Mega leaks about Kazakhstan government were just ‘journalistic,’ lawyer says

Kazakhstan pushes for information on Mega users.

Another round between the government of Kazakhstan and Mega about whether the file sharing website should be compelled to disclose more user information was heard in the High Court at Auckland today.

Mega’s lawyer said hacked information alleging corruption in the Kazakhstan government that was posted on the company’s website was simply “journalistic,” and akin to Wikileaks or Dirty Politics.

However, the Central Asian country says the material likely appeared on the website before anywhere else, and therefore there is a relationship between the hackers and those who posted the material.

The Kazakhstan government learned in January last year that more than 100,000 “sensitive” and “highly confidential” documents had allegedly been hacked from its computer systems.

The High Court at Auckland heard in March Kazakhstan’s investigation into the “John Does” so far, which has included subpoenas against Google, Microsoft and Facebook, had disclosed certain “unauthorised” IP addresses were found to have accessed government email accounts.

As those were just numbers, however, Mega account information was sought on the basis it could provide an inference as to the identity of the hackers, given some of the material was posted on that website.

Mega was founded by German tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom but he is no longer associated with it.

In May, the New Zealand-based cloud storage company was ordered to provide the republic with information, despite its protests against the country’s unenviable human rights record and fears of political reprisals.

Today, before Justice Simon Moore, Mega lawyer Fletcher Pilditch said there is no absolute correlation between those who allegedly hacked the information and those who uploaded the information to Mega.

He said the issue arose in a similar way in a US judgment, which held Respublika, a Kazakhstani media organisation critical of the government, did not need to reveal its sources.

It is no different from media publishing Wikileaks information or Nick Hager writing Dirty Politics, the lawyer said, because that information came from hacked sources and was written in a journalistic format.

The information of those who posted the material on Mega was irrelevant to identifying the hackers, Mr Pilditch said.

In response,the lawyer for Kazakhstan, Daniel Kalderimis, said there is good cause to believe that the Mega publishers and the alleged hackers were working in concert and Mega was the “root” of the material.

He said Mega chairman Stephen Hall’s affidavit was “misleading” because he had only attached the first page, which made the material appear as a media article, and excluded the many embedded emails included in another person’s affidavit.

The material posted on Mega had embedded emails, which would not have been available to a person “innocently browsing the internet,” Mr Kalderimis said.

He said whoever posted the articles to Mega would have had independent access to the hacked material and it would have been the first website to feature the content because Respublika and a Facebook post hyperlinked it.

Mr Pilditch said there’s no doubt those who posted the material on Mega had access to the hacked emails but said that didn’t necessarily mean they were responsible for the hacking.

The lawyer said a “middle ground” could be reached to disclose some information while balancing user privacy but Mr Kalderimis was opposed.

The judge reserved his decision.

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