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Posts Tagged ‘nocleanfeed’

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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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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