Climategate: Russian secret service blamed for hack

With the climategate ‘scandal’ over and done with, it seems like we’ll never figure out who was responsible for the email hack at CRU. Oh wait, it was Russian secret service. Intrigued? Read the article below… oddly enough, published by the usually pretty reputable New Scientist and quoting Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the IPCC vice chairman:

The Russian secret service has been accused of masterminding the theft of the confidential data from one of the world’s leading centres of climate change research. The charge comes as news emerges that hacked climate scientists have received death threats.

Since over 1000 emails were hacked from a server at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, it’s been hard not to play climate change Cluedo: who committed the crime?

Rumours on the identity of the perpetrator now appear to be firming up, according to the Independent’s Shaun Walker.

According to Walker, a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has voiced suspicions that the hack job was not the handy work of a lone amateur but that of a “highly sophisticated, politically motivated operation.”

“It’s a carefully made selection of emails and documents that’s not random,” Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, IPCC vice chairman, told the paper. “This is 13 years of data, and it’s not a job of amateurs.”

Anonymous “others” in the IPCC have gone further, pinning the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Russian secret services, aka the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), reports Walker.

The leaked emails are now threatening to overshadow climate change talks that have started in Copenhagen: last week, Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator warned the world that they would have a “huge impact” on any treaty that is drawn up.

But isn’t it crazy to suggest that Russian agents want to prevent the world from tackling climate change? Perhaps not, speculates Walker.

For a start, the hacked data apparently surfaced on the server of a Russian internet security company based in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where the FSB has an office. And the FSB, argues Walker, is notorious for grooming hackers and launching cyber attacks.

What’s more, by keeping the Arctic Circumpolar Seas ice-free all year round, climate change will unlock Russia’s enormous and lucrative reserves of fossil fuel. The suggestion is that Russia will welcome this effect of global warming.

So: Russia not only had the capacity to carry out the hacking job, it also has a motive, as nations rich in fossil fuels will be penalised by any post-Kyoto agreement that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, suggests Walker.

That said, the case is far from closed. Even if Russian hackers are to blame, who is to say that they weren’t in the pay of another party? How’s that for a new conspiracy theory? (Link to full text)

4 thoughts on “Climategate: Russian secret service blamed for hack

  1. The Russian thing is nonsense. The comments and links which first announced “” to the world came from IP addresses in a number of countries, and simply reflect the hacker’s use of free webspace and anonymizing “proxies” from around the world.

    The real clue to the perpetrators is found in the filenames of the emails. They indicate reprocessing in a North American timezone. I don’t have a perfect description of the details to hand but see e.g. the discussion here

    and the reference to the “time offset… on the zipped files” indicating Eastern Standard Time, i.e. east-coast America. And of course, the US is where you would really expect a “highly sophisticated, politically motivated” attack of this kind to be organized.

    • Hey Mitchell,

      Yeah, i’m inclined to agree. It’s not hard to guess at the likely perpetrators, but the whole “Russian secret service” is an interesting stance..

  2. Exactly, Mitchell.

    The hack was coordinated by the so-called “left wing” of the inner circle of M&M (of Climate Audit). They have (costly) dedicated secure communications networks and are tightly organised. They commissioned Russian freelance hackers to get the files, then sorted and prepared them for release.

    Evidence for this has been given to the Norfolk police investigating, though they seem truly out of their depth on this one.

  3. Hey sadlyAware,

    Speculation is entertaining, but do you have anything to back that up with? Otherwise wild accusations are no worse than anything you’d read on skeptical science.

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