Feeds

Oz gov sysadmins ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

PRISM? They've heard of it but never thought to block it

Boost IT visibility and business value

Systems administrators in charge of Australian parliamentarians' computers have been dozing at the wheel, don't read The Guardian, and have completely failed to notice PRISM or Edward Snowden, a Senate Estimates hearing has revealed.

Alternatively, Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) sysadmins are today queuing at the boss' office to protest that actually, their network is not a walk-in coffee-lounge frequented by NSA spooks stalking their girlfriends and exes, and that the Australian Signals Directorate watches it like a hawk.

The impression that there are holes in Canberra's dam walls came courtesy of a session in which Greens Senator Scott Ludlam played all the best cards in the Snowden slide-deck, to the discomfiture of the Department of Parliamentary Services' CIO, Eija Seittenranta.

“We know that Microsoft's software contains a backdoor … do we provide for a specific patch against that backdoor, or is the parliament's network open to intrusion by the US government?”, Ludlam asked (a question which The Register notes presumes the accuracy of Snowden's leaks).

In answering, Seittenranta noted that the DPS has never received “any specific advice” about vulnerabilities that are actually built into products (something denied by Redmond).

“When you became aware that the security vulnerability existed, that has been built into the software that we are all forced to use in this building, did you notify the occupants of this building?” Ludlam asked.

Seittenranta's response, that the DPS is “dependent on advice” from the ASD, did not satisfy the senator, who pressed on by observing that ““If the Chinese government had opened a backdoor in the operating system of every device in this room, and indeed this building, it would be a gargantuan scandal and presumably you would have called the ASD as soon as you were notified”.

If a backdoor exists and isn't protected by anything else, Seittenranta conceded that computers on the DPS network would inherit such a vulnerability. She added that in other contexts, such as computers operated by members of the ministry, security would be the responsibility of different departments.

This irritated Ludlam, since that means “I would have to chase the departments around this building one-by-one” to see how ministerial computers are secured.

In Seittenranta's support, another officer of the DPS said the department had never observed untoward outward messages from parliamentary computers. Since parliamentary computers are used, among other things, for communications such as e-mail, The Register presumes the statement that there were “no outward messages sent to Microsoft or any other organisation” didn't include legitimate communications.

Ludlam also appears to be under the impression that parliamentary machines are using US-hosted Microsoft cloud services: “Are you aware that Microsoft is under a legal obligation to allow the NSA access to its servers and its hosting services?” he asked.

She said the department has no validation that any backdoor exists, which Ludlam disputed by referring back to his statements about cloud services - “the primary documents are in the public domain, that Microsoft is under a legal obligation to open that security hole … every device in this building has been backdoored,” he said. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'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
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.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.