-overblown/3687192 [abc.net.au]

"As recently as last Friday, The Australian featured a front page story by its media diarist, Nick Leys, sub-headed, in lurid red, "The Age Hacking Scandal". It's a story which The Australian and the Melbourne Herald Sun have been following off and on for months. To read about it in those newspapers, you would think that this is a case of 'hacking' similar to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal."

database (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381432)

Police raids involving data are like eviction from physical buildings and should be done with some guarantee, but I can't say if they were right or too harsh from here. OTOH a database with such data ought to be encrypted and put offline short after it is not needed.

Was confirmation of the Age's story their intent? (3, Insightful)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381440)

Ain't nothing that says "Labor Party held the personal details of thousands of Victorians" like a police raid because it is apparent that the Age had to have accessed that data to know about it.

Re:Was confirmation of the Age's story their inten (1)

martinX (672498) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381562)

The ALP acknowledges it. The Libs have a similar database. This is like the filing cabinet for correspondence in the local member's office, but electronic.

Re:Was confirmation of the Age's story their inten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381616)

Health information ...... that's not normally details people hand over - so that might be a big hook in this story

Re:Was confirmation of the Age's story their inten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381594)

Personal details such as? If its my preference in food, women, entertainment - then yeah its inherently wrong. If its my socio-economic details like address, current job etc... well I pretty much expect them to and have no problem with them having it.

Re:Was confirmation of the Age's story their inten (2)

skegg (666571) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381740)

Why would you expect a political party (not the government, a party) to have your socio-economic details?

As the article says, they also capture health information and, as shown in this article [smh.com.au] from July they also record:

profiles of constituents and their stands on issues such as gay rights, the environment and abortion

In just this post I've detailed that they're collecting information on people's:
- health
- finances
- stance on gay rights
- stance on the environment
- stance on abortion

I repeat, this is information collected by political parties to help them campaign; to help them win the next election.
It is not the government carefully collecting this information to provide a better public service.

This doesn't feel right. I can't quite put my finger on *why* but it just does. Perhaps someone else more eloquent can verbalise the reason.

Re:Was confirmation of the Age's story their inten (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381904)

A couple of thoughts about why anyone having a database with peoples finances, health and/or politics is a bad thing leap to mind:

In this case, the political party can tailor their marketing for you.
  Aren't they supposed to be pushing their view of the world and trying to convince you it's the right one, not telling you what you need to hear to vote for them? Perhaps not a crystal clear distinction, but if the info in the db is used sneakily to more effectively manipulate you, then it's bad.

And any db with sensitive info can be used nefariously in other ways too. Health info could be used to deny insurance or raise the price for it. Political stance could be used to compile a hit-list (if not for actual assassination, then at least for digging up dirt for character-assassination should the need arise) of potential political adversaries.

The db could be leaked or the curators of it may turn bad if they weren't all ready.

Re:Was confirmation of the Age's story their inten (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | more than 2 years ago | (#38389158)

Why would you expect a political party (not the government, a party) to have your socio-economic details?

As the article says, they also capture health information and, as shown in this article [smh.com.au] from July they also record:

profiles of constituents and their stands on issues such as gay rights, the environment and abortion

In just this post I've detailed that they're collecting information on people's: - health - finances - stance on gay rights - stance on the environment - stance on abortion

Most likely this is information that the subjects have GIVEN to the party, either by answering door-to-door or telephone surveys, or from submissions to their local politician. For example, "I support gay rights; please vote for that."

They will then add the voter's name to their data base. All the political parties do this.

It's the usual story, if you don't want the information to be out there, don't tell anyone.

Freedom of Press (0, Flamebait)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381442)

This should be condemned no matter what. Press has freedom to adopt means, that might cross thin lines

A reporter trying to bribe authorities, to find bookies, is not a criminal, if he has authorization from his press to do so.

Re:Freedom of Press (5, Funny)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381522)

I don't normally bribe officials, but when I do, I keep my press card on me.

Re:Freedom of Press (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#38392586)

I don't normally bribe officials, but when I do, I keep my press card on me.

Stay corrupt, my friends.

Re:Freedom of Press (3, Insightful)

Sparx139 (1460489) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381542)

I presume you then also approve of the News of the World fiasco in the UK, then?

Re:Freedom of Press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38382236)

"I presume you then also approve of the News of the World fiasco in the UK, then?"

The Age had permission from everyone who they looked up in the database in order to see what information was stored about them.
The only people they didn't have permission from is the people who owned the database.

Re:Freedom of Press (4, Insightful)

Rennt (582550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381554)

I can't tell if this is superbly crafted flamebait or if you really are that ill informed. Reporters do NOT have the right to break the law. Employer's can absofuckinglutely NOT "authorize" an employee to break the law. They would be up on conspiracy/RICO charges.

Do you also believe what happened to News of the World was a great injustice? 'Cause I know about 60 million people who would strongly disagree with you.

Re:Freedom of Press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381640)

Please in that case explain why "Freedom of the Press" exists as a term in most parts of the world, considering that the press does not have any more freedoms than the ordinary man and "Freedom!" (for all) would suffice completely as a term.

For example, we talk about "the right to carry arms", not "the right to carry arms of people who work as clowns", because there isn't any difference and the former term suffices.

Re:Freedom of Press (3, Insightful)

deniable (76198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381656)

Freedom of the press is like freedom of speech. I don't have the right to break into your house to speak freely.

Re:Freedom of Press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381946)

Freedom of the press should clearly extend to, for example, not having to disclose sources, even if they have done something unlawful, which is possibly more freedom than non-journalists would enjoy, but for journos to break laws à la News of the World?

Re:Freedom of Press (1)

tburkhol (121842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38386010)

In the US, free speech and free press are essentially identical. The 1st amendment says "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;..." Presumably to reinforce that by "speech" they don't literally mean the spoken word only. The difference is mostly in connotation: free speech implies the right of any wacko to spout crazy, unfounded theories; free press implies the right of responsible journalists to bring light to evil behaviors.

Re:Freedom of Press (1)

jampola (1994582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381650)

There is a big difference though. Obtaining data from a public "confidential political party database" is hardly hacking. It's open on the Internet and since it's there, it's debatable if anyone has even broke the law!

Granted if there was some kinda of confidentiality statement on said database, then it may be a bit different but when you consider some parties aren't too smart around here (Australia), then I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't one.

Re:Freedom of Press (1)

swinferno (1212408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381786)

Actually, here in the Netherlands, reporters can be freed from prosecution from breaking the law if in doing so, the greater good was served to report on some big issue that might otherwise have never been brought to light. For instance, a reporter who broke into an airport without authorization to show how sloppy the security was, was not prosecuted further after being charged. Note that breaking the law is still illegal, it's just that no penalty will be imposed.

Re:Freedom of Press (2)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381790)

Because of course interfering with a murder investigation of a missing schoolgirl in order to get some cheap headlines is exactly the same as reporting on whistleblower claims [theage.com.au] of dubious conduct by a political party. Right.

Re:Freedom of Press (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381880)

You're absolutely right, they are different. The trouble is that any freedom you give the press to skirt the law for noble investigation will also be used by them for gutter press purposes.

In the UK, even though the NOTW and other tabloids used phone hacking for all sorts of gutter press reasons, and the entire country is disgusted, there are still plenty of people arguing against putting restrictions on the press, because of those rare times they break the law for good.

I don't know what means should be used to distinguish between them. But I'm satisfied that in the UK at least the damage done by the press has far outweighed the good done by them. And thus I'd tend to go with the option of not allowing any special privileges when they break the law, no matter what the story.

Re:Freedom of Press (1)

Rennt (582550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382628)

Well, I wouldn't necessarily take The Age's word on this under the circumstances, but leaving that aside... I was not trying to draw any kind of similarity between the two scandals, perhaps I could have been clearer. My point was that the press is not above the law, and for good reason.

Re:Freedom of Press (2)

N1AK (864906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381574)

I'm also very dubious about this response. It certainly seems like a self-destructive response by the Labour party effectively saying "We're storing your personal information and we'll prosecute anyone who tries to warn you."

That said I think the press need some limitation on how they act. Very few people would defend the choice of a newspaper to hack into peoples voicemails as acceptable (even if hacking is just entering the default code) and that's what has been going on in the UK.

I'm inclined towards a system that allows the press flexibility to break certain laws with a requirement to notify someone in advance. This is especially important as bloggers etc continue to further blur the definition of journalist. Obviously who that someone in, and how to avoid that stopping the investigation of governmental or police matters would need to be considered.

Re:Freedom of Press (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381838)

The press have to obey all the same laws everybody else does. When they don't, they deserve the legal ramifications they get, same as the rest of us.

Cops turn a blind eye to public service corruption (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381482)

This is hilarious. There have been many reports of hundreds of cases of corruption in the Commonwealth Public Service which the AFP has refused to investigate.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service-keeps-fraud-cases-private-20110923-1kpdr.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/corruption-claims-dog-foreign-bureaucrats-20110923-1kpc7.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/federal-agencies-lack-firepower-to-deal-with-fraud-20111003-1l5dt.html

A guy reported corruption in the reserve bank but the AFP wouldn't investigate until he went on TV and forced them. Even now the Reserve Bank is being dragged to an investigation kicking and screaming.

http://www.smh.com.au/business/reserve-officials-in-evidence-coverup-20111004-1l7dr.html

http://www.theage.com.au/national/fresh-corruption-claims-rattle-rba-20111123-1nv2l.html

http://www.theage.com.au/national/rba-scandal-to-force-bribery-law-change-20110702-1gw9t.html

But the Labor Party has a leak and suddenly the cops are raiding the newspapers. What a joke!

Re:Cops turn a blind eye to public service corrupt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38390102)

And, to begin with, What the Devil is a political party dong with Sensitive Information about the party's Members?

I assume the members are the rank and file, folks who check a box to say they associate to the party, not employees whose employment includes benefits sensitive data might legitimately relate to?

LET'S ALL IGNORE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381540)

THE MURDOCH.

Wait and see (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381582)

Well The Age are claiming that a whistle blower from the ALP logged them in to the database [theage.com.au] , so they didn't use stolen credentials and can't be be said to have stolen the information. I think they were pretty silly to access the database from their office systems. If they had viewed the database from the home of their informant would a case exist at all?

Re:Wait and see (1)

SJ2000 (1128057) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381748)

If that's the case, Unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data [austlii.edu.au] requires states "A person who-causes any unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data held in a computer; and... knows that the access or modification is unauthorised; and... intends to cause the access or modification- is guilty of an offence"
Doesn't causation indicate that the whistleblower is the one who committed an offence against this section? Not the paper?

Re:Wait and see (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381878)

But in order to find out who the whistleblower is they need the reporters info.
They probably used a multi-user shared login account into the database so they can't identify the whistleblower by their login details.

Re:Wait and see (1)

EasyTarget (43516) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382502)

They probably used a multi-user shared login account into the database

I suspect that 'mediareps@*' had no password and very open privileges.

Like the US diplomatic papers the idea behind this sort of Db is that it's widely and easily accessible to those 'on message' but hidden and secret to 'enemies'.

Re:Wait and see (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#38392662)

Well The Age are claiming that a whistle blower from the ALP logged them in to the database [theage.com.au] , so they didn't use stolen credentials and can't be be said to have stolen the information. I think they were pretty silly to access the database from their office systems. If they had viewed the database from the home of their informant would a case exist at all?

Just as illegal as if they actually gained the credentials illegally in Oz.

Unauthorised access is still unauthorised access regardless of if the person who gained the credentials gained them via legal means, they were still used illegally.

Now if they had of been given the information, not the credentials by the alleged "whistle blower" (sarcastic air quotes) they might have a leg to stand on. Even in the home of the informant, they are still expected to do the right thing and not rifle through someone else's database looking for dirt.

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Pissweak Cybercrime Legislation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381648)

Victorian Cybercrime legislation is pathetically weak, if access wasn't controlled by an access control mechanism of any kind and the access or data obtained was not used for a serious offence then it wasn't illegal. Other legal experts also state that if the access policy wasn't published one could also feign ignorance as well. AFAIK, the database was publicly exposed and they found it. This isn't the first time that police have raided journalists, if they weren't using encryption to protect their confidential information then they're idiots.

Re:Pissweak Cybercrime Legislation (2)

SJ2000 (1128057) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381700)

Under Crimes Act 1958, Section 247B [austlii.edu.au] ("Unauthorised access, modification or impairment with intent to commit serious offence") one can claim they did not know access was unauthorised because no policy was stated as mentioned by the Australian Institute of Criminology amongst a variety of things. [aic.gov.au] Also, it requires intent to commit another serious offence.
The Crimes Act 1958 Section 247G [austlii.edu.au] ("Unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data") states that 'restricted data' is "...data held in a computer to which access is restricted by an access control system associated with a function of the computer." so if there is no access control governing access to the data then it's not restricted data thus no offence has been made against the section.
Assuming parent is correct regarding there being no access control, the investigation is a fishing expedition, which has happened before to the Australian media and they've always seized far more then was required. If they aren't using encryption and data compartmentalisation by now. then they aren't really serious about keeping their sources confidential.

http://cheapuggboots123.com (0)

cheapuggboots123 (2526558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381892)

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oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38382132)

Looks like *someone* got turned in to the CYBER POLICE!!!

Victorians.. (1)

thyrial (1429239) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382810)

Am I the only one who saw the "allegation personal details of Victorians " bit and thought , 'but whats the deal they'll all be long dead by now'..before I read the whole article and realized it meant present day Australians , and not people living in 19th century Britain? Yes? Fair enough

Re:Victorians.. (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38391648)

all part of our elaborate plan.

On the other hand... (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382904)

...at least they had a warrant unlike some other countries we know...

Law & Order (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 2 years ago | (#38384500)

"E-Crime Squad" Yes!!!! It can continue for another 20 years.

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