Monthly Archives: April 2017

Police illegally accessed journalist’s phone files under new metadata retention regime

The Australian Federal Police illegally obtained a journalist’s phone records under the Turnbull government’s new metadata retention regime, the agency announced on Friday.

The breach took place as part of an investigation into a leak of confidential police material – and the incident will now be investigated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin said the police officers investigating the leak did not realise they were required to obtain a warrant to access the journalist’s metadata.

“This was human error. It should not have occurred. The AFP takes it very seriously and we take full responsibility for breaching the Act,” Mr Colvin said.

“There was no ill will or malice or bad intent by the officers involved who breached the Act. But simply it was a mistake.”

The journalist in question had not been informed their data had been accessed, Mr Colvin said, due to sensitivities around the ongoing investigation into the leak.

The breach occurred “earlier this year” and was reported to the Ombudsman on Wednesday.

Under the revised data retention regime, police are required to obtain a warrant from a judge to seek metadata from a journalist.

“The vulnerability is the investigator needs to understand that that’s their requirement,” Mr Colvin said on Friday. “On this occasion, the investigator didn’t.”

The phone records in question were relevant to the investigation, Mr Colvin said, but “what was improper was that the right steps weren’t taken to gain access to it”.

The breach is the first such incident that has come to light under the government’s new metadata retention regime, which requires service providers to store their customers’ data for two years.

Acknowledging the policy was “controversial”, Mr Colvin said Australians should nonetheless have “full confidence” in both the police and the policy.

He conceded the AFP’s internal procedures had not anticipated and prevented the error and therefore those practices would be subject to “significant changes”.

Access to metadata would now be restricted to more senior officers, he said, and the number of officers who can approve access to metadata will be reduced. Training will also be bolstered.

Asked if the unlawfully-obtained phone records would still be relied on to inform the actions of investigators, he acknowledged that once seen it could not be unseen.

“Clearly they can’t unsee it. They’ll need to consider … what weight they put on what they saw,” Mr Colvin said. “But that material was accessed illegally, so it can have no bearing on the conduct of the investigation.”

He stressed the content of the journalist’s phone calls were not accessed, just the call records. But Paul Murphy, chief executive of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said that was not a mitigating factor.

“It’s another demonstration that the AFP do not understand the sensitivities here, the vital importance of protecting journalists’ confidential sources,” he said. “It’s an absolute disgrace.”

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, who lobbied for extra safeguards for journalists when the laws were formulated, said he was “furious” about the revelation and would seek further amendments to the law.

“This is outrageous. There’s been a flagrant breach of the law here,” he said. “The safeguards have been completely trashed. This should chill the spine of every journalist in this country.”

Henry Sapiecha

The 20 people who USA President Donald Trump turns to & are not in the White House

Washington: Relationships have always been President Donald Trump’s currency and comfort, helping him talk his way into real estate deals over three decades in New York.

Those who know him best say that his outer confidence has always belied an inner uncertainty, and that he needs to test ideas with a wide range of people.

As Trump’s White House advisers jostle for position, the president has turned to another group of advisers – from family, real estate, media, finance and politics, and all outside the White House gates – many of whom he consults at least once a week.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is on the phone every week, encouraging Trump when he’s low and arguing that he should focus on the economy rather than detouring to other issues.

Developer Richard LeFrak is a soothing voice who listens to Trump’s complaints that cost estimates for the border wall with Mexico are too high. Sean Hannity tells the president that keeping promises on core Republican issues is crucial.

Trump’s West Wing aides, like President Bill Clinton’s staff two decades before, say they sometimes cringe at the input from people they can’t control, with consequences they can’t predict. Knowing these advisers – who are mostly white, male and older – is a key to figuring out the words coming from Trump’s mouth and his Twitter feed.


Here, based on interviews with more than a dozen friends, top aides and advisers inside and outside the White House, are 20 of Trump’s outside touchstones:

The Mogul

Rupert Murdoch

Trump’s relationships depend on two crucial measures: Personal success and loyalty to him. Murdoch excels in both categories. His New York Post vaulted Trump from local housing developer to gossip-page royalty, and his Fox News Channel was pro-Trump in the 2016 general election.

The two share preferences for transactional tabloid journalism and never giving in to critics. (Trump said fallen Fox star Bill O’Reilly should not have settled sexual harassment complaints.)

The president’s relationship with Murdoch is deeper and more enduring than most in his life, and in their calls they commiserate and plot strategy, according to people close to both.

Murdoch even called the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, to buck him up after Spicer was savaged for a remark about Adolf Hitler.

Media baron Rupert Murdoch, pictured with Ivanka Trump

The Media

Sean Hannity

Presidents always deploy surrogates to appear on television to spout their talking points, but Trump has expanded on that by developing relationships with sympathetic media figures like Hannity who also serve as advisers.

Hannity, the Fox News host, defends Trump’s most controversial behaviour in public, but privately, according to people close to Trump, he urges the president not to get distracted, and advises him to focus on keeping pledges such as repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Chris Ruddy

The chief executive of Newsmax Media is a longtime Mar-a-Lago member and was a Trump cheerleader among conservative media well before the website Breitbart joined the parade. He employs writers and editors who tracked Trump’s career when they were at The New York Post. He recently visited the Oval Office, and he and Trump kibitz in Florida and by phone.

The Lawyer

Sheri Dillon

Dillon seemed out of place when she spoke at a too-large lectern in the lobby of Trump Tower on January 11, describing the steps Trump planned to take to separate himself from his business.

But Dillon, an ethics lawyer who worked out a highly criticised plan for Trump to retain ownership of his company but step back from running it, has repeatedly counseled the president about the business and made at least one White House visit. (Michael Cohen, a veteran Trump aide, has been serving as his personal lawyer.)

Campaign Advisers

Corey Lewandowski

Despite his “you’re fired” slogan, the president dislikes dismissing people. Lewandowski, Trump’s hot-tempered first campaign manager, was fired last June but never really went away.

A New England-bred operative whose working-class roots and clenched-teeth loyalty earned him Trump’s trust, he continued to be in frequent phone contact with Trump until the election and beyond.

Friends of Lewandowski say that he can see the windows of the White House residence from his lobbying office on Pennsylvania Avenue, and that the view is even better during his visits to the West Wing, including when the New England Patriots were at the White House in the past week.

Newt Gingrich

The former House speaker talks more with Trump’s top advisers than he does with the president, but his presence permeates the administration. Gingrich’s former spokesman is at the State Department, and two former advisers work in the West Wing.

Gingrich has relentlessly promoted Trump’s policy adviser, Stephen Miller, as the West Wing conservative ballast as the chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has been under fire.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Photo: AP

Childhood Friend

Richard LeFrak

Their fathers were developers together in New York, and the two men have been friends for decades. LeFrak is a Mar-a-Lago member, and he agreed to be part of an infrastructure effort that Trump hopes to put forward. Trump has turned to him to vent frustrations about the slow pace of bureaucracy.

The Peers

Thomas Barrack

Trump divides the people around him into broad categories: family, paid staff and wealthy men like Barrack whom he considers peers.

A sunny and loyal near-billionaire who has socialised with the president for years, Barrack is less a strategic adviser than a trusted moneyman, fixer and sounding board who often punctuated his emails to Trump with exhortations like “YOU ROCK!” He has urged Trump to avoid needless, distracting fights.

Under Barrack’s leadership, Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $US106.7 million ($141.4 million), much of it from big corporations, banks and Republican megadonors like Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Barrack also helped usher Paul Manafort, the international political operative under scrutiny for his ties to Russia, into the Trump fold last year. The velvet-voiced Barrack does not seek out attention for himself, one of the most important and elusive qualities by which the president judges people.

Stephen Schwarzman

The chairman and chief executive of the Blackstone Group, Schwarzman is the head of Trump’s economic advisory council. He and the president don’t speak daily, West Wing aides said, but do talk frequently.

Schwarzman has counselled him on a number of topics, including advising him to leave in place President Barack Obama’s executive order shielding young undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” from deportation.

Steve Roth

A good way to get on Trump’s side is to do a deal with him, particularly if it means rescuing him from his own financial crisis. That’s what real estate tycoon Steve Roth did a decade ago when he bought out Trump’s share in a New York City real estate deal that went sour.

Roth, head of Vornado Realty Trust and a longtime Democratic donor, also helped Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, when he injected $80 million into 666 Fifth Avenue, a Kushner family property in danger of defaulting on $US1.1 billion in loans. Trump speaks with Roth frequently, and is leaning on him to help develop a trillion-dollar infrastructure package expected this year.

Phil Ruffin

Trump has 20-odd business partners, but none is closer to him than Ruffin, 82, a Texas billionaire who has lent his ear and private jet.

The president was best man at the 2008 wedding of Ruffin to his third wife, a 26-year-old model and former Miss Ukraine. Ruffin has a knack for showing up when Trump needs him most and remains a die-hard defender.

“This stuff about him having financial investments all over Russia – that’s just pure crap,” Ruffin told Forbes. “I went to Russia with him. We took my airplane. We were having lunch with one of the oligarchs there. No business was discussed.”

Carl Icahn

Rounding out Trump’s roster of wealthy octogenarians is this 81-year-old corporate raider and real estate mogul who occupies perhaps the most respected perch in the president’s circle of businessmen buddies.

The affection is long-standing: The New York-bred Icahn has known Trump and his family for decades.

It’s also numerical: Icahn is worth an estimated $16 billion, a major plus in the eyes of a president who keeps score. Icahn serves as a free-roving economic counsellor and head of Trump’s effort to reduce government regulations on business.

Man of Mystery

Roger Stone

Few alliances in politics are as complicated as the 40-year relationship between the Nixon-tattooed Stone and Trump. Stone won’t say how frequently they speak these days, but he shares the president’s tear-down-the-system impulses and is ubiquitous on cable, on radio and on the website InfoWarsnews defending Trump.

The Clubgoers

Ike Perlmutter

Perlmutter, the chief executive of Marvel Comics who is so reclusive that few public photographs exist of him, has been informally advising Trump on veterans issues. The two men are old friends, and Perlmutter has been a presence at Mar-a-Lago club.

Robert Kraft

The owner of the Patriots is a Democrat but his loyalty to Trump, Kraft once said, dates partly to the president’s thoughtfulness when Kraft’s father died. Trump loved talking about the Patriots during the campaign, and Kraft has been a Mar-a-Lago presence since the transition.

The First Lady

Melania Trump

Melania Trump is uninterested in the limelight, but she has remained a powerful adviser by telephone from New York. Among her roles: giving the president feedback on media coverage, counselling him on staff choices and urging him, repeatedly, to tone down his Twitter feed. Lately, he has listened closely and has a more disciplined Twitter finger.

US first lady Melania Trump. Photo: AP

The Governor

Chris Christie

Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and palace gatekeeper, has shown a capacity to hobble his rivals, but few have been finished off. The most durable has been Christie, whose transition planning, several West Wing aides now concede, should not have been discarded. He has been a frequent Oval Office visitor and has worked with the White House on the opioid addiction crisis.

The Speaker

Paul Ryan

Trump and the clean-cut and wonky Wisconsinite aren’t exactly best friends forever. But their relationship is closer than in the bad old days of the 2016 campaign when Ryan delayed a hold-my-nose endorsement of Trump, whose morality he had long questioned. But as the president’s agenda passes through the razor-blade gantlet of the House, where Ryan faces the constant threat of opposition and overthrow, the two men have become foxhole buddies.

The Sons

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump

The two sons and the president insist they no longer discuss company business. But the family is close and Trump still speaks to his sons frequently, inquiring about their lives and searching for gut-checks on his own.

– The New York Times

Henry Sapiecha


Hi, folks!

Lots of policy changes in the cyber realm lately. Net neutrality is back again as an issue, but that’s been overshadowed by another topic in recent days. Before we get into that, though…

Still working on the report on closing. I’m trying to get permission to include something from a while back, which would be a cool addition.

That’s the problem with being involved in other people’s projects over such a long period. You know a lot of great stories, but some of them aren’t yours to tell.

I’ll keep my eyes crossed. (I need my fingers to type.

Also, before we get into the main bit, there’s something you should do if you use iCloud: Change your password.

secret-file-password image

You’ve probably heard about the group that’s trying to blackmail Apple into paying them $75,000 in Bitcoin (or $100,000 in iTunes gift certificates) or they’ll delete everything in 300 million iCloud accounts on the 7th of this month.

While it appears to be a hoax, there is reason to believe they’ve acquired some legitimate passwords. Probably ones that are the same as those used on other services.

You know – like when your LinkedIn or Yahoo password is the same as the one you use for your iCloud or bank account?

No need to panic. Just change your password to be on the safe side. Use one you haven’t used for other services. And think about enabling 2-factor authentication, for added measure.


“ISPs Selling Your Data”

big-data-path image www.intelagencies.comooo

Yeah. Big noise in the press on this, and rightly so. Tuesday it became official: The President signed a bill into law that scraps regulations preventing ISPs from selling your personal data. Including your browsing history.

Here’s the thing most people don’t get: This isn’t new. The law doesn’t let them do anything they couldn’t already. It just stops a pending prohibition on it from coming into effect.

The rationale presented by the bill’s supporters in Congress is just stupid. “We want to protect privacy, but we want everyone subject to the same regulations. So we’re going to eliminate the protections that had been developed.”

Sure. And they’re really likely to develop new ones later.

Don’t count on it.

Trying to explain to these folks that free and optional services like Facebook and Google are different from infrastructure systems you have to pay to use is pointless.

It’s tempting to blame the willful ignorance on campaign contributions, but the folks who voted against the bill got roughly the same amount as the ones who voted for it. So, it ain’t that.

This is all about who gets to control your information. Every detail of your private activities online.

I think that should be you.

Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T have all said they don’t sell this data and have no plans to do so. Which one should always translate as “but maybe later.”

AT&T was typically snarky in their comments. Someone really needs to explain to them that talking down to their customers isn’t an ideal strategy.

I think they’re still sore about the breakup.

To their credit, though, they’re also the only ones with a clear and simple “We won’t sell your personal information to anyone, for any reason” statement in their privacy policy.

What they might consider “personal information” is less clear.

Here’s a very rough analogy.

If you use some basic, if uncommon, security measures, Facebook can be like a really, really big restaurant. They can know everything you do and say while you’re there, but not much else.

Google is like a huge mall, with lots of security cameras. They can see and track what you do on their properties, and others that carry their cameras, but there are limits.

Your ISP, especially if it’s a cable company, can know almost everything. It’s like they can walk right into your house, peer through your blinds, see what mail you get, where you bank, what shows you watch, how many kids you have and their ages (and what sites they visit), who you talk to on the phone and for how long, who your kids talk to, what apps you use and on what devices, where you have accounts, where you shop online, when you’re planning vacations, when you’re not home, and so much more.

That’s just from the logs. No snooping involved and no real effort to mine and correlate the data. And you don’t have much choice in the matter.

Your ISP might only consider your name, address, and social security number to be personal, along with maybe medical info and data about minor children. Even then, there’s nothing preventing them from legally selling any of it they like.

Here’s the real kicker: The just-signed law also prevents them from being required to take steps to protect all that information.

cybersecurity=image www.intelagencies.comooo

Really. Even if they don’t abuse you themselves, they don’t have to do anything to keep you safe from hackers. Or tell you when your data is compromised.

Just let that sink in for a minute.
Now, suppose they sell it to a data aggregator. If you’re a guy, that’s like having your ex-wife, your new girlfriend, your mother, your 5th grade teacher, your boss, your doctor, and your best friend from high school all trading stories about you.

I’m sure there’s a similarly horrifying female equivalent.

Keep this all in mind the next time you’re tempted to say “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to hide.”

Maybe you don’t care about your privacy. That’s your business. But it doesn’t give you the right to go into someone else’s house and rip down their curtains.

Privacy isn’t about hiding. It’s about being allowed to mind your own business.
That’s what we’re going to talk about for the next few issues. How to increase your personal privacy online.

There are some things you ought to know before we get into that, though. The biggest being that the only certain way to avoid someone else getting private information is to keep it to yourself.

cyber-spy image

Anything can be hacked.  And anyone.

I’ll show you some tricks ranging from basic to mediocre, and I’ll give you the best advice or links I can, but there are risks with any of them. Things can change, and unknown exploits can be found. Previously benign companies can go over to the dark side.

As Pogo said, lo, these many years ago, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” User error always poses the greatest risk.

I’ll give you pointers that will help cut down the data you leave around and decentralize what you can’t eliminate. But I make no guarantees.

Anyone who promises you 100% security is either a liar or a fool.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are always trade-offs. You have to decide which data is worth what level of expense or inconvenience to keep private.

Encrypting your phone slows down boot-up and makes it take longer to open when you need it. On the plus side, that and a good password ensures that random people won’t be able to get in if you lose it or it gets stolen. Or you just leave it on the table while you have company.

Using a VPN may keep your ISP from getting a lot of that data, but it could just be shuffling it to another seller, or slowing down your surfing.

Encrypted texting apps might require jumping through some hoops to make sure you’re sending only to the person you want, and they could limit who you protect conversations with. It can be easy to forget which of your friends are on “secure lines” and which aren’t.

The same is true of using encrypted email.

Using something like Tor to browse the web has its own risks. It opens new areas online, but some of those can be dangerous in themselves. And there’s speculation that simply installing it could attract notice by law enforcement.

If you aren’t doing anything wrong, that can be a good thing. There are those who believe that the best way to protect all our rights is to make the cost of spying on everyone too heavy. To have so many people using encryption and other systems that agencies are forced to take a more targeted approach to doing their jobs.

Always trade-offs.

I should also point out that the things I’ll cover are about increasing privacy, not gaining anonymity. That’s a whole other level of obfuscation. And none of this is meant to help you hide anything illegal.

That’s not the goal. More privacy is the goal.

In the meantime, think about what info you want to keep to yourself. If you have specific ideas, it will help you get more out of this.

And, if you have any specific questions on this, go to my website below

Until next time…

New cybersecurity inquiry launched

australian-government-logo-in-blue image

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit has launched an inquiry into Cybersecurity Compliance as part of its examination of Auditor-General reports. The Committee’s inquiry is based on the 2016-17 Auditor-General Report No. 42 Cybersecurity Follow-up Audit.

Committee Chair, Senator Dean Smith, said that, as Parliament’s joint public administration committee, the JCPAA has an important role in holding Commonwealth agencies to account.

“Cybersecurity is integral to protect Government systems and secure the continued delivery of Government business. Government entities are required to implement mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of cyber intrusions. The Committee is continuing its oversight of entities’ compliance with the mandated strategies with the launch of this Inquiry,” Senator Smith said.

The JCPAA is a central committee of the Parliament and has the power to initiate its own inquiries on the Commonwealth public sector. The Committee examines all reports of the Auditor-General tabled in the Parliament and can inquire into any items, matters or circumstances connected with these reports.

The Committee invites submissions to the inquiry by Thursday 27 April 2017, addressing the terms of reference. Further information about the inquiry can be accessed via the Committee’s website.

Media enquiries:
Chair, Senator Dean Smith, Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit
(08) 9481 0349 (Electorate office)
(02) 6277 3707 (Parliament House)

Committee Secretariat
(02) 6277 4615

Interested members of the public may wish to track the committee via the website. Click on the blue ‘Track Committee’ button in the bottom right hand corner and use the forms to login to My Parliament or to register for a My Parliament account.

Media release issue date: 7 April 2017


Henry Sapiecha