Feeds

Home Office classes openness review a secret

Silly Season opens here

Mobile application security vulnerability report

It may be a little early for the silly season, but if last week’s antics by the Home Office and the Daily Mail are anything to go by, it is already upon us.

On Tuesday, the Home Office pioneered an interesting new approach to public information, by making a series of review documents available on their website – and leaving them password protected.

All too ironically, the documents catalogued “non-police power of entry” into your home, and were produced in response to a speech by Gordon Brown in October 2007, calling for greater openness in these matters. At the time, the Prime Minister expressed the view that there might be something like 250 provisions granting right of entry to an individual’s home.

However, as the Mail smugly pointed out, “there are now 1,043 laws that give the authorities the power to enter a home or business*. Nearly half have been introduced since Labour came to power 11 years ago.”

As examples of ludicrous new powers, the paper cites how officials may:

  • Invade your home to see if your pot plants have pests or do not have a 'plant passport'
  • Survey your home and garden to see if your hedge is too high
  • Seize fridges without the correct energy rating

Soon, authorities may also be able to enter your home to inspect for non-human genetic material, for looted cultural property from Iraq and for 'undeclared' carbon dioxide.

The Daily Mail’s response to what the Home Office described as an honest mistake was to call in the “computer experts” and open the documents anyway. We suspect that this required no more expertise than stripping the password out of a .pdf file.

A swift Google reveals a fair amount of software that will carry out this task – or at least claims to be able to do so. Reg readers interested in recovering “lost passwords” should check out products such as elcomsoft, PDFKey Pro or GuaPDF.

Whether it is legal to carry out such password removal – even where the document is intended for public use – is less clear.

Over the years, the Home Office website has attracted its share of criticism. On one occasion, individuals seeking to respond to the Home Office consultation on extreme pornography found their contributions bounced, because they included the word “pornography”. That’s good use of blocking software, almost on a par with the direct marketing company that invented its own processes for handling rude words, and rejected all addresses containing the word sex.

Readers in Sussex, Middlesex, etc. will instantly spot the flaw in that algorithm.

However, to be fair to the Home Office, there is no evidence that it is any worse than any other government department in this respect. The end of summer term in Parliament is the time for sneaking out as much embarrassing news as possible, in the sure knowledge that parliamentary scrutiny will be at a minimum.

No doubt, in the enthusiasm for getting the news out, someone left a file password-protected. It was unintentional, and readers wishing to catch up on the original release may now do so, without need for any additional hacking skills. ®

* Not so - the documents actually reveal 295 Acts, plus a hodge-podge of Statutory Instruments. These in turn add up to about 1,000 powers.

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.