Feeds

Oz gov sysadmins ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.