Australian Government Prosecuting Anonymous Member Who Allegedly Exposed The Major Flaw In Its Data Retention Demands

from the prison-is-for-useful-people dept

Find a security flaw, go to jail. That’s the general attitude of government entities around the world. Over in Australia, an Anonymous member and fundraising manager for a cancer support group is facing an ever-shifting number of charges for finding and testing security holes.

Adam John Bennett is a rather un-anonymous member of Anonymous. He also acts as an unofficial mouthpiece for Anonymous via his LoraxLive online radio show. His supposed participation in a large-scale hack saw him raided by Australian Federal Police in May of 2014. Since then, he’s been awaiting prosecution for a variety of charges — charges government prosecutors seem unable to pin down.

The data breach leading to Bennett’s arrest involved a target of Australia’s controversial data retention law, which requires ISPs to hold onto subscribers’ internet activity (including social network use and emails) for two years and grant extensive access to a variety of government agencies.

AAPT confirmed it was breached in July 2012, following claims by an Australian sect of Anonymous that it snatched 40GB of data from the major Australian internet service provider (ISP).

After stripping out personally identifiable information from the data (which included members of the Australian government), Anonymous released the data to raise awareness around expectations of data security: To demonstrate that if an ISP as large and trusted as AAPT can’t keep its own data secure, it will be unable to keep Australians’ data safe under the proposed laws.

Rather than consider this a point well taken, the government went after Bennett. As for the prosecution itself, it’s been a complete shambles.

On March 11, Adam Bennett — known by most as the radio voice of Anonymous, LoraxLive, who was arrested last year for alleged computer crimes — will finally learn what he’s being charged with.

This had been expected to happen this week. Instead, at the last minute, Australian Commonwealth prosecutors — for the third time since the case began 10 months ago — requested another delay to change its lineup of accusations against him.

Maddeningly, the prosecution also indicated it will be dropping its initial charges against Bennett, and adding a slew of new ones.

Not only can’t the government decide what to charge Bennett with, but it’s also been instrumental in hamstringing his defense counsel. It’s hard enough to structure a defense when charges remain largely unknown. It’s even harder when the prosecution shows up late on the Friday before the next court date and dumps 20 GB of “evidence” into the defense’s lap.

Even more irritating is the fact that the prosecution apparently hopes to add Bennett’s vulnerability testing of his own employer to list of charges.

One of the charges Bennett’s counsel expect to be in the final lineup is “Heartbleed Vulnerability Testing for Cancer Support W.A. 2014.” This is in regard to a Heartbleed vulnerability test created by Bennett to test his employer’s servers (Cancer Support W.A.) for Heartbleed vulns, which would have put the CRM that Bennett was involved in building for the organization at significant risk.

This addition of complete BS suggests the prosecution can’t find much about the Anonymous ISP hack it can wrap charges around. Instead, it seems to be operating purely on bluster. Constant delays followed by last-minute data dumps aren’t the sort of actions that indicate prosecutorial confidence. Instead, it gives the impression that the government hopes to obfuscate its way into a guilty verdict.

Meanwhile, Bennett is still living under restrictive bail conditions that prevent him from using the internet for anything other than banking, employment (he lost his job at the cancer support group after his arrest) or legal advice.

While the government may be right to complain about the unauthorized use of an ISP’s data, it seems to be more concerned with making an example out of someone who may have had something to do with providing a practical demonstration of the stupidity of data retention laws. The fact that it’s going after him for testing his own employer’s defense against vulnerabilities suggests there will be some prosecutorial “piling on” when it finally gets around to enumerating its criminal charges — presumably in hopes of deterring future exposures of flaws in its lawmaking logic.

This is what happens when governments try to “protect” citizens with little more than expansions of surveillance and law enforcement powers. Retained data is just as apt to be misused by cybercriminals as it is by law enforcement/security agencies. Any time you ask a third party to hold onto data it normally doesn’t, it increases the risk of serious breaches involving plenty of normally private information. There are no exceptions. Anonymous exposed the short-sightedness of data retention laws. In response, the government has decided to shoot as many messengers as it can get its hands on.

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Comments on “Australian Government Prosecuting Anonymous Member Who Allegedly Exposed The Major Flaw In Its Data Retention Demands”

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40 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Working as intended

I’m guessing they know exactly what they’re doing actually.

It’s not so much that they can’t figure out what to charge him with, it’s that they know that their case is weak enough it would be a dicey court case, and would just draw more attention to the problems that were exposed, and so they are intentionally making his life as difficult as possible both for vindictive reasons, and to try and pressure him to ‘agree’ to a lesser deal to avoid having to deal with their sadistic actions for years to come.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If a bunch of people in the country have their info hacked and bad stuff happens because of it, what penalty do the politicians face?

If someone exposes a critical flaw in something that those in politics were/are pushing for, what consequences do the politicians face because of it?

Answer the above, and you’ll understand why they always go with ‘shoot the messenger’ over ‘fix the problem’.

Guardian says:

From bikers to anonymous

from bikers ot anonymous , does anyone think that the nazi space aliens braum talked about realized who’d win WW2 and went with the usa and friends….and now were gettign that nazi feeling all round the world

WHAT THE HELL DID MY GRAND FATHER FIGHT FOR?
losing my civil rights and freedoms for the uber rich and greedy psychopaths that run everything…

we need a new world war against fascism again
and remember that Mussolini’s party even had Jews in it…

this is the style it now follows with corporate support.
This world will not make it if we do not all pull together and work this crap out….

ANYONE with a brain sees the future is NOT GOOD….look how they buggered us with global warming all to line there pockets…

the 2012 33.1 trillion tax evasion bank and like i said as HSBC shows it is not the only such bank…
back then the world total debt was 40 trillion

THIS IS UTTERLY DISGUSTING…imagine how much less crime would get done if the world had less debt , food , sheltar and nicer living ..not to mention the greek and euro issues.

WE ARE ( whoever we are ) ARE FED UP.
Are you?

waves at the nsa and the CSE ( canada ) who will now call me a radical and could arrest me like a terrorist also makes me disgusted )

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not sure about Australia

I don’t think they even want a plea. They’re just taking him on the legal version of “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.”

They’ll just bankrupt him and then withdraw the case for some random technical reason. Rendering someone homeless and unemployable despite never getting a conviction is a powerful lesson to activists: you lose, even if you’re right.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Not sure about Australia

Australia does NOT have plea deals like the US does. In actuality dropping initial charges means a whole new set of investigations needs to be done and this is NOT conducive to a great reception by any magistrate nor judge in either federal or State courts.

In fact the more I and other see and hear about this case the more calls for prosecutorial misconduct, malicious prosecution and nonfeascance charges against the AFP seem more and more likely.

Oh and Courts here take a very dim view of extending charges over this period of time. The Govt knows exactly what they are doing but they also know they will have to pay the piper eventually. What th9is is is pure and simple intimidation and trying to make Bennett cave in both mentally and financially.

The problem now is it’s gotten to the stage that the Government cannot control it and people are starting to help Bennett and not in ways the government here likes. Oh and I wont go into their lack of evidence, that is for another post entirely.

Bill Jackson (profile) says:

Ever Hear of:-

The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight?

Alive and well down under…
Unless they get a pet judge, the judge will crucify them. I suspect all this hemming and hawing is to try and line up some sort of charge sheet that will syand up to scrutiny.
They should give it up as a bad job, and dialog with anonymous to settle the underlying flaws – or they will die the death of 1000 bites.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, our gleefully technically illiterate prime minister and our technically incompetent attorney general can’t even explain what metadata is. For example, the ag says that the “electronic address” of a web site we visit will be stored, but not the actual web site. Huh?
It’s no wonder that the government can’t pin down their charges against this guy. Shooting the messenger is becoming the de facto position of this bunch of bastards we have in government. Witness their recent appalling treatment of Gillian Triggs, the human rights commissioner.
Enough said.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Those playground bullies, grew up and got government jobs.
The difference is now when you stand up to them there is an entire system dedicated to crush you for daring to point out they were full of shit and just trying to scare people into giving them their lunch money.

No matter what charges they bring or the circus they put on, the most important fact that needs to be shouted louder than anything else is they can’t protect the data they demand. The are illequipt and unprepared to do it.
They are inventing more and more punishments to distract from the simple point, they haven’t got a clue what they are doing. It doesn’t matter how high you pile the charges, because the next one to get the data won’t let you know about it… they will use it and the citizens will suffer for this ill conceived notion that if we have all the data we can magically somehow stop all bad things.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "Why do people elect these thugs?"

Maybe it’s because there’s only thugs on the ballot?

Also, the campaign image that gets you into office has little correlation with the characteristics that will make you a good governor.

We like handsome athlete types to be chieftain of our tribe when all we need is a big guy to rally around. It’s a bit more complicated when our tribe is millions strong, includes farms, ranches, industry and science and a plurality of cultures who are, each, creeped out by the others.

And to be fair, I’m not sure if the spazzy nerd or the emo artsy type are better suited either.

Bill Jackson (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Why do people elect these thugs?"

True, we run “popularity contests”. The capability to manage public affairs is never shown to be present at all.

I seem to recall the Mandarins in China in olden times, had examinations for the civil service.
I wonder how the subject of testable qualifications being required before you are nominated passes muster?
Also secret ballot, not a public show of hands. The show of hands allows bribers to observe bribees earn their bribe.
US Congress and all elected officials need secret ballot.

Anonymous Coward says:

* They want to keep this quiet as it is dynamite against their mass surveillance legislation. Spread the word!
* They probably have a weak case with most of the evidence being inadmissible/illegally obtained. They want a plea deal.
* George Brandis, the AG, is a corrupt, incompetent lunatic. This government has pissed off EVERYONE, including the legal fraternity. Brandis may well be being undermined from within.
* Brandis et al are stupid, petty, vindictive photo-fascists. No outcome they foresee is harsh enough. Hence procedural punishment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The only thing that can force an early election is to block the Supply Bills (basic public service funding, ie salaries etc) in the Senate which forces the government of the day to call for a double dissolution of Federal Parliament (both Houses go for a complete reelection, unlike a half Senate election as per usual with the House of Reps full election).
As the current PM Tony Abbott has already lied about taking us to a DD if his party’s policies didn’t get through the Senate last year (they didn’t), & most likely again this year giving a reason for a DD us voters aren’t holding our breath. His tea party policies haven’t been fully enacted so he can’t go just yet.
We are however rather shocked at how many sectors of the community that have been pissed off/marginalised in the last 18 months with only the rich & powerful getting let off on this score. That’s on top of slagging off the UN, Putin, Indonesia & a few more international targets I can’t think of at the moment.
The latest domestic gaff this year (& there has been plenty more) from our PM after knighting the Queen’s consort Prince Phillip is calling Aboriginals living on their traditional lands a ‘lifestyle choice’ & they must leave when federal funding soon stops as our self appointed Minister for Indiginous affairs (aka the PM) considers it a waste of $150 million per year to keep them on their lands. Just because some of his rich mining buddies don’t want to go throught the process of negociating with the aborigines’ Native Title claims (when they leave their lands the title is extinguished)

WaitWot says:

Moral of the story

So the moral of the story is, if you’re going to hack something, whether you’re doing it for the right or wrong reasons, is to make sure you get some dirt on at least one politician before you start exposing anything… maybe he should look back through his “anonymized” data to see if there’s anything juicy in there to get the feds to back off, because clearly they’re trying to find a crime to fit the person

Ninja (profile) says:

Hmmm. If Anonymous had the data and the Govt is acting like that with a guy marginally connected to it that is actually doing a great service for the Australians then why not simply dig the data and post it unfiltered or with emphasis on some unflattering point for key political figures in this madness and post it in the wild? Add the message: The warns were ignored and treated as crimes so here you go. The next could be you under the new laws.

I mean, if the Government refuses to learn and do the right thing why should the other side bother?

GEMont (profile) says:

I can see the crap clearly, but have only the vaguest notion where the wipe might be...

It is becoming quite apparent that most people here – not counting the trolls/shills of course – have at least started to see through the fog of war and are starting to realize that what once passed for governing and leadership, has now become nothing more than exploitation and weakening of the poor and middle class, by the rich.

Dooh Nibor.

Or Reverse Robin Hood for the non-puzzle folks…

What the USA needs now, is a large number of full time discussion groups that are 100% dedicated to finding and testing SOLUTIONS that might work, rather than just re-hashing the obvious problems over and over again.

But until then – hash on!

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Robin Hood as a folk hero...

Methinks “trickling away” may no longer be an applicable term for the outright robbery that is taking place today.

With things like asset forfeiture and the many phony “War On” programs that steal taxpayer’s money for make-believe causes, the public is being milked like never before and the process is merely getting under way and guaranteed to escalate as the crooks in power suffer zero consequences from their activities. Greed knows no upper limit.

The rich have indeed always made their money from the poor – it is the poor that work in their fields or factories for subsistence wages and it is the poor that buy the very products they produce in those fields and factories.

In fact, the entire concept of “Getting Rich” in America is based on the idea of creating something that the peasants will buy in large quantities, or creating a service that the peasants will flock to your door to access. Without the public to make and purchase the products and services of the rich, the whole chain breaks down.

But today, the theft is institutionalized and “in your face” because the lords have no fear of legal consequence even when caught breaking the few remaining laws that try to protect the poor from the rich. The lawmakers are now the very same rich men and women that the laws were originally designed to protect people from.

Again, solutions that do not include politicians and law-makers are needed and the only place to find such will be the public itself.

There can be no succor from the wealthy by the wealthy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When you’ve sold your ass to the mining industry why would you want the miners to pay for anything they don’t need to. They got rid of a miner’s super profits tax as payback for their finacial backing ASAP & proudly boast about it. This is the PM who said “Coal is good for humanity” earlier this year, or it could be the end of last year, the gaffs come too thick & fast to remember exactly when it was said.

Using one of his billionaire mining mates to chair an inquiry into the ‘welfare state’ so as to justify the government’s attack on the poor, disabled, old & unemployed.

Setting up an inquiry immediately after forming government into why Australia should cut back on the change to renewable energy & then acting on it is all in a day’s work for this far right government who is owned lock, stock & both cheeks by big business.

Dismantling anything & everything to do with climate change, be it the scientists, their organisations, acts of parliament (carbon tax gone) etc as in our PM’s own words “Climate change is crap” as he goes about following the business backed, far right wing Institute of Public Affairs think tank list of 75 things to do when in government. all for the benefit of business & to the detriment of the citizens, just warming up for the TPP which will be signed by the PM as soon as possible.

Bill Jackson (profile) says:

Kill the Golden Goose

Metal and coal prices vary greatly. When metal prices fell, there were no super profits any more = so why tax them.
A mine is not like a factory. Most mines are good for 10-15 years and are then exhausted. (a rare few last a long time indeed). Coal is common, so when people dig too much the prices fall – as we have seen.
What is needed is a way to reduce wages when prices drop and increase them in super profit times. That would allow mines to make money when prices drop instead of closing the mine = zero wages or sales.

Too many left wing miners think money grow from the ground, and too many right wing mine owners want miners to eat coal dust. A middle ground where both live and the money is shared, but this would need statesmen current pols in all countries are just greedy grabbers, like most mine operators as well as mine workers.
You need a steady 20-30 years of reasonable wages all the time, in places of high wages- Laid off – high wages – laid off repeat until you die.

Anonymous Coward says:

The super profits mining tax was brought in when prices were high & the big miners are still making money as they have ramped up production to record levels last year & have told shareholders that they will break new records this year, so good profits are still being made by BHP-Billiton & Rio Tinto. The Australian mines will last far longer than a decade or two, these are some of the largest reserves of coal & iron ore in the world & are good for the next 50 years.
Wages are already heading down despite the fearmongering from the treasurer last year with his OMG there’s a wages breakout & the need to cut wage increases by law. The importing of overseas labour is also having an effect on local employment & wages as laws have been changed to suit the employers at the expense of local labour.

This government has a hatred of unions & has decided to shut down entire industry sectors (car manufacturering is just one example) just to kill off the unions (who support the opposition party) & privatise at all costs the public health & education sectors to also get rid of the union’s power & financial base.
Now we are heading into a reccession as the nonstop doom & gloom talk from the current government from when they were in opposition for six years has seen business & consumer confidence plummet, our dollar has lost 25% of its value against the US dollar & interest rates are at all time lows.
We did have 30 years of steady wage growth, now we are in uncertain times which will possibly see wages drop in real terms & consumer spending curtailed. Remember it is the consumers that create employment, not the rich who offshore their money in tax havens, they only take on extra employees when there is demand for them.

Bill Jackson (profile) says:

Re: The inexorable wage ratchett.

There needs to be a balance between the weakness of right winger politicians to keep wages balanced and give cost of living adjustments(COLA) + 2-3% real wage increases (RWI). Some of them are left wing and willingly give COLA + RWI of 2-3% annually. So if you give unionists COLA and RWI of 4-5% annually you have a mechanism to ramp ahead of the rest of us and automatic inflation.
See what this did to Detroit in the USA and to the American auto unions. It gave a gift of all those autoworkers jobs to the Japanese and Koreans who built roll-on-roll-off (RORO) cargo ships so the old time high freight time and damage costs of importing cars from Japan and Korea were dramatically reduced.
These unions lost 90% of their jobs through greed and look where Detroit is now.

The truth is, you can not give one side all the $$, be they union or management. A balance must be struck. What good is it if the company goes broke and the high wages the union wanted are now gone.

Here in Canada an ex-union member is almost unemployable because if he is on strike, and working for pocket money the company know that if he is recalled he will not show up for work the next day = zero notice to the company that hired him. So reference are checked with care, great care.

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