Phone hacking

There is an excellent article from Light Blue Touchpaper about securing information (just in case you don’t get the delicate joke: Cambridge’s colour is light blue, as opposed to Oxford’s true blue; and of course “light the blue touch paper” is on the instructions of fireworks).

Part of it is just the obvious problems – people no changing their default PINs – and part more disturbing – the lack of ethics amongst a section of journalism, and more importantly the corruption of the police. And I could rant about how rubbish banks etc. are about their ridiculous phone “security”. But the more interesting bit is about designing the infrastructure to make this harder. I could talk about that I suppose but you’re better off reading LBT.

[Pulled to the top again because of the ZOMG news. Plod has pulled in Wade – but is this plod finally showing some backbone, or merely trying to look good, or just more collusion with the journo’s: where better to be at this point with a Parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday looming than snug and warm in custody, happily shielded from embarrassing questions? Big Plod has gone too – but of course saying he had done nothing wrong, ho ho.]

[Update: not-quite-so-big Plod has gone too. Unlike Big Plod, who pronounced himself totally innocent of any conceivable offense, nqsb Plod is silent so far, and “Mr Yates’s resignation came after he was informed he would be suspended pending an inquiry into his relationship with Mr Wallis.” [Updated: when will I learn to take copies? I think the Beeb have silently updated their report. Anyway, predictably enough nqsb Plod has declared himself entirely innocent, quelle surprise: “He said his conscience was clear”.]

[The picture is totally irrelevant, if you were wondering, and is from Early Warning]

19 thoughts on “Phone hacking”

  1. Apparently one of the arrested, Neil Wallis, was a business associate of Alan Edwards who was hired by UEA to help with the PR after Climategate, which Comical Anth’ny himself spins into, “One more reason to distrust CRU and UEA – their hired spinmeister was arrested in the News of the World phone hack scandal”.

    So I guess CRU were in on the phone hacking in the minds of his accolytes, now. I wonder if CRU will ever stop beating its wife.


  2. Which is worse, obtaining facts by ugly and illegal methods, or making them up?.

    As a rough approximation, the UK side of News Corp is associated with the former crime while the US side has been vigorously pursuing the latter non-crime.

    Anyone interested in science should be more concerned about the second as exhibited by Fox News.

    It is also of interest that James M is less hostile to global warming science than Rupert has been, in practice, and it is James who may be in the firing line next week.

    Big question: if the shareholders get more control over the running of News Corp, what proportion of the shares will belong to fossil fuelists?


  3. Stoat:

    But the more interesting bit is about designing the infrastructure to make this harder.

    Excuse me while I vent my spleen again.

    As you may already know, apparently the Obama administration’s idea of “cybersecurity” is to threaten to drop bombs.

    And UK Lord Joplin’s idea of “cybersecurity” is even more idiotic: after Anonymous cracked into HBGary Federal and revealed HBGary’s plan to discredit anti-USCoC activists by “exploiting” the PCs of activists’ families, Lord Joplin wrote a report discussing how to protect defence contractors such as HBGary!

    Sometimes you really have to wonder, “WHAT THE FLYING ████ ARE THESE POLITICIANS THINKING?”

    Duh. Maybe I should find out how to jailbreak answering machines.

    (On the plus side, and I learnt a new word for an old concept: “blagging”.)

    — frank


  4. News Corp has two classes of stock, which means that to get control you have to get the family to give up their Class A shares.

    Oh yes, Rebekha is in the slammer, or as you Brits put it, assisting the police, who should be helping themselves if the churnalism is anything near right.

    [If you’d like a nice conpsiracy idea: her being in the slammer is pretty convenient for a number of people right now. The police look like they’ve finally done something, even if it is useless. R is now quite hard for the parliamentary committee to ask questions of – quite convenient for hew, no? -W]

    The fun part of all this is that Stoat may have to eat his Gruniard.

    [Gurnard? There was a report that we’d have to eat bycatch to stop those evil fisherfolk from throwing stuff back -W]


  5. Sir Paul is now road kill. Will he be assisting his former employer soon?

    [It just gets better and better. Who will be the sacrificial actually thrown in jail, though? Can they really sack 20% of the Met? -W]


  6. I think it is rather too easy blaming people for not changing their PIN if this is to be believed:

    Sienna Miller changed her phone PIN hundreds of times, sometimes daily, and she even changed her mobile number three times. Each time she did, it took a private investigator just a matter of hours to crack her new code. The theory is that the News of the World had a source at CTI, the accounts company which held the accounts information for all the major phone companies, except O2. The source there would change the PINs on behalf of private investigators or journalists at The News of the World so they could access private messages.


  7. We have another serious institutional problem in the UK. As if the Met taking bungs and our elected leaders fawning at the coattails of a media mogul wasn’t bad enough, it looks like the Crown Prosecution Service may have been very naughty boys and girls.

    CPS in crisis as allegations of suppressed evidence wreck trials

    Within out legal system, I think that only leaves the judges with any integrity, doesn’t it? General election next year?

    [I have rather less sympathy in this area. In particular It is a cornerstone of the justice system that prosecutors must also disclose to the lawyers working for the defendants any relevant document that would help their defence. seems entirely wrong to me, due to the asymmetry: there is no obligation on the defence to disclose material useful to the prosecution -W]


  8. “there is no obligation on the defence to disclose material useful to the prosecution – W”

    Because the prosecution controls the investigation in the Anglo-Saxon system. It’s meant to create a balance.

    Nevertheless there is an important imbalance at the heart of the trial. In the days before the existence of a professional police force and when it was up to the individual victim to initiate a prosecution it might be said that defence and prosecution were, roughly, equal parties to the ‘trial by battle.’ But it is quite obvious that in the modern criminal justice system, by contrast, the prosecution has far more resources at its disposal (police investigators, forensic scientists etc.) than the defence.

    Disclosure (by the prosecution of its case, the evidence and witnesses it will call at the trial) is traditionally regarded as one of the two main ways in which this inequality is remedied. (the other is the right of the accused to silence both in police investigation and in court) Belloni and Hodgeson quote the opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeal in reviewing the Birmingham Six case in 1991:

    “A disadvantage of the adversarial system may be that the parties are not evenly matched in resources… But the inequality of resources is ameliorated by the obligation on the part of the prosecution to make available all material which may prove helpful to the defence.” (quoted in Belloni and Hodgeson 2000, p126)

    As recently as 1994 the Court of Appeal (in the case of R. v Winston Brown) reiterated the point: that

    “in our adversarial system in which the police and the prosecution control the investigatory process, an accused’s right to disclosure is an inseparable part of his right to a fair trial” (quoted in Belloni and Hodgeson 2000, p130)

    [I’ve heard that theory before. But setting up two incommensurable forces and hoping for “balance” is doomed. It also leads to vast paper shuffling exercises, and generates vast lawyer-time in big cases where the defence scramble around for something they should have been told, in a desperate attempt to get off on a technicality. Which leads the prosecution to generate vast piles of pointless disclosure. Since all of this leads to lawyers being paid for their time, no-one inside has any incentive to fix it. Further, in some cases (well, Regina vs Murdoch for example) the supposed disparity doesn’t exist -W]


  9. But there’s no such thing as a perfect legal system, just like there’s no such thing as pure democracy. At the end of the day, a protection must be in place for the overwhelming majority of accused defendants who, quite simply, cannot afford a Murdoch scale of defence, but where the state can. The Birmingham Six case is precisely the example of why a criminal prosecution is loaded in favour of the prosecution should they decide “This isn’t fair, and we want a result.”. The alternative is the latin system of judges controlling the investigation. I don’t see there being a viable middle ground.


  10. Stoat, the legal system is supposed to lean in favour of the defence: better that 99 guilty men be allowed to go free and all that. And what would you think if you or someone you knew was being falsely accused of a criminal charge merely because a lawyer working for the Crown wanted to boost his conviction rates?

    — frank

    [Well, that’s easy, because you’ve set it up so: if someone is being falsely accused, then they shouldn’t be being accused. But the question is: does the current system work well in practice? I don’t think it does; though that may be based on a few spectacular failures -W]


  11. J Bowers:

    So I guess CRU were in on the phone hacking in the minds of his accolytes, now.

    But wait! There’s no talk of any ‘phone hacking’ inside the SwiftHack e-mails! What can that mean?

    On the CRU tangent, an idiot wrote over at Climate Progress (annotations mine):

    Actually, it’s now widely believed[weasel words] that the CRU emails were released by a CRU intern[a real 31337 intern with mailbox access and Russian server etc.] in a moment of conscience.[citation needed] He (or she) just couldn’t let things go on any longer as they were without letting the public know about it.[OK, maybe ‘citation needed’ isn’t obvious enough: this part is just made up]

    It’s like these inactivists have a penchant for pulling ‘facts’ out of their butts.

    Meanwhile, any idea who else other than the UK police are actively investigating SwiftHack? (What, no? This is depressing…)

    — frank


  12. [Well, that’s easy, because you’ve set it up so: if someone is being falsely accused, then they shouldn’t be being accused. … -W]

    The thing is, if you know a friend is being falsely accused, what remedies are available to him/her? Should he have to marshall the resources of the Murdoch empire just to demonstrate that he didn’t commit the crime he’s accused of, while the prosecution is allowed to cherry-pick evidence that paints your friend as a very evil person while portraying their own side as squeaky clean?

    — frank


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