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Blagging Databases: Future Targets

July 12, 2011

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time and since the Notw stuff has all blown up again, I think it is time for one.


The ‘news’ that Milly Dowlers phone was ‘hacked’ did not surprise me. Neither did any of the the other victims of it. I had heard rumblings about similar targets months ago, in one report here or a blog there. What was so surprising was that it took Tom Watson MP on TV to make it national news. As soon as he said it, the cat was truly out of the bag. It is most likely with the consultation period on the BSkyB takeover nearing it’s end that served as a pressure cooker on the story, causing it to come to a head, also.


The initial inquiry managed to prove the PCC inept at cleaning out their own house, as their report pretty much asked very nicely that newspapers include a reminder of the PCC editorial code in their employment contracts. The information commission’s report seemed to want the PCC to go further, but had little power to persuade them to do that. The ICO’s report also gave a ‘blaggers guide’ as part of their evidence, explaining how to hack a mobile phone, utility bill information or whatever. It was just all about blagging, a skill as old as time that relies on the weakest part of any security system – the human element.


Those reports, combined with the Police’s useless investigation thankfully only pacified certain people for so long.


But the easy accessibility of these databases was a red flare of danger to many people. So where else may your details be kept that nefarious journo’s have access to?


The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report on the ‘Database State’ will make grim reading for anyone worried. It finds that ‘a quarter of all 46 databases across major government departments are almost certainly illegal under human rights law’. Did you ever suspect that? There are problems in many, not just to their accessibility but also to the information they hold. There are some pretty established databases like the national fingerprint one (one of the few OK ones), and then the more evil ones like ONSET, a database calculating when and which children are likely to offend in the future.


Please give it a little skim, but don’t blame me for the nightmares!



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