Iain Dale: the hack

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 4, 2010

Category: The Political Weblog Movement, Tories! Tories! Tories!

This entry was posted on
Saturday, September 4th, 2010
4:41 pm and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement, Tories! Tories! Tories!.

OK, so Iain Dale, the publisher of the ‘unbiased’ junk-mail magazine Total Politics is busy assuring us that what Andy Coulson certainly didn’t do (summary) isn’t quite so bad, because guessing someone’s password isn’t really hacking, according to his close mate Phil Hendren (‘Dizzy’; the same bullying ratbag who says publishing my ex-directory* home phone number in two parts in two consecutive comments isn’t anywhere near as bad as publishing my ex-directory home phone number all in one go):

Iain Dale – Coulson’s Accusers Can Go to Hell

Dizzy’s take is interesting HERE. And he takes to task those who refer to hacking and tapping without really knowing what they are talking about… “Calling someone’s mobile, waiting for it to go to voicemail and then entering their four digit pin (0000) is not hacking. Hacking is about circumventing security, not being presented with them and passing them”

But when Grant Shapps (another senior Conservative in charge of communication) was caught in a pathetic astroturfing/sock-puppeting attempt, and used as his excuse that someone must have accessed his account using his “all too guessable” password (‘1234’), Iain Dale declared that guessing a 4-digit code WAS hacking:

Iain Dale – Shapps Denies Astroturfing Allegations

This all seemd [sic] a bit odd to me so I went to the horse’s mouth and have got a categoric [sic] denial that Grant did anything of the sort. It appears that he had a very easily guessable password on his Youtube account (it was 1234 !!!) and someone hacked into it.

Further, I’ve checked with someone who actually knows the law (thank you, Jack of Kent) and I can confirm that the law specifically recognises that intercepting a voicemail is the same as intercepting an actual call being made:

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 | Section 2. Meaning and location of ‘interception’ etc.

(8) For the purposes of this section the cases in which any contents of a communication are to be taken to be made available to a person while being transmitted shall include any case in which any of the contents of the communication, while being transmitted, are diverted or recorded so as to be available to a person subsequently.

There it is in black in white, and unchanged by anything Iain Dale and his mates might say about what does or does not classify as ‘hacking’… which they are wrong (or lying) about, by the way:

hacking: (computing) Unauthorized attempts to bypass the security mechanisms of an information system or network.

Of course, the word has other meanings, as does the word ‘hack’, which Iain should be painfully aware of having been called one so many times… and with good reason.

Guessing a poorly-configured password is still hacking in much the same way as walking through a door or gate that is poorly secured is still breaking and entering.

This is just another case of Iain Dale and Phil Hendren attempting to bamboozle their readers with bullshit and despite his ready-made protests (“I quote Dizzy not to condone the practice”), by minimising the alleged offence(s) in this way, Dale does in effect seek to make excuses for what is actually hacking/interception.

He has since levelled a false accusation at a Guardian editor because they dared to point this out:

“I absolutely did NOT defend phone hacking. How dare you suggest I did. How typical of The Guardian to mislead and smear.” – Iain Dale

But defending the act of phone hacking is exactly what Iain Dale did. He tried to make excuses for those alleged to have engaged in this type of hacking by claiming that it wasn’t really hacking.

Why he would bother doing this when he claims to be utterly convinced of Andy Coulson’s innocence is unknown at this time**.

[NOTE – Dale is already backpedalling by claiming he didn’t actually say it wasn’t hacking himself, and that he was only quoting somebody else’s view. Well, from here it looked like he was heartily endorsing that view and using it to support his argument.]

(*Iain Dale denies being the source of this ex-directory number, which I mistakenly trusted him with in his role as a publisher. I have my doubts, especially when Hendren’s story about how he got it keeps changing and Iain Dale has flat-out lied in previous denials.)

(**Iain Dale also ends his post with the declaration that “Coulson is innocent until proven guilty.” But he didn’t feel that way about Tom Watson when he was so convinced of that man’s guilt he was knowingly using false information against him, he has no comment to make about his friend Nadine Dorries making false accusations about police investigations that never took place (most probably because he’s a primary instigator of the same smear), and he doesn’t seem to think the same way about one of Coulson’s accusers when he says that man was “sacked by the paper for persistent drug and alcohol problems” and wonders out loud; “You don’t think he might have a grudge, do you?”)

UPDATE (05 Sep) – I’m happy to note that I’ve made the distinction between ‘hacking’ and ‘password cracking’ myself, but this was when Rod Liddle was making excuses that were so vague, it risked giving the wrong impression about the security of a whole site, not just a single account. In the instances cited here, Iain Dale takes one position on ‘hacking’ of specific accounts by guessing a 4-digit password and then takes the opposite position on ‘hacking’ of specific accounts by guessing a 4-digit password. That he and his mate Hendren would pretend the two events are comparable and make such a big deal of it after spending all of yesterday ignoring the challenge to their semantic bullshit is only further evidence of their intent to deceive. Further, we have yet another example of Iain Dale only ever engaging when he thinks he has the upper hand (a classic tabloid tactic); when he is making excuses for not engaging, he will claim that he has been given professional advice to ignore me at all times. Like Dorries, he is lying through his teeth, and busies himself smearing me privately, or using his friends to smear me on his behalf, while he ‘ignores’ me and plays the victim. Dale’s real problem is that he cannot engage with me openly without admitting to some really quite awful behaviour that’s not in keeping with his brand. (I’d say ‘public image’ but more and more people are seeing through this charlatan, especially now the Tories are in power and he’s busy making excuses for them every other day.)


  1. ray says

    Technically, and geekily, the description of hacking in your post is really "cracking". Hacking is delving into the workings to better understand it and make changes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_(computing)

    However, circumventing security, even if the person has failed to secure the voicemail (or email or whatever) is wrong – morally and legally. As an analogy, if I see that you went out of your house without locking the door, it is wrong for me to enter your house whether I take something or not.

    • Tim_Ireland says

      I've been through this before with 'Dizzy'; the wider public perception may be incorrect or not entirely in keeping with one of the many definitions of the word, but public perception is what counts when you are making a public accusation.

      • ray says

        True. But as a geek I have this compulsion to tell people when they use the wrong word :) Regardless, I absolutely agree with anyone that says the actions taken were wrong. Someone (or more than one) should be, at the very least, losing their job over this. I'd like to see the police take a stronger line too. Even though the revelations were about political things they also had the opportunity to look at very private voicemails. The whole thing makes me feel dirty.

        • Tim_Ireland says

          With you there. Dirty. And a little bit frightened.

          • ray says

            Indeed. Especially with your history.

        • Richard Blogger says

          I agree with you ray, but to be frank, the whole cracking/hacking, white hat/black hat thing is far too subtle for the wider public.

          (I am a software developer and there are plenty of // HACK comments in the code I support, are these admissions of illegal acts? No, not according to the law of the land, but the hacks do go against the rules of the software being developed.) To the general public a "hacker" is someone who does something illegal. But when I get someone's code working I often have to apply hacks… but they are not illegal.

    • loveandgarbage says

      Key though is surely the legal position in that it contravenes the provisions on interception. Whatever jargon is used the legal test is all that matters.

  2. vivb says

    Who really gives a toss

    • Tim_Ireland says

      Well, Iain Dale for one. Strangely for a publisher, he seems to think that claims he makes publicly are none of my business, but I'll have a shot anyway. I also dare to object to claims he makes about me specifically in private, but that's the kind of guy I am.

  3. yorksranter says

    Regarding the whole "he's an alkie and a DOPE FIEND, how can you take his word against that of a celebrity gossip columnist turned political spin doctor?" argument, the NOTW has previous for telling porkies about its former employees. see this post over at Stabprin.

    • Tim_Ireland says

      Well noted. Immediately tweeted. Cheers.

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