European Tribune – Murdoch – Outsourcing and Hubris
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, its 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 dont 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 cant accidentally put them in a metal cupboard where the secretaries can discharge the static from walking across the nylon carpet so they dont get a shock from the lift buttons which erases the tapes. They cant 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 hes going to tell you that its not just heavy its 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 cant 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 its 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 its 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 couldnt 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. Its 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.