It may seem like the Internet is a Wild Wild West of hackers, spammers and document leakers, but it's actually harder to get away with things in the computer age than you might think. Hidden in each and every computer file you create is another layer of data that even a mildly knowledgeable computer user can dig up. Documents and photos reveal more about you than you think, and data you think you deleted, don't stay gone.
You are leaving digital fingerprints all over everything you do on a computer and, unfortunately for the bad guys, it doesn't exactly take a CSI team to find them ...
5Word Document Reveals That the Iraq Invasion Was Based on Plagiarized College Essays
Every Microsoft Word document you create contains a hidden log of everything you did to it, ever. Specifically, it contains a revision history showing who touched the document, and when. You'd think this would be the sort of thing military intelligence would care about when creating sensitive, world-changing documents, but you'd be wrong.
"Now replace 'No Evidence of WMDs' with 'Bulging titloads of WMDs, you guys.'"
So flash back to the early 2000s, when America was largely focused on two things -- the invasion of Iraq and justifying the invasion of Iraq, more or less in that order. The British government wanted to help out, so in January of 2003 they published a dossier entitled "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation." The dossier was supposedly a top-level report compiled by military intelligence outlining all the reasons America should get its tanks into Iraq as soon as possible (the report was even quoted by Colin Powell when he addressed the U.N. to support the invasion).
The problems with the report, which would later become known as "the dodgy dossier" despite its complete inability to dodge anything other than basic computer literacy, began when the government made the mistake of posting it online in its original Word document format. That meant its revision history was visible to anyone who knew where to look:
Via Information Risk and Security
"Mnuts licked file ..."
That meant the public could easily see that the supposed military intelligence document was primarily written and edited by the staff at Downing Street (the British version of the White House) and the Prime Minister's Press Secretary.
Furthermore, the vast majority of the report was literally cut and pasted from various post-graduate essays published in academic journals as far back as 1997. To recap: The in-depth report on Iraq supposedly compiled by top-level military intelligence officials and drawn from the most current analysis of the region was actually created by a bunch of British interns hitting Ctrl-C on public information published back when Batman & Robin came out. And then they left the document's revision history visible, so that all of the world could see what they did.
"And once again, I'd like to stress that hackers put that information there to make us look bad."
The Word version was quickly removed from the website (and replaced with a PDF, which doesn't carry the same revision log), and U.K. Press Secretary Alastair Campbell had to appear in front of a parliamentary committee to explain a few things, like why in the hell his staff seemingly fabricated a report that was considered a key document in the decision to invade Iraq. The moral of this story is that Campbell resigned a few months later having worked at Downing Street for six years, and Iraq totally got invaded anyway.