Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Followers of IT in Australia may recall in June 2011  it was reported by Crikey.com.au that a staffer at ABC Australia placed some code on an ABC server to mine bitcoins.

Back then, as Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time, ‘ABC’s head of corporate communications, Sandy Culkoff, said that the ABC would not comment on IT security matters however “there is a serious misconduct case underway in relation to this matter”

During Australian Senate Estimates in February 2012, Senator Abetz asked ABC Australia a number of questions about the incident. This revealed the incident was not a case of someone attempting to use corporate CPU time for their own advantage, but instead use visitors computers without their knowledge.

To answer Delimiter’s question from last year, this would most likely place the actions of the ABC staffer in the class of ‘petty criminal‘ under section 478 of the Australian Cybercrime Act. Today, the answers to the questions from May 2012 have arrived and it once again raises the question whether the ABC’s board are guilty under section 477 of the act – the more serious computer crime.

The ABC will be telling parliament they’ve destroyed logs. The actual quote is “The ABC did not retain the server log files for that period” which leads to wondering how long the ABC maintain their logs and why possible evidence of a ‘serious misconduct case’, or even that of a possible criminal act, has vanished. They will be telling parliament that no record was kept of the offending code “The ABC did not retain the Bitcoin code.” They will also be telling parliament that a conscious decision was made to keep notification of trying to impair computers away from the public: “There was no ABC news coverage of this matter” (this is at direct odds to my recollection of coverage at the time, but I would agree that it would seem there are no references to this incident on the ABC’s own website as of today). The ABC have previously claimed that they “ha(d) not received any complaints from audience members as a result of this Bitcoin code.”  The ABC believes that it’s not for them to tell the public when their staff members attempt to execute unauthorised code on your computer: “The ABC considered that it would be contrary to good security policy to publish any information about breaches of site security as this could reward and encourage hackers.

This is not someone attacking the ABC’s site, this is an ABC staff member attacking external computers. The ABC have decided to show no one – not the public, not AusCERT, certainly not the Federal Police – any details. If you were visiting their website and your web browser did have performance issues at the time, they certainly haven’t put their hand up to say ‘Oh sorry it might’ve been us’. Instead, they’ve hidden, obfuscated and deleted data. To say that such behaviour reminds me of the genesis of reports on the News International phone hacking scandal would be an understatement. Maybe we should expect more of this behaviour from ‘our’ ABC in the future. In the context of the push by the current Australian government’s attempts at data retention, one can’t help but also think that parliament is putting the horse before the cart. It’s time enough for Australia to have mandatory disclosure laws about data breaches. I hope that scenarios such as the ‘ABC Bitcoin Incident’ will be included in the types of data breaches requiring mandatory disclosure.


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To: Julie Collins Julie.Collins.MP@aph.gov.au
Member for (the Australian Federal electorate of) Franklin

Dear Ms Collins,
As my local Federal member, could you please inform me as a matter of urgency as to what assistance the Australian government is providing to my colleague, Austin Mackell, currently facing a court in Egypt after being charged on the weekend and allegedly about to be deported?

Further, I request a statement as to whether the Australian Government believes that Austin has received fair and reasonable legal defence, not limited to the question of whether less than two days is a fair and reasonable time to assemble a defence against the charges faced.

I also seek you to confirm or deny claims that the only Consular access Mr Mackell has received is a telephone call and whether this telephone call was secured against phone tapping procedures that are known to take place in Egypt under the current Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (of Egypt).


Peter Lawler.


(edit: linkification)


Your message
   To: Collins, Julie (MP)
   Subject: Open letter regarding Austin G Mackell
   Sent: Monday, 13 February 2012 10:17:36 AM (UTC+10:00) Hobart

 was read on Monday, 13 February 2012 11:42:49 AM (UTC+10:00) Hobart.
Final-recipient: RFC822; Julie.Collins.MP@aph.gov.au
Disposition: automatic-action/MDN-sent-automatically; displayed
X-MSExch-Correlation-Key: nUANfoNLL0iAbRAP7/5VzA==

(edit: Added tags, Return Receipt)

Update Fri 24th Feb 2012:
Contacted Ms Collins’ office today. Conversation roughly went:
Me: Why haven’t you responded to my email yet?
Staffer: Maybe no one’s read it yet
Me: The Return Receipt came back to me on the day it was sent, which I understand was a public holiday for everyone in her office, indicating someone read it two weeks ago.
Staffer: Oh, well maybe it go read but not … Read. Let me check. Yes, someone’s picked it up.
Me: Is it too much to ask to be sent a formal receipt reply when someone picks up a constituent’s letter?
Staffer: I’ll find out what’s happening for you.
Me: (To self, ‘This is insane’) Okay then.

I’d like to emphasize this is not verbatim, but merely my recollection of the conversation immediately after hanging up.

Update Tue 13th Mar 2012:

On 13/02/12 11:42, Collins, Julie (MP) wrote:
> Your message
>    To: Collins, Julie (MP)
>    Subject: Open letter regarding Austin G Mackell
>    Sent: Monday, 13 February 2012 10:17:36 AM (UTC+10:00) Hobart
>  was read on Monday, 13 February 2012 11:42:49 AM (UTC+10:00) Hobart.
> Final-recipient: RFC822; Julie.Collins.MP@aph.gov.au
> Disposition: automatic-action/MDN-sent-automatically; displayed
> X-MSExch-Correlation-Key: nUANfoNLL0iAbRAP7/5VzA==
> Original-Message-ID: <4F384890.2010705@gmail.com>
> X-Display-Name: Collins, Julie (MP)

Dear Ms Collins,
I follow up to your ‘auto-confirmation’ of the read state of my email. As you may be aware, I contacted your office on the 24th of February to ascertain any further status on my initial contact with you one month ago, apart from this automated return receipt. My comments on the conversation I had with your staffer were added to my original blog post, https://bleeter.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/open-letter-to-my-federal-mp-regarding-austin-g-mackell/

Please note that Mr Mackell’s position has moved on since my original contact with you and that your office’s silence in response to me makes it difficult to keep you reasonably ‘in the loop’ insofar as what his current status is.

I would urge you to read Mr Mackell’s piece today in ABC’s ‘The Drum Unleashed’ online piece, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3886006.html along with my original email to you. As noted above, Mr Mackell’s situation has changed since my original request and as such the questions I now have about this case to you, as my Federal Member of Parliament, are a bit different to the originals I asked. However your office’s silence in response beyond automated systems I initiate gives me little hope that you or your staff are capable of fairly representing my queries to the Foreign Affairs Department or, in fact, any other matter within your portfolios or regarding the electorate of Franklin.

As such, for now, this leaves me with two questions which I hope you can answer as a matter of urgency.

1. Why does simple acknowledgement of receipt of electronic communication with your constituents rely on automated systems initiated by constituents that are usually not enabled by default?
2. What measures have you put in place to correct this?

I hope that a prompt response answering these questions will facilitate the ability to go back to the original matter.


Peter Lawler.


Update Mar 13th 2012, 14:50

Response received to above email:

Thank you for your email regarding investment in our education system.

All Australian parents should be confident that their child will get a world-class education, no matter where they live or what school they attend.

The difference between our best and worst performing students is getting worse. The gap in literacy between our most disadvantaged and advantaged students is equivalent to almost three years of schooling.

Labor understands that we need to do more to lift performance. That?s why, since 2007, we?ve embarked on a strong school reform agenda;

* We?ve invested in teacher quality and built new facilities to modernize all our schools;

* We?ve invested in improving literacy and numeracy and supporting school improvement in disadvantaged communities;

* We?re delivering Australia?s first ever national curriculum and empowering local school principals; and

* We?ve made unprecedented changes to improve transparency in how our schools perform and are funded through ?My School?.

It?s also why we commissioned the first comprehensive review of school funding in almost 40 years.

This Gonski review clearly says we need change. Under current arrangements, similar schools with similar needs end up with different amounts of funding. We want to be confident that any new funding system will deliver the best result for our schools and our country.

We will work, in a spirit of co-operation, with schools, state and territory governments, education stakeholders and the community, to study what the report says and whether it will work.

Our aim is to introduce an improved funding system for 2014 and beyond. Change will only happen if it can support higher achievement for all students, support parental choice, and give every child access to a great education.

At every stage we will be working to make sure the federal, state and territory governments can sustainably fund the new system.

We will also be focused on the affordability of education for families and certainty for schools.

Again, thank you for contacting me. I can assure you I remain committed to ensuring that every Australian child receives a world class education.

Yours sincerely

Julie Collins MP

Federal Member for Franklin

My apologies to Ms Collins for not posting her followups earlier. I lost them in a sea of email.

Received: Tue, 13 Mar 2012 15:09:01 +1100 (EST)

Good afternoon

I apologise for the message that you have received, there was an issue with=
 our database. Please disregard the email you received and I apologise for =
any inconvenience.


A database problem? Sounds more like PEBKAC.

Update received Mon, 19 Mar 2012 11:17:05 +1100 (EST)

Dear Mr Lawler

I apologies for the delay in responding to you.

I have been advised by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Bob Carr,=
 that since Mr Mackell's detention and subsequent release consular officers=
 from the Australian Embassy in Cairo have provided extensive consular supp=
ort. Consular officers visited Mr Mackell while he was detained, have been =
in regular contact with Mr Mackell since his release and have followed up s=
pecific requests made by Mr Mackell, his legal representative and family.=20

I am advised that this assistance is still available and that consular offi=
cers in Canberra are in regular contact with Mr Mackell's family.=20

As you may be aware, the Australian Government cannot intervene in the judi=
cial and legal processes of governments overseas. I understand that Mr Mack=
ell has engaged a lawyer in Egypt to assist him in this matter.

Please be assured that the Australian Government will continue to extend th=
e full range of consular services to Mr Mackell in Egypt.=20

Again, I apologise for the time it has taken to respond to you. =20

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact my=
 office on 6244 1222.

Yours sincerely

Julie Collins MP
Federal Member for Franklin
p 03 6244 1222
f 03 6244 1211
e julie.collins.mp@aph.gov.au

18 Ross Ave (entrance via Bayfield St carpark)
(PO Box 38)

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There’s been some words said about HungryBeast’s survey on the Australian Internet Filter, that the questions asked were skewed. That may very well be true, but I really can’t see how one could survey the topic without skewing results. The topic is so highly emotive.

I can’t help but think of this old chestnut about taking polls. Whilst the topic is National Service, it could quite as easily apply to censorship.

The question that comes to my mind is: Where is the survey ‘Open Internet‘ lobby bases their lobby work upon? Be buggered if I can see it on their site. Much public policy created these days is done on an ‘evidence basis’. Without evidence of many people supporting the Open Internet cause, I cannot possibly see how one could change people’s minds. Well, depends. Does the cause merely want to defeat legislation or educate the wider population on responsible ‘net usage so that similar legislation isn’t proposed again.

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The ABC TV show ‘Hungry Beast‘ recently showed that 80% – four out of every five – of the Australian population believe that some form of Australian Internet Filter (aka ‘Clean Feed’) isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The issue which the majority of Australians would seem to agree upon is that the silent suppression of material, unique to the CleanFeed project, when compared to the ‘normal’ government censorship method is particularly vomit inducing. The ‘net filter argument is over. It’s opponents have completely and utterly failed to adequately communicate or convince the general population, who don’t care that they cannot buy Baise-moi or Ken Park at JB Hifi, that they are wrong. The population are the people who don’t want their 12-year-old (a reasonable age for an unattended youngster to stroll through the DVD counter at JB) stumbling on to Baise, Park or similar on the internet either. I suspect the population realises that anyone wanting to buy those videos will find a way, just as anyone wishing to see them online in a ‘Clean Feed’ environment will find a way. And by and large, Australia’s citizens seem to be happy with that. To argue against this is akin to pushing it uphill.

Yet there are many who continue to tilt at the windmill (and there’s more than just that one group) about the filter, or ‘online censorship’, who seem more than happy to stay silent on the issues surrounding section 191 of Tasmania’s Electoral Act. This act seeks to restrict freedom of speech during a Tasmanian election campaign to degrees higher than of both before the Internet arrived as well as to a different standard than of other means of publication (newspapers, etc.). Clean Feed is merely a proposal, 191’s been in force for six years. Search for items on the recent attempts to bring similar legislation in to South Australia? Lots of returns. But I’ll be danged if I can find any reference on EFA, or elsewhere, to anything resembling organised complaints against 191 from the same (or similar) organisations. The only reasonable reference I’ve heard of recently was ABC Tasmania Statewide Morning‘s host Tim Cox interviewing the Tasmanian Electoral Commissioner. The only useful advice I got from that interview? During a Tasmanian Election, get a lawyer before operating a blog, publishing a comment or tweet or anything online because the Commissioner doesn’t understand the law either as there’s no precedents. The silence from ‘big islanders’ on this would lead a reasonable person to believe we’re in entirely different countries (insert prejudicial comments here about Tasmanian people to instantly disqualify yourself from any attempt at reasoned debate). [edit: I might just mention that I suspect certain provisions of 191 are unconstitutional, anyway]

The ‘No Clean Feed’ movement seem so incensed because sometime in the future they will not be able to receive via internet that which they can’t now buy over the counter – imagine how shocking it’d have been to live 25 years ago, how deprived they were  because there was no internet –  that they’re happy to ignore, or continually stay silent about, around half a million fellow Australians. Many were deeply upset when news came to light about the new South Australia’s laws, yet why the silence about Tasmania? The simplest conclusion one can reach is the bigoted prejudices about this state.

It follows from this conclusion that there are many participants in the ‘No Clean Feed’ fight, up to and including the nominal leaders, who seemingly are in it merely so they may serve their own navel gazing masturbatory political and financial agendas. What’s galling is that in No Clean Feed’s own lack of outrage or protest about 191, it shows them to be a shallow self-absorbed crowd. And maybe that’s where the real base of the 80% approval comes from. The general population of this country don’t really object to some form of censorship and believe, either consciously or subconsciously, that some amount of NoCleanFeeders are a bunch of hypocritical loons who are in it for political point scoring or financial advantage and not on a matter of principle or informed debate that they really give a damn about.

Thanks to the second verse of the Australian national anthem, many of us are intrinsically aware from an early age that hypocrisy is the greatest luxury. It’s with a heavy heart that I declare that I believe the current NoCleanFeed fight and it’s leaders are both fundamentally and fatally flawed and in need of chronic hosing down before they truly mess it up for those who genuinely care.

Disclaimer: The author is a Tasmanian resident who will soon be directly subject to Section 191’s clauses, in all it’s horrors.

[edit: 16 Feb 2010, grammar]

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