[ISN] Secrecy surrounds 25m Barclaycard blackmail case

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Oct 22 2001 - 01:19:54 PDT

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    Michael Gillard 
    October 19, 2001
    Fear of information leaking about the computer security system
    protecting Britain's 8m Barclaycard holders has led to unprecedented
    secrecy in a 25m alleged blackmail case.
    Two court hearings have already taken place in camera.
    The draconian measure of holding criminal proceedings behind closed
    doors is usually only reserved for espionage or intelligence-related
    cases involving national security, and then normally only over a few
    sensitive parts of the evidence.
    Lawyers cannot recall the procedure being used before in cases
    involving commercial secrets or blackmail threats against companies.
    The procedure for conducting the full trial, due to begin at the end
    of this month at the Old Bailey, is not yet known. If it is held in
    camera, there are likely to be objections from those concerned about
    maintaining the long-established British principle of open justice.
    Graham Browne, a former encryption expert at Barclays, the bank which
    owns Barclaycard, denies the charge that he made an unwarranted demand
    for 25m to be paid to 14 named individuals by Barclays.
    Press and the public were barred from a preliminary hearing at City of
    London magistrates last October following discussions of the issue
    with counsel for Barclays, the owner of Europe's largest credit card
    system, and with the crown prosecution service.
    The bank's concerns are understandable: disclosure in open court of
    highly sensitive information about their operations might necessitate
    replacing all the millions of Barclaycards held worldwide.
    A spokesman for Barclays told the Guardian yesterday: "This case is
    still before the court so it is inappropriate to say anything. But I
    can assure you that customers can use their cards and accounts with
    Banks are highly sensitive to any publicity about alleged or potential
    security weaknesses which might make customers concerned that personal
    financial data is vulnerable to access by computer "hackers".
    Courts will sometimes make an order granting anonymity to individual
    witnesses who claim to have been blackmail targets. This is used to
    encourage them to come forward since otherwise they might fear that
    dis cussion of the complaint in open court would achieve the
    blackmailer's object.
    But no such order has been made in this case. The provision has not
    normally applied to business corporations. In high-profile cases
    involving extortion demands on companies, previous victims such as
    supermarkets, stores, food companies and banks - including Harrods,
    Sainsbury's and Barclays - have been identified in court.
    One possible procedure the Old Bailey might adopt at the trial is to
    blue-pencil sensitive technical parts of the evidence concerning
    computer systems. Material about computer keys or codes could be heard
    in camera or be removed from documents used in evidence
    Mr Browne, 57, lives in a village near Crewe. He was arrested
    following an investigation by the City of London police. He has
    pleaded not guilty and denies any intention to blackmail his former
    employers. He worked at one of the computer centres for the
    Barclaycard operation at Radbroke Hall near Chester. He resigned from
    his post running the encryption unit early last year.
    At Mr Browne's first appearance before City of London magistrates in
    October last year, the proceedings were not held in camera, but his
    second court appearance was.
    It is understood the procedural issues faced by the courts in going
    ahead with the case are so difficult that discussions were held with
    the then attorney general, Lord Williams.
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