back to article 'Panama papers' came from email server hack at Mossack Fonseca

The staggering, Wikileaks-beating “Panama Papers” data exfiltration has been attributed to the breach of an email server last year. The leak of documents from Panama-based, internationally-franchised firm Mossack Fonseca appears to confirm what has long been suspected but rarely proven: well-heeled politicians, businesses, …

Mushroom

yeah yeah

Though this operation may have been legal in some countries obviously, makes you wonder who the real criminal are, oh wait - we already do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah yeah

1. The data has USA politicos filtered

2. The data dump suspiciously coincides with Russian election campaign and contains data that points to circumstantial evidence that one of Putin's childhood's friends maybe (the number of circumstantial conjectures in this one is off the scale) has acted as a proxy for him to stash 2Bn.

3. The rest are collateral damage to make the data look genuine and unfiltered (point 1).

This narrows the possible source of the leak to 3 letters. Unfortunately, it is "close but no cigar".

A. The Russians got a whiff off the leak 2 weeks ago. The "hatchet job on the way" has been all over their media.

B. Their media (including most of the opposition newspapers by the way) has refused to use it exactly because of A - it looks filtered and prepped by a state actor for their elections.

I suggest the CIA and the NSA try better next time and chose a couple of USA politicos for sacrificial goats and leave them in the dump instead of filtering them out. The fuhrer wannabie will be a good one to keep in for example.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah yeah

How unlucky must one be to be on both this list and last year's Ashley Madison?

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IF the yanks did it

I would have thought they would have enough sense to add Trump in there...

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Re: yeah yeah

Yeah I agree, Putin is clean as a whistle. I mean, I know LOADS of musical conductors who have $100m sitting in offshore bank accounts. The fact that he's Putin's best mate is completely coincidental.

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Re: yeah yeah

I'm of the opinion, as ill informed as everyone else's, that the US data is being held back for later release not to protect someone and that the aim is just to create a bigger story.

Of course if this doesn't happen, then I'm wrong and I'd be inclined to agree that it looks mighty suspicious. We can but wait and see.

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Re: yeah yeah

The Russians got a whiff off the leak 2 weeks ago.
By which you mean the ICIJ called 'em up and asked for comments.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yeah yeah

You're forgetting something important: the US invaded Panama in 1989, so I'm sure by the time they captured Noriega they had fully moved their tax-evasion and money-laundering operations to a different caribbean economy.

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Re: yeah yeah

I wondered how long it would take the Russian Astroturf Squad to show up - they made it by the second post.

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Silver badge

Re: yeah yeah

Panama is just one country that host scumbag lawyers, there are many more wretched hives of scum and villany.

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Coat

Re: yeah yeah

Oh, this certainly was a 3-letter hack, of that I am certain. ABC Childcare is the likely culprit.

I know quite a few lawyers and only one has the slightest clue about security. If you think banks are cheap with it, you have not seen what a large law firm is (in)capable of.

Further, the lack of US (and Canadian) politicians is more indicative of the fact they are quite poor compared to other countries' politicos. The 3 letters (or 4 in the GWN) would have caught anyone long before they got anywhere.

Add to that sweetheart deals for those who have been caught lately (KPMG clients comes to mind in Canada)

While I am certain that the CIA has had all this info all along, the defenses that existed for the data are not exactly NSA level stuff. Also, the information is worth more to the US if less people know.

Anyhow, more to come. Where did I put my popcorn now?

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Anonymous Coward

Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

... it's more probable that the data originated from an unofficial off-site backup held by the NSA.

From the global coverage so far, tt looks pretty much like it has been pre-filtered, pre-redacted and pre-digested for public consumption.

I wonder what's in the other stuff that hasn't been compromised ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

The saddest outcome from all this so far is that Kreml spokesman - with a straight face - claims that all this is just western attempt to create more Putinfobia. NSA has apparently been pretty busy to create all these 11 million pages just to deface Putin and his cronies in a small subset of these papers.

Or maybe the saddest part is after all that the Russian population either a) doesn't seem to care ("Glorious Leader and his friends are entitled to minor benefits for their great work"), or b) they're drinking the pro-Russian koolaid, or c) they are wary of raising their voice for fear of something.

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Silver badge

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

The BBC in particular *did* concentrate on the Putin angle, especially in the first reports, despite the Putin link being nowhere near as strong as, say, David Cameron's.

Later reports seem to be restoring the balance somewhat.

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Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

d) Corruption is so rife in the former soviet union that they just expect that they have been stealing millions but can't do anything due to the next person to come in will be just the same regardless of what they say: see Ukriane and Poroshenko.

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Silver badge

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

There have been stories and programs about Putin and his circle of friends and advisers before this leak came to light. Guessing they went with the stuff they were already familiar with and could verify quickly.

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Facepalm

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released... @Mattjimf

If Putin et al. wasn't mentioned in these papers every single Russian newspaper and TV station would be covering the Poroshenko affairs with great interest. But now that Kremlin has denounced the papers as fiction the media cannot throw accusations at anyone except the evil Western journalists!

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Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Pre-filtered/redacted etc- the consortium of journalists don't want their asses sued off them in god only knows how many different jurisdictions- or indeed, more unilateral action being taken against them- a la some actions some of those who were exposed are infamous for........ They have had a year to digest and decide on how to release information, in what format, who to protect, etc etc It is not that they were given this information on a platter a couple of weeks ago and they're simply serving it globally with Suddeutschezeitung acting as a custodian and coordinator for the release- this has been planned for the last 13 months........

Looks like we're going to have quite an interesting time of things- as they release chunks of data over the next few weeks.........

Also- while they're making much of the volume of data slurped from the mail server- its highly likely that there is significant repetition (versioning of documents etc)- along with a massive amount of crap that no-one has any interest in reading- so in defense of the journalists- they have saved the rest of us a thankless task sifting through trawl to dig out the nuggets that are actually of interest (both to the public but also to the relevant tax and prosecution authorities globally).......

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Gold badge
Happy

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

It's called Vodka and being too wasted to give a shit about anything much is a side-effect.

This is where Gorbachev came unstuck. He clamped down on the Vodka supply, the population sobered up briefly, noticed him and kicked him out.

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Silver badge

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

From the global coverage so far, tt looks pretty much like it has been pre-filtered, pre-redacted and pre-digested for public consumption.

Obviously it is, with emphasis on exposing interesting people. After all, the investigators are in the business of making news. Nobody wants to hear how some random owner of a mediocre firm somewhere has tried to hide his wealth.

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Silver badge

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

>> despite the Putin link being nowhere near as strong as, say, David Cameron's.

Dog bites man != news, man bites dog = news

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Coat

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Or maybe the saddest part is after all that the Russian population

Why should they care? It's expected (both the part about their leaders having "business interests" on the side and the part about Putin being presented as the architect of all evil by the west).

... And, things being what they are Here, in the EUSSR, who cares about what "they" say about Putin?

The good part is, that If "they" want some credibility for the Putin story, "they" will need to grass up at least some of the higher-branch monkeys *here*. We know they exist. Their lobbying is why tax law is the way that it is and the reason we allow off-shore entities being *blatantly* used as vehicles for fraud and abuse.

It's probably not worth it, though.

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Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Same old BBC,divert attention away from the realities of this affair in whom it affects in this country & gain kudos from the BBC arse-licked politicians that they suck up to at Westminster.

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Anonymous Coward

Pre-Filtered, so who is under duress

Yeh that's what I was thinking. It's clearly filtered.

It's notably missing senior Americans, no Congressmen, no Senators past or present, no senior US businessmen. Yet US business spends so much effort avoiding US taxes, and USA is much bigger and with more rich people, yet none of those rich Americans avoid taxes via Panama? No way!

IMHO: I agree, this has been filtered US business names, rich people and political leaders and possibly others. That suggests its US government as the source. A private group wouldn't have reason to filter for a *countries* people, whereas a state actor like the NSA would have the obligation to.

But that also means we have a much bigger problem. WHO SHOULD BE ON THE LIST AND HAS BEEN REMOVED? Because those people are acting under duress now. They might negotiate treaties in bad faith, impose foreign surveillance on their own countries, sign away democracy with a flick of a pen. TPP signing is coming up, as are a few condemned treaties.

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Holmes

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

"fear of something" you mean "fear of being murdered as has happened before"

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Happy

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Yes.... any attempt at partisan releasing will rapidly break the cease-fire. So, nothing locally salacious until it's all old news.

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Silver badge

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

The BBC in particular *did* concentrate on the Putin angle, especially in the first reports, despite the Putin link being nowhere near as strong as, say, David Cameron's.

Later reports seem to be restoring the balance somewhat.

Working from home when the first reports arrived; the BBC were being very vague and only reporting that the leak had occurred. It was notable that there was little substance as to what it might mean, what it had exposed, or who was due to get a good kicking. All quite odd when they were promoting the related Panorama programme.

There seemed to be 'an abundance of caution' in play early on, as if they were hinting at knowing something but weren't going to say until others had. And that seems to be how it played out.

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Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

I can't believe I'm defending Cameron here, but...

Cameron Junior didn't have much say and control over the business activities of his father.

Putin, on the other hand, theoretically, could easily be controlling the business deals of his personal pals. Very easily indeed. One of his pals in particular, is little more than a music teacher, yet appears to be operating a multi-million shell company. No wonder the BBC and others reckon that's fishy and more of a story than the dealings of a dead man.

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Silver badge

Re: Pre-Filtered, so who is under duress

US financial laws are incredibly lax, in practically all the states it's possible to set up a company while hiding the beneficial owner. Delaware is a particularly notable culprit. US leaders and businessmen can very easily set up their shell companies at home.

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Silver badge

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Since the reporters are "international" and given the volume of data, I'm sure they'll find some USA types in this. Unless, of course, the USA types used a different law firm. Or NSA go to the info first (which seems unlikely).

But so far, it does make me wonder... where are the US types hiding the cash?

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Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Very much so, considering that the ICIJ who first published the papers is funded by USAID.

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Re: Pre-Filtered, so who is under duress

Panama has an information exchange agreement with exactly one other country: the USA. This is probably why Americans prefer the Caymans and other British jurisdictions.

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Re: Pre-Filtered, so who is under duress

If you're in the US, you don't need to go to Panama to set up a shell company with obfuscated ownership. You can, and do, do it cheaper in Delaware.

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Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Re: despite the Putin link being nowhere near as strong as, say, David Cameron's.

From what I've seen, the data shows companies owned by both Putin's friends and his wife. I'd say that's a stronger link than someone's father.

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Silver badge

Re: Given the scarcity of items on our cousins in the material released...

Russian mindset. Russian papers arent reporting on it (chinese are censoring). Western media isnt trusted in Russia. Those who do believe it wont stick their head above the parapet.

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Re: Pre-Filtered, so who is under duress

This makes no difference because you will still be subject to the IRS regardless of which state you form your corporation in.

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Anonymous Coward

Panama canal

Data so big you could steer a ship through it.

Puts my $236.13 bank account to shame.

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Happy

Re: Panama canal

I'm married with teenage kids, your bank balance puts mine to shame!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Panama canal

I'm divorced with kids, something tells, me both of yours are in a better state than mine.

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Gold badge
Coat

Re: Panama canal

Luxury!

When I were a lad we 'ad piggy bank with thruppence in farthings in it.

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Silver badge
Coat

Re: Panama canal

We used to DREAM about having thruppence in farthings! People with piggy banks were considered right toffs when I were a lad!

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Def
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Panama canal

Dreams? Back in my day we had to make do with what we had. We used to envy people with dreams.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Panama canal

When I was a kid, I was lucky to be a boy. Otherwise, dunno what I'd've played with.

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Silver badge

Re: Panama canal

You had the luxury of playing with yourself? As young boys we had to make do with the priests playing with us.

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Anonymous Coward

I was wondering when at least one media outlet was going to say where this data came from, though pretty obvious either this or an inside job.

I wonder why other news outlets have been reluctant to state this, is it a belief it devalues the information?

Edit: I also noted that this information goes back 40 years, would all this information have been electronic 40 years ago?

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Anonymous Coward

If you believe someone actually sucked 2.6TB down a pipe you would think this amouint of additional traffic might just get noticed.

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@AC

From what I've read, a lot of the docs were scanned and ocr'd. So yeah, it could conceivably go back that far.

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Silver badge

Mail?

>Edit: I also noted that this information goes back 40 years, would all this information have been electronic 40 years ago?

Just about; 40 years ago puts us in the mid to late 70s which puts us in the era of standalone word processors and large corporation mail based around mainframes.

(You'd be surprised at the number of people who think that computers didn't exist before the 1980s.)

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Re: Mail?

Remember that finance did not embrace e-mail and in some cases may still not have embraced e-mail to the extent of others, rather it relied on such as telex and, other internal protocols essentially based on telegrams. Telegrams have a long and cherished, (by some) history. Both telexes and telegrams were often machine generated. I remember experimenting with generating telexes via a small desk top type computer back in the 1970s.

The English Electric Leo was running a business back in the 1950s and while many businesses struggled with 'computerisation' in the late 50s and 60s, (footnote many still have those same old problems) a lot of stuff was 'computerised' with even the banks using them by the mid 1960s. The fact that records go back 40 years is a bit of a surprise, since that only goes back to about 1976. So two comments, did they prune out the other 20 odd years through house keeping or was it simply lost through bad retention policies?

It makes the 6 ~ 10 year retention policies of many banks look really lame. Mind you, life insurance does have more distant retention horizons.

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Anonymous Coward

" this amouint of additional traffic might just get noticed."

Why? Is the tinfoil black-helicopter perspective your default view on everything, or do you have some concrete reason to believe that?

There's no suggestion this was accomplished on a specific tuesday lunchtime. Penetrate the server and set up a dribble of data, sit back and wait to see how much you get before they notice. A year later, get bored of waiting for them to notice and ship the lot off to a friendly journalist.Seems plausible to me.

They're a firm of lawyers serving the wealthy and not-so-wise, they're not going to be combing through a bandwidth bill ticking off the pennies. More likely they'll be whining that the videoconferencing still has a lag whenever they talk to someone on the other side of the atlantic and demanding an upgrade to true real-time.

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