... was so far from pleasing Tigranes that he had his head cut off for his pains. History tells us that his name was Ira Bailey

By now Pundit readers, being such well informed individuals who are uniformly of above average intelligence, will be familiar with the massive information security breach at WINZ. For the outliers amongst you who have just emerged from a week-long wananga in te Urewera and aren't up to date, you can read Keith Ng's expose on the issue here. (And if you like Keith's work, you can help fund more of it here.)

Keith's post has had the immediate effect of throwing the Government into full damage control mode. Not only have the offending WINZ kiosks been taken off-line while the Ministry of Social Development has "hired an independent security expert to carry out its own investigation", but John Key has announced "a Government-wide review of online information" by the Government Chief Information Officer. 

However, Ng's post has also sparked another, less savoury response. As he recounts here, quite quickly after his story went on-line a journalist contacted him with the name of the individual who first discovered the WINZ security flaw. And it turns out that that individual was Ira Bailey ... who has something of a history of his own.

Of course, the information as to who first uncovered the security flaws could only have come from within WINZ itself. And it seems pretty clear (at least, to me) that that information got shuttled out to a journalist as quickly as possible as a diversion tactic from the actual substance of the story - that the personal (and in some cases very personal) information of many tens-of-thousands of individuals was left lying around in a place where literally anyone could get to it. 

Then once the story had been placed with the MSM, the usual suspects in the blogosphere could be relied upon to pile on top with their own take on the issue. So David Farrar has lots of questions about Bailey's actions and motives (without really saying what they are or why they matter), Keeping Stock "reckon(s) that the most important question is this one; is there more to this whole story than Keith Ng has revealed so far, such as an underlying political agenda, and a concerted attack on the credibility of the Ministry of Social Development, its Minister and the Government?", while another blogger who need not be named and requires no links starts concocting all the sorts of conspiracy theories that you'd expect him to. 

Now, unlike some, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't think there's a VRWC out there that liases on a daily basis in order to plan the best way to pull the wool over the eyes of Kiwis so that they can be raped and pillaged at will. This site isn't No Right Turn, after all (I joke! I joke!).

But I do think that there are political communication advisors who specialise in creating strategies to frame narratives in ways that best suit the interests of those they work for. And I also think that it is natural for partisans (on the left and the right) to look at an issue and see it in ways that best fit their pre-existing worldviews. I mean, clearly the fact that this information breach has occured is very bad news for a National Government that's already been through the wringer on just this issue in relation to ACC. So when it turns out that the breach was discovered by a "terrorist" who then "asked for money" before passing the information on to Keith Ng ... well, isn't that a far better angle to view the story from?

Of course, even if it had been Stewart Murray Wilson who found out about the breach and demanded a full pardon in exchage for reporting it, the failure to protect the information would still be as grevious. But this story isn't about what has happened. It's about how the story about what has happened gets told.

[Update: And here we go ... with John Key apparently telling TV3 that:

Obviously it would've been better if the individual involved had actually told the government and not tried to charge the government some sort of fee. But he didn't, and goodness knows what he did with the blogger, I don't know if he gave it [the information] to him or sold it to him.

Better how? In some sort of personal ethical sense? Which matters ... why? Because if it is wrong for people to only provide socially useful information in exchange for cash, why do the Police make such offers all the time?]


Comments (10)

by Chris Webster on October 16, 2012
Chris Webster

parallel lives Andrew ...


by Eric Dutton on October 16, 2012
Eric Dutton

The question that everyone is carefully avoiding is "Was Ira Bailey the first and only person to find the security breach?" Emma Hart gave some idea of the devastating consequences on Public Address. The system seems to have had security problems for some time, and the few days between Ira Bailey accessing the system, and the MSD locking it down are probably not significant. Had Ira Bailey immediately turned over his findings to MSD, this gigantic FUBAR might never have seen the light of day. Now at least we will have a reasonably independent and reasonably public accounting. Bailey's actions are commendable, and MSD's obvious attempt to muddy the waters are reprehensible. With David Farrar, I find it less than credible that Bailey just happened to plug his USB drive into the kiosk. My money says that he was a further intermediary, and was made aware of the security problem by a third party either inside or outside MSD. Either way, MSD has been paying top dollar for some pretty shoddy work.

by BeShakey on October 16, 2012

It'd be nice if Keith Ng named the journalist who approached him. I, for one, wouldn't mind knowing who MSD's pet journalist is and which of our many reputable news outlets they work for.

by BeShakey on October 16, 2012

Also, this article http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10840860 shows they already knew about it. So their position is he should have told them about the thing they already knew about and hadn't bothered to fix so they could...

I also have to point out this from MSD's Chief Executive "we will be asking Deloittes to determine what we did to follow up this report's [the report a year ago pointint out the flaws] recommendations". To translate "I have no idea what is going on in my Department. Please fire me now".

by Andrew Geddis on October 16, 2012
Andrew Geddis

@BeShakey: "It'd be nice if Keith Ng named the journalist who approached him."

There's this:

Mr Ng told NBR it was a preemptive move, made shortly after he received a call from Herald journalist Claire Trevett asking him to confirm Ira Baily was his source.

by John Norman on October 16, 2012
John Norman
Heard about today.. on RNZ as it happens,, in which an Ira Bailey was questioned and heard to deny asking for money or like payment for his contribution or IT assistance etc.. Above, however, a someone is quoted for asserting same. Do I take it that the quoted person is a government staff employee (mebbe MSD)? Do I further take it that Mr Key's reported claim of a "fee" is the same likely source? As you say the happenings of this story are important and it thus seems to me specific justifications are in order. Did Bailey ask or didn't he? Did the employee need an excuse to cover the FUBAR and go about destroying the messenger rather than admit to any possible culpability? Dues this amount to misleading the PM? Etc..
by stuart munro on October 16, 2012
stuart munro

Coming as it does on the very day John Key was plastering over the cracks in his GCSB debacle by asserting that he had no intent to deceive when he lied to the house, this was not perhaps the kind of news the gnats were looking for.

But drawing the ire of Ira Bailey, it may not have been the smartest move of the many 'smart' moves the gnat consultants had to choose from. Ad hominem rarely is. After all, if a tape ever existed then, by morphic resonance, further tapes are made increasing probable.

by Tom Semmens on October 17, 2012
Tom Semmens

No conspiracy theorist, but it does occur to me that "blogger" (read: actual journalist) Keith Ng's expose comes on the heels of the Herald's crusty pair Armstrong and O'Sullivan's hissy fits at "parasite bloggers", and that the (as beShakey so eloquently puts it) WINZ pet journalist thought solidly to be relied on to run the governments smear is named as Claire Trevitt. One is (again) forced to ask troubling questions about the over-cosy relationships that many of the institutionalised journalists of our MSM share with the pollies, and if they are really are champions of the people prepared to speak truth to power or if they are simply are enablers of what Pablo at kiwipolitico presciently described back in january as our growing culture of impunity.... http://www.kiwipolitico.com/?s=culture+of+impunity

by BeShakey on October 17, 2012

Looks like I was too quick to describe Claire Trevitt as MSD's pet journalist. Apologies, it looks much more like she is the Government/Paula Bennett's pet journalist.

I'm not across all the MSM reporting on this, but from the limited blogosphere discussion I've seen it looks like the Government's 'look over there' strategy has failed, in that people have looked in the opposite direction, at some journalist's habit of taking stories from the Beehive. This has been going on for a long time, but it'd be nice if journalists applied the 'is this really a story or am I being used?' test.

by Scott Chris on October 18, 2012
Scott Chris

But I do think that there are political communication advisors who specialise in creating strategies to frame narratives in ways that best suit the interests of those they work for.

Yes I agree. I think this kind of subjective loyalty is one of the 'nicer' aspects of human nature in of itself, even if it is essentially self-delusion.

I suppose it is a measure of a person's integrity though, as to what extent the self-delusion ends and the disingenuity starts.

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