Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Two Questions, The Answers To Which Should Clear Up This Tape Nonsense

Here are the two questions that I think must be answered in the negative:

  1. Can you "leak" a public document?
  2. Is accessing a non-password protected file from a public server "hacking?"

See, the problem with the whole Schwarzenegger tape story is that, as I've been saying, both sides, seeing that the substance failed to accomplish anything, are dying to score some earned media out of the fallout. Except there isn't any fallout. The public is used to and seems to accept Schwarzenegger's loose lipped style (which is sad, but a topic for another post - but I suppose we can rationalize by saying at least when Schwarzenegger says something inelegant it just sounds candid and when Bush says something inelegant it sounds ignorant, so California still comes out way ahead). There was no "hacking" or other breach of internet security.

If, as one media expert to whom I spoke explained it, a file is not password protected, it is public.

Period.

Even if it isn't linked to from anywhere, simple directory scans, or just common sense, can usually find things. For example, if I wanted to get an old CMR post, I could likely engineer that from the method by which current posts are addressed in their URLs. If the archives drop down on this site breaks, for another example, it isn't hard to reconstruct the URL to access old Phoblog posts.

Unfortunately, the nuances of internet protocol and basic functionality are mysterious to both the MSM and the public. And politicos. That's why this non-story keeps going.

Bummer for the Schwarzenegger camp that they had to deal with the teensy speedbump of the original tape being reposted by the LAT. But if they had more techknow-how to start out with, they a) wouldn't have stored unedited audio files in a public directory and b) would've let the story die without trying to snatch a process victory story out of it slamming Camp Angelides for some sort of breach of law or whatever.

Camp Angelides, in turn, when they raised their hand to say, yeah, we did it, what's your problem, needed to educate political reporters and the public on exactly how they did what they did and why it in no way was either wrong or even questionable.

Now neither side can win, but it seems Angelides's side is unwinning even more.

So, to review:

  1. You cannot "leak" a public document.
  2. Until there is some evidence of a breach of password protection or something similar, there was no hacking. Accessing files on public directories, whether or not they are directly linked to from a top-level domain or anywhere else, is neither difficult, nor wrong, nor a hack.

Questions?

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