The legality of the budget ‘leak’

Wellington barrister Felix Geiringer says gathering unauthorised information online is against the law
ROBYN EDIE/STUFF Wellington barrister Felix Geiringer says gathering unauthorised information online is against the law

Obviously, when you are a barrister you have to be able to argue both sides of any situation depending on who your client is. The same lawyer employed by Nicky Hager, who published for personal gain private and personal information hacked from Whaleoil, yesterday declared that National’s budget leaks were unlawful.

[…] Wellington barrister Felix Geiringer said the unauthorised information gathering from Treasury’s website was a criminal offence and required further investigation.

The National Party went against the advice of a government agency by releasing sensitive Budget information accessed through a vulnerability in the Treasury’s website.

On Tuesday evening, following a series of Budget leaks from National, the Treasury said its systems had been “deliberately and systematically hacked”, and referred the matter to police.

However, at 5am on Thursday Treasury said that police had advised that “an unknown person or persons appear to have exploited a feature in the website search tool” – but that this did not appear to be unlawful and police would not be taking further action.

But National’s release of sensitive information two days out from the budget being delivered goes against official recommendations. It was also still illegal, lawyers say.

Cert NZ, a government-owned cyber security agency which helps organisations respond to cyber security threats, says on its website if someone discovers a vulnerability on an organisation’s website it was important to keep the information secure.

It also says details of the vulnerability should not be released publicly.

“There seems to be a mistaken belief that there has to be some sort of overcoming of a security barrier,” Geiringer said.

If someone knew they did not have authority to access information on the internet but accessed it regardless, and continued to do that more than 2000 times, as Treasury claims, then that was against the law, he said.

“The circumstances of it are highly suspicious in terms of criminal activity,” Geiringer said.

“It’s kind of like leaving your door open. It doesn’t mean people are welcome to come take your stuff.”


How interesting given that Whaleoil did not ‘leave its door open’ and was a victim of a sustained and hostile attack on its server in order to gain access.

No one has ever been held accountable for that crime, and Nicky Hager pocketed an unknown profit from his book that was nothing more than published plagiarism with speculation thrown in as so-called investigative journalism.