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Murdoch - Outsourcing and Hubris

by ceebs Fri Feb 3rd, 2012 at 10:43:13 PM EST

And so it comes to pass. Some days the ironies of history hit with the force of a hammer. For the past decade or two the firmest advocate of globalisation has been Rupert Murdoch, his papers pushing the agenda of outsourcing may find that it is this which will provide the evidence to bring his organisation down.

How did we get to this situation? Well it turns out to be raising questions for any company that wants to sail close to the wind on the oceans of legality.


From various reports we find that News International (the UK newspaper and magazine arm of the worldwide Murdoch enterprise) had outsourced its IT provision. This was done in two stages, firstly a UK firm appears to have been providing day to day hardware and software support to News International's headquaters in Wapping, and secondly they have subcontracted their backup services to a large Indian data handling firm in Chenai. The Indian firm is denying any link with News International when written to by the Home Affairs Select Committee in the UK.

It appears that to save money, News International's office IT services were run from outside the company, and so all of the company email was held on servers that were not under the control of News International.

Midway through last year we have the following from the Guardian:

Phone hacking: Police probe suspected deletion of emails by NI executive | Media | The Guardian

According to legal sources close to the police inquiry, a senior executive is believed to have deleted "massive quantities" of the archive on two separate occasions, leaving only a fraction to be disclosed. One of the alleged deletions is said to have been made at the end of January, just as Scotland Yard was launching Operation Weeting, its new inquiry into the affair. The allegation directly contradicts NI claims that it is co-operating fully with police in order to expose its history of illegal newsgathering.

If News International had owned its own hardware, this would be a relatively simple action, but being outsourced the situation would not be quite as simple. As a group with a contract with News International, the hosting company will have a backup strategy, specified by contract. On a usual scheme you will have major backups once a week, of which you'll have a rotating stack of four or five, then once a month the current backup will be transferred to a more permanent storage, either an off-site backup or tape cartridges. on top of that you will also have a daily backup just of what was updated since the day before. The whole point being, if your building burns down, from those backup tapes and disks you can stitch back together the current state of your system, losing at most the last few hours since a days incremental backup has been performed. On the off chance that part of your backup stack may be virused, or you may find a backup set corrupted, it is usual industry practice to keep backup sets going back for six months to a year: you may lose a month at some point, but you can rebuild around that hole in the corporate memory. But everyone who is at all serious about their business will keep backups on top of backups.

Now as an outsourced IT company, you will be running a variety of customers' backups and operations off a selection of your equipment, and the only safe way of keeping this going is to have your own backup plans, but to save money you end up having several customers' backups running to one or two large-scale servers. These machines will have a selection of image files ready to be reinstalled to customers' equipment. These machines need backing up, and this backup is best run overnight when your own staff will be more expensive to employ. Fortunately,as UK newspapers are just shutting down for the night at around midnight, it's 5:30 in the morning in Chennai, where the Indian firm that apparently provides those backup services are based. So nice cheap labour, and they don't even want overtime for being up through the night.

So as things start to go wrong, through the wonders of outsourcing you now have all of your backup files, tapes and disks in the hands of other people. You can't accidentally put them in a metal cupboard where the secretaries can discharge the static from walking across the nylon carpet so they don't get a shock from the lift buttons which erases the tapes. They can't be erased by an overzealous cleaner who incinerates them to follow misguided data protection regulations. The only thing that you can do is delete your copies and send an executive (so far unnamed) to your UK supplier to get those files deleted.

As an IT supplier you are then sat in a difficult position: corporate governance laws say you have to retain that data, data protection laws say you have to delete it, but perhaps sitting in the back of your mind are the words "conspiracy to pervert the course of justice". If you have been watching the news at all, you have to guess that the evidence as to what happened is on those disks that you have. And the charge is one that can be very heavy. If you talk to your lawyer he's going to tell you that it's not just heavy it's very very heav:, if the forces of law wish to come down on you, you could be facing a charge of perverting the course of justice which potentially carries a life sentence, and also for doing this in agreement with others, you would be facing the charge of conspiracy to do the same, which also carries a life sentence. It would be an enormous risk to destroy those files, especially as going beyond that there are backups of your backups in India. And depending on the way they have been done, they very likely can't be deleted.

Now when the Indian backup service creates the backup, what they have is a file, very much like a zip archive, only very much bigger with the contents of every single file and its location from an entire server as its contents. Now as it's the backup of your backup server, it most likely has several of your customers' data inside, so while one customer may want that file gone, your other customers most definitely will not. And it's not like you can just go inside this file and delete parts of it. Backup files are packed with checksum digits, used in measuring the size of the files, part of the process of verifying that the data is all present and correct. You delete files from inside and these checksums will no longer add up, and then the backup will no longer work because the markers used in verifying that the backup is correct no longer matches its contents.

Now we know from other reports that a senior Murdoch executive then flew out to India, and apparently was told that they couldn't have the selection of files that they wanted deleting deleted. Whether this was from purely technical reasons as laid out above, or if it was from contractual and corporate governance reasons is something it is difficult to ascertain from the evidence that is publicly available. From one report it is claimed that the Indian backup firm has no corporate relationship with News International, and so not being their customer, the NI exec was politely shown the door.

Once it was known that these full backups existed Rupert ordered an independent investigation committee to search through the available data (several million emails) and assist the police. It's thought that this happened as it was the only alternative to having the police shutting down the papers and magazines while they did a fine tooth comb search of the servers themselves.

Now nobody expected these people to be either independent, or to actually do any investigating, so it was a bit of a shock when last weekend, with no warning to the Murdochs, the police turned up on the doors of four members of staff from the Sun - a paper that had previously claimed to be untainted by the current scandal - and a serving police officer. This was done on the strength of information recieved from this committee, which is causing great deals of panic and paranoia amongst staff and ex-staff of the paper. Police have also announced that there is at least one more arrest to come of a journalist who was out of the country.

Here's a Nick Davis article on the situation that deserves reading:

Mysteries of Data Pool 3 give Rupert Murdoch a whole new headache | Media | The Guardian

On Saturday morning, the police arrested four journalists who have worked for Rupert Murdoch. For a while, it looked as though these were yet more arrests of people related to the News of the World but then it became clear that this was something much more significant.

This may be the moment when the scandal that closed the NoW finally started to pose a potential threat to at least one of Murdoch's three other UK newspaper titles: the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.

The four men arrested on Saturday are not linked to the NoW. They come from the Sun, from the top of the tree - the current head of news and his crime editor, the former managing editor and deputy editor.

All in all a further step in the car crash.

Display:
The wonders of modern technology

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 06:35:57 AM EST
I won't be happy till Rupe is doing deep time

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 01:06:17 PM EST
Im sure he will be  suffering from Guiness alzheimers if he even comes close.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 02:26:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And here's one insiders view of the situation

Neville Thurlbeck

SATURDAY'S desperate meltdown on the Sun was a crisis waiting to happen. And as long as News International's ill-fated Management and Standards Committee continues to exist, it will happen again and again. Until the balance tips and it is either forced to close or is sold off. Either way, many in the industry now believe there won't be a Murdoch owned Sun for much longer. And the Sun on Sunday now seems a distant hope.


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 03:03:26 PM EST
and

Neville Thurlbeck: "Draining the Swamp" - Et tu, Brute!

T'S SAD News International had to describe the arrests of Sun men Chris Pharo, Graham Dudman, Fergus Shanahan and the legendary crime editor Mike Sullivan as, `draining the swamp'. Notwithstanding the allegations, this is a deeply offensive comment on nearly 100 years of journalistic excellence and dedication to News International. As ever, the stab in the back is given to the press anonymously as News International attempts to wash its face in the anguished perspiration of those who gave their lives to it. They did this to me too last year. They and those who collude with this approach are fast becoming reviled in our small industry.

The guy who's written this is the Neville who exists in the hacking saga as the "for Neville" email.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 03:05:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Evidently anticipating the hairy hand of justice feeling his collar, he's getting his reaction in first

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 03:14:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well as someone who apparently was registered as a police informant, I'd be a touch surprised

Neville Thurlbeck was official police informant | The Wire | Press Gazette

The Evening Standard found an intriguing new line on the phone-hacking scandal yesterday - dredged up from a 2000 report in Press Gazette yesterday.

It reported on a court case in 2000 in which former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and detective constable Richard Farmer were charged with corruption over their relationship.

Apparently the pair would exchange information, so much so that Thurlbeck was official police source 281 and an unpaid employee of the National Criminal Intelligence Service.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 03:24:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A corrupt police informant! Who could have imagined that it could come to this. Sweets to the sweet.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 09:05:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So many lovely ironies here: a highly leveraged company, which led the way in media terms, in outsourcing, transnational capital, and undercutting local union deals with new technology or sifting production overseas...

...and what is the result? 'Tis sweet to see the engineer hoist be his own petard/canard.

The only mitigation I seem to hear from NI journalists is - well Rupert funds our loss making journalistic activities. Don't victimise him! He'll close the Times and Sunday Times.

Sounds to me like an argument for subsidy and restrictive practice.

Where were those journalists when the Print Unions were  made redundant when Fortress Wapping opened? I thought you can't buck the market...

Why should journalists be protected from the ravages of Anglo Saxon Neo Liberalism when so many other sectors weren't.

by PeterJukes on Sat Feb 4th, 2012 at 05:05:45 PM EST
Modern managers don't understand the operations of their firms as anything other than a collection of line items on accounting ledgers. Then, as a result, shit happens.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 08:37:42 PM EST
as I've said before, If a manager has just gone straight from college to business school, and has done nothing else, the only job they're fit to do is make the tea.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 08:53:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could say that of most political party cadres, too...

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 09:01:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
many fairly senior members of them too

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 09:04:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mysteries of Data Pool 3 give Rupert Murdoch a whole new headache | Media | The Guardian
It contains several hundred million emails sent and received over the years by employees of the News of the World - and of the three other Murdoch titles. Data Pool 3 is so big that the police are not even attempting to read every message. Instead, there are two teams searching it for key words: a detective sergeant with five detective constables from Scotland Yard working secretly on criminal leads; and 32 civilians working for the Management and Standards Committee, providing information for the civil actions brought by public figures and for the Leveson inquiry and passing relevant material to police.

Phone hacking is one thing, but I wonder how much evidence of political spin, character assassination and undisclosed servitude to special interests is and will remain un-analysed on Data Pool 3.

Thinking further into the future: should the Murdoch Empire fall, who will be the surviving forces of evil in British media? Or to ask it differently, is there any chance to bring down the media empires of Lord Rothermere (the one with the tax-evasion French château), and the Barclay brothers (the ones with the tax-evasion Channel Islands and Monaco homes)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 06:47:46 AM EST
Nice as that would be, I think even preventing them from occupying the vacuum left by a Murdoch collapse would be a big win, despite being less ambitious...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 07:35:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How many people have a legal claim to sort through or have a lawyer sort through this trove? It would seem that Pandora's Box pales by comparison. Murdoch dealt dirt and there is plenty to go around, likely much of it on display in these e-mails. Leads at the very least.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 07:15:29 PM EST
well from yesterday

Leveson inquiry: Sue Akers, Paul Dacre, Dan Wootton appear | Media | guardian.co.uk

The number of people contacted by police or writing in to police asking if they were hacked is 2,900, Akers confirms. Of those, 1,578 actually appeared in Mulcaire's notes.

Akers says there are 829 "likely" victims - those who have detail around their names that make it likely they were hacked or had potential to be hacked.

10.08am: Jay confirms that there are 6,349 potential victims - identifiable names of people in information held under Operation Weeting - of phone hacking. There are 11,000 pages in the seized notes of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. The number of names with phone numbers alongside is 4,375.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 03:54:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
6,349 potential victims -- and counting. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 10:14:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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