More emails hacked as 'revenge' for education cuts
The Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, has vowed to crack down on those responsible for hacking the email account of the NSW director-general of education. Photo: Peter Rae
The hacking of the email account of the NSW director-general of education was not an isolated case in the department and insiders are apparently conducting a cyber campaign as "revenge" for education cuts and management decisions.
In a separate incident that has not previously been reported, an "unauthorised" email was sent in the name of a TAFE NSW user services manager to all education department staff to address "homophobic abuse" directed at the manager's son.
The Greens MP John Kaye said the TAFE workforce was "deeply alienated and understandably looking for revenge" with $980 million cut from the annual recurrent budget of TAFE by the previous government and 800 jobs about to be slashed by the O'Farrell government.
The email, obtained by the Herald, was sent on August 22, purportedly to address staff concerns that the manager had hired his son in a newly created position despite budget cutbacks and the fact that the son had "no formal skills or qualifications". The email says "there is no corruption" because the manager had the discretionary power to create the position.
"The staff have also said that because the director and my [son] have the same sex preference they have a special relationship and this is why the position was approved," the email reads. "This is not true and is very offensive and is against the TAFE code of conduct and must stop."
The following afternoon, all department staff received an email from a TAFE human resources director informing them that the TAFE Sydney Institute's computer system "was compromised and possibly accessed by an unknown person".
The director said the incident had been reported to police and legal advice was being sought. They strongly demanded that all staff delete the email and refrain from printing or forwarding it to avoid breaching the department's code of conduct.
It is understood the individuals involved have had their email accounts hacked multiple times and threats have been made. The department confirmed yesterday external security consultants and the police were investigating several "incidents".
A TAFE source said there was widespread concern among staff that managers at the organisation were simply there to do the bidding of the government in "overseeing the destruction of public education". The source said without avenues to appeal, staff had resorted to "trying to get the message across as best they can".
Dr Kaye said while the email was "disgraceful" and the hacking "completely unacceptable", it was "hardly surprising that TAFE management is being sledged by its workforce".
Last week an email sent to all department staff purportedly from the director-general, Michele Bruniges, slammed the O'Farrell government over its decision to cut $1.7 billion from the education budget over four years.
The Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, confirmed the email account had been hacked and vowed to do everything possible to find and punish those responsible.
A spokesman for Piccoli would not comment further but a department spokeswoman said the two incidents were separate issues and were being treated as such.
The department said allegations included in the August "fraudulent email" had been investigated on two occasions and "there has been no evidence of recruitment practices falling outside government policy".