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Data breach claim and counter-claim

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Most people think giving their names to a politician is a bad idea because they’ll spend the rest of their lives being nagged by the party. New Zealand’s Labour Party has taken this to a whole new level, leaving donor details – including names and donation amounts – in plain view.

The predictable result is that a right-wing blogger in the Land of the Long White Cloud has grabbed the details from the party’s online donation system, and is threatening publication.

According to New Zealand’s Dominion Post, the breach has Labour trying to contact 16,000 donors to tell them their information has been compromised.

Although the party is calling the data breach “malicious”, Cameron Slater, who blogs as “Whaleoil”, says the data was so accessible that Google and other indexing bots had indexed the information. However, demonstrating his own lack of understanding of how the Internet works, Slater says the information will be cached “forever” by Google, using a link that Google has already removed.

Whether or not any law has been broken is not, however, a simple matter of the adequacy of Labour’s site security: unauthorized access to a computer system is, in many jurisdictions, sufficient to raise a case without considering whether the system was badly-protected.

Slater seems aware that he’s skating on thin ice. In a later pose, he states that the Labour system provided sufficient information for him to have gone deeper and fetched credit card information, writing: “In the MySQL database files there were also plain txt strings that contained other database passwords along with the user name and passwords of their credit card provider.”

However, he wrote, “I never accessed these areas, to do so would have been illegal”. That horse may already have bolted, merely by his access of other data, which he describes as being solely the fault of Labour’s “woeful breach of peoples’ privacy”. ®

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