Hacking the Opposition

11 Jul

Last week the “London Borough of Newhamgrad” blog site was hacked into and 3 months’ worth of recent posts were deleted. A headline was posted declaring “You’ve been hacked”.

For anyone not familiar with the Newhamgrad site, it describes itself as “an insight into the most dictatorial local authority known to Britain.” It is run by an anonymous group (I’m not one of them and have no idea who they are) who have enough connections inside Newham Dockside to come up with the occasional juicy tale, though mostly it’s bitchy political gossip.

Websites get hacked all the time, but this was no drive-by attack by a bored teenager – this was a deliberate and targeted act.

The intolerance of the Wales regime and its supporters for any kind of dissent or challenge is legendary in the borough – former councillor Alan Craig once described it as “Mugabe without the bullets“. The usual response to any criticism of Newham Labour is to label the opponent a Tory or a Trot (oddly, some people have difficulty distinguishing between the two) and expect that it is enough to damn them, but this surely represents a new low. Whoever did this went beyond politically illiterate abuse and committed an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. Such offences are punishable by up to 12 months in jail.

Why would anyone want to risk that kind of penalty, just to remove some political tittle-tattle from the web?

The posts that were removed might have been a bit embarrassing for those concerned, but nothing fatal to anyone’s political career. And certainly nothing worth going to prison to suppress. They covered:

  • Cllr Armarjit Singh’s voting for the West Ham stadium loan without declaring that he had received hospitality from the club 
  • Cllr Ayesha Chowdhury’s living in social housing despite owning (or having a significant interest in) a property portfolio that the site claims is valued at £2.4 million 
  • The recent Sunday Times allegations about payments by West Ham to an executive at the Olympic Park Legacy Company 
  • Lyn Brown MP’s hiring of an unpaid intern when she had previously campaigned for a ‘living wage for all’ 
  • The Newham Campaign Forum – a fund into which all Labour councillors are said to pay a percentage of their allowances 
  • Cllr Unmesh Desai’s desire to succeed Sir Robin as Mayor * Plans to establish a ‘free’ school in Newham 
  • Cllr Richard Crawford’s portfolio of responsibilities 
  • Newham’s failure to investigate a Freedom of Information request that it said it would investigate 
  • Cllr Paul Schafer being referred to the council’s Monitoring Officer 
  • A Charity Commission decision not to investigate a local charity over its relationship with Newham Labour Party

On Thursday a notice appeared on the Newhamgrad site stating “This site has been the target of hacking attacks for weeks as well as been subjected to an attempt by spammers to ‘scrape’ IP addresses from our website and set up spiders to trawl it. Newhamgrad will be down until it carries out further investigations. We will be back.”

I hope they will, if only to prove that the regime’s critics will not be silenced so easily. And I hope that next time someone takes exception to something that appears on the site they deal with it via the comments section. Of course, if they think Newhamgrad goes too far they always have recourse to the law – but taking the law into your own hands is never the answer.


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