That New Zealand Treasury Hacking – It Was The Site’s Search Function

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We are all aware of what the selling point of technocratic, even social democratic, government is. Put all the bright people into government, give them access to our wallets and watch, amazed, as they solve our problems for us. We might even call this The Courageous State or the like.

Then we have the governments we do in fact have. With little evidence that we’ve attracted the very brightest to the calling.

The alleged “systematic” hack of New Zealand’s budget papers turns out to be nothing more sinister than a bit of internet searching. Earlier this week the opposition National party released pages of the much-hyped “wellbeing” budget, which should have been under strict embargo until 2pm on Thursday. The treasury secretary, Gabriel Makhlouf, said it appeared the documents had been “hacked”, with over 2,000 attempts to get into Treasury’s IT systems registered in a 48-hour period. Treasury officials said there was sufficient evidence that its systems had been “deliberately and systematically hacked”. The police were informed and an investigation was launched.

In an embarrassing twist for the Labour coalition government, police on Thursday said the documents were sourced legally using the search function on Treasury’s website, and the investigation had been closed. “The police have advised the Treasury that, on the available information, an unknown person or persons appear to have exploited a feature in the website search tool but that this does not appear to be unlawful,” Treasury said in a statement. The opposition National party leader, Simon Bridges, called for the resignation of finance minister, Grant Robertson, and treasury secretary, Gabriel Makhlouf, who remained of the opinion that the search attempts – despite being fully legal – were “deliberate, exhaustive and sustained attempts to gain unauthorised access to embargoed data.” In a news conference, Bridges showed reporters how easy it was to gain access to the documents using the Treasury’s own search tool.

As ever, the best argument against more government is the governments we already have.

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