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We are all good comrades now

As far as I know, it was my very good friend Sean Gabb who first posited a theory about who may be responsible for the hacking of the CRU e-mails that have now formed the basis of ‘Climategate':

In short, I believe the Russians are behind this. It may be that all those megabytes of data were stolen by a computer hacker. There may be any number of people who are up to such hacking in the technical sense. But this seems to have been an integrated operation. Having the technical skills to get access to a computer archive is not the same as knowing where to look in that archive and what to look for. Nor is it the same as knowing what to do with it.

But the Russians had means and opportunity to do the job. Perhaps their security services are no longer as efficient and as well-funded as in Soviet times. But they are still there. Their mission is no longer to win the Cold War. But making life easier for Mr Putin and his friends is a large mission in itself.

I have no idea whether or not there is any truth in this. Certainly the Russian state has plenty of motivation but then so do a host of others. Sean offers very little in the way of evidence because there is very little in the way of evidence.

But, interestingly, there are some tufts of corroboration emerging:

Suspicions were growing last night that Russian security services were behind the leaking of the notorious British ‘Climategate’ emails which threaten to undermine tomorrow’s Copenhagen global warming summit.

An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has discovered that the explosive hacked emails from the University of East Anglia were leaked via a small web server in the formerly closed city of Tomsk in Siberia.

Have they merely read and then embellished Sean’s article I wonder? Or is there some flickering fire to accompany this smoke? The evidence is, at best, circumstantial.

But what if it does turn out to have been the former KGB? Would it not be an irony of historic proportions that an organisation formerly devoted to establishing a global tyrrany has thrown a big hammer-and-sickle into the works of their would-be successors? And, not just ironic, but also just.

Because if the warm-mongers get their way, then it is not the powerful and the well-connected that need fear their zealotry. The Al Gores and Zac Goldsmiths of the world can afford to bask in the green glow of personal glory, safe in the knowledge that their opulent lifestyles will not be compromised by so much a sterling silver napkin ring. They will soar (both literally and metaphorically) above it all. No, it is the Average Joe/Jane who will be forced to endure the austerity that their new overlords will demand. It is those who struggle to make ends meet who will be told that the planet can no longer afford their humble family saloon or their two weeks a year in the Algarve. It is the little people who will be stepped upon because they can be stepped upon.

Maybe, one day, we will know the true identity of the e-mail hackers. Or maybe we will never know. But I do sort of hope that it does turn out to be some guy called Yvgeny, acting on orders from the Kremlin, tapping away in a windowless room in a drab building on a military base in Krasnoyarsk because then, we will be able to say: congratulations, tovarisch! You have, at long last, established yourself as a Hero of the Proletariat.

34 comments to We are all good comrades now

  • We should be careful not to eulogise these kgb guys as freedom loving dudes tho, if kgb they turn out to be. if they are indie hackers then maybe, but if they are, as i suspect (and as dr. Gabb suggested) kremlin employees then the motivation is probably to keep us buying russian gas. Still, looking gift horses in the mouth is not my favourite pastime. But don’t lets have any illusions, eh ?

  • Jacob

    How convenient… to blame it on the Ruskies… More likely – it was an inside job by a whistle blower.

  • Cris

    Maybe not. Wretchard makes the case that Russia stands to be the “Saudi Arabia of carbon credits”: The logic of enlightenment

  • 1327

    I doubt we are looking a “hackers” state sponsored or otherwise here. The files appear to come from at least 2 computer systems (one or more network file servers and an IMAP or Exchange mail server) plus they appear to be carefully filtered so only the interesting emails remain. More likely we are looking as the filename suggests a collection of files put together by the IT people as part of a FOIA request. We can only speculate why the file wasn’t passed on as required but I think someone thought that was wrong.

    Incidentally we can see from the emails how senior academics at the CRU treat other academics. So we can only wonder how badly they treat their post grads , technicians and IT support staff. My betting would be that one of the “little people” took his or her revenge.

  • Tanuki

    What is it they say, ‘The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend” ??

    OK, if Boris and his longtime NKVD-acolytes can somehow manage to drill holes in the Thermomaniacs’ ships from the inside, I say Go for it!.

  • Frederick Davies

    I doubt it was the Russians authorities: they would know how to cover their tracks better. Besides, there is evidence that at least the e-mails were leaked to a BBC correspondent before they were put in the fileserver from which they spread out (after the correspondent sat on them and did nothing). That does not sound like a well-organised heist, but a leaker who, finding the BBC would do nothing about it, dropped the files somewhere out of reach of UK authorities (it is not as if diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia are warm at the moment, are they? Put them in Russia with the knowledge that any request from the UK authorities would be ignored).
    You know what? It just occurred to me: why is Senator Inhofe so measured (yes, I know he has been active, but I would have expected him to who nuclear with it)? Why the secrecy about who is coming with him to Copenhagen? Maybe he knows who did it and there are going to be further fireworks in Copenhagen. Or maybe I am just imagining it all…

  • Sunfish

    Color me skeptical.

    What’s the Russians’ motive?

    I’m sticking with “internal leak” pending further evidence. Self-important assclowns like these have a way of alienating subordinates, who then want revenge.

    “Perfection” is just another word for “there’s something important that we’re not seeing.”

  • Pat

    I doubt that any hacker could have abstracted relevant data without the inclusion of other irrelevant data- though of course they might not have published the irrelevant bits (e.g. the “joke” emails which must have been on the CRU server, no-one is that serious), and everything released was subject to a FOI request, so I favour the whistleblower theory- probably someone who believes in the FOIA, was charged with actioning it, and objected to the non-compliance.
    However, although the Russians made some profit out of carbon credits from Kyoto1 it is by no means guaranteed that they would do equally well under a successor treaty- and they only got a good deal on Kyoto1 because they were reluctant to sign.
    If they thinl that the carbon credit bonanza is over, and they never did believe in AGW anyway- why not sink Kyoto2?

  • Yes, the irony would be amusing but I think we ought to stick with Occam’s Razor: what’s the simplest explanation?

    To me that is that it is leak and that it was put on a server in Russia because that was where it was least likely to get closed down.

  • mojo

    The whole “Hacker” theory is weak, for several reasons. “Inside Job” is much more likely – if we ignore Occam and the “Stupid Blunder” theory.

  • permanentexpat

    Give me strength….maybe there are a few of you here too young to remember that it was Russian nuclear tests which were to blame for all the past weather: hot, cold, too dry, to much rain, plagues of polar bears, warm beer & cold soup.
    Our modern culture is not for nothing called the ‘victim’ society’ & riddled with looking for someone to blame. You can bet your sweet arse that Climategate was precipitated (no pun intended) by an inside whuistleblower.
    ……and, while I’m at it, Britain’s decline & final incorporation as a province into an unelected, corrupt & bureaucratic dictatorship is a crime which can only be laid at the feet of the British people…no-one else.
    But don’t worry, guys, this collosal shower of 600 million disparate humans of which we are now a part, boasts a British Foreign Ministress, totally unqualified, never elected to anything beyond Treasurer of a trairorous CND who may have well received some pocket money from the NKVD…but what the hell, they subbed a raft of politicians in the past….a perk no longer available to our present bunch who must resort to fleecing the taxpayer to make their fat ends meet.
    I need (another, yes) drink. Nightnight.

  • Diogenes

    Poor post, pure speculation. You are doing the warmists work for them. See here……

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6946281.ece

    They are desperate to infer a malicious intent for these leaks.

    IIRC the information was held on a proxy server in Turkey in addition to the Russian one, should we blame Bin Laden?

  • Nuke Gray

    Here’s a thought- machinery has always had gremlins that get in the way- why not call hackers kremlins? for software gremlins?

  • RAB

    Well I’m in the inside job camp myself.
    The BBC guy had the whole thing for a month! and did nothing with it, so the whistleblower, out of frustration with the asswipe not doing his job, gave it to those who can, us.
    It might be instructive if the BBC guy fesses up to how he received it.

  • Alice

    No! No! You guys have got it all wrong about the data being leaked by an ethical insider who was disgusted when the University of East Anglia refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request.

    This was no noble whistle-blower. It was a hacker. The e-mails were stolen. I know that for a fact — incontrovertibly. I heard it on the BBC.

  • steve

    To date the ethical insider seems like the likely culprit. But if I could have my choice, I would vote for a Galt like hacker that has further plans.

  • Roue le Jour

    If it were a whistleblower, and he was identified, it would not go well for him. So, absolutely, I believe it was the Russians. Unless it was Mossad.

    Is it too early to say this?

    They think the science is settled. It is now!

  • Robert

    PeeCee myers has finally weighed in on the climategate scandal:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/febrile_nitwits_and_the_hacked.php

  • Alice

    Roue le Jour wrote:
    “They think the science is settled. It is now!”

    Brilliant! Nominate that for Samizdata Quote of the Day.

  • Gareth

    BBC weatherman Paul Hudson didn’t get the lot. What Hudson was leaked was just a chain of emails relating to an article he had written.

    It is easy enough to use anonymous proxies around the globe and find public ftp sites.

    The timeline is that realclimate.org was the first place the file was attempted to be uploaded to, two days before it was put on the tomcity server. Realclimate say a hacker with a Turkish ip address gained access to their website, disabled access to other users, uploaded the zip file and attempted to create a post about it.

  • permanentexpat

    One man’s whistleblower is another man’s traitor. Some whistleblowers are not very nice people of course but I admire them greatly…because they are fully aware that, if identified, they are totally & irrevocably bereft of any future employment…or worse, as Dr. Kelley didn’t have the opportunity to explain.
    I would like to think that, if it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the faux scientists & their mentors who concocted this megascam of the millenium will spend a long time in jail.
    Dream on…Copenhagen will be pushed through as if nothing were happening, just as Lisbon before it…with Gauleiter Brown pledging the money he earned for us by his clever sale of our gold reserves.
    The biggest problem: Nobody cares.

  • The Pedant-General

    No – I call bollocks on this.
    As discussed above, any putative hacker needs:
    – an astonishing level of access to emails so that’s admin access across the Exchange estate, oh and since they go back a decade, probably backup tapes as well. Remotely/ Aye right.
    – Really fluent English to be able to read and digest what’s important, plus a huge amount of TIME to read and digest what’s important OR a gigabit/LAN connection to be able to copy the entire sodding exchange database, so that it be read offline.
    – To be able to do all this riflling around, remotely, for a very long time whilst he was snooping about without anyone noticing the remote access behaviour
    – Completely unrestricted access to the file storage systems, plus probably everyone’s hard drives – I’ll bet that a lot of stuff in on laptops rather than all neatly squared away on network drives.

    OR inside help to know precisely where to look.

    Now. Without outside help, this is just nonsense. this kind of digging would take months.

    With inside help, why does it need to be hacked?

    Occam says whistleblower – it’s far more likely than a blunder putting the zip file on a publicly accessible ftp server.

    We know that someone tried to get bits of this out earlier.
    We know that CRU was planning to deny the request.

    In order for this NOT to be a whistleblower, we need to have no-one in CRU with a conscience. That’s a conspiracy, so we can discount it.

  • astateofdenmark

    If you have a look on RealClimate and ClimateAudit, the IP addresses from which the information came was posted on both. These IP addresses were basically proxies and the proxy location of one is the Russian city mentioned in the Mail article.

    The Mail haven’t done an investigation, they’ve pulled info of a blog and sensationalised. That’s what passes for journalism these days.

    Other proxy locations, of the top of my head, were Turkey and Saudi.

  • Mandy

    Comrades? The word is Citizen or Stakeholder.
    You must learn the lingo or we’ll send you to Siberia

  • Pure conjecture. IP addresses mean nothing and I still think the most likely scenario is a disillusioned insider who finally gagged on the self serving hypocrisy.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The hacker theory as given by Sean Gabb does not make a lot of sense, frankly.

    And what Patrick Crozier said.

  • Regarding a “leak” to the BBC: My understanding is that Paul Hudson was forwarded an email thread because his article was under discussion. He was then able to say that the leaked emails looked genuine. I don’t think it was a leak, he was just added to the thread.

  • I hope it was the Russians. They were fun in the 80s then it all fizzled out…

  • Frederick Davies

    It seems the hacker idea (Russian or otherwise) just became more unlikely:

    http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/FOIA_Leaked/

  • The Russians are hackers for hire.

    If you want to hire really organised techno-criminals you go to Russia. Credit card fraud, hacking of massively multiplayer games, Phishing scams, the lot. If its computer based and there’s money in it, the Russians are all over it like a really naff tracksuit.

    They may have performed the act (allegedly). Who was paying the bills is the question everyone should really be asking. I don’t see the Russian Gov’t footing the bill personally, The economics of AGW are murky at best and it may be that application of the various policies being bandied about pushes the price of Russian gas up. Who knows?

  • Ed Snack

    Chances it was a Russian state hack, zero to a large number of decimal places. That can be confirmed because the UN is floating the idea. The P-G gives the cogent reasons. Inside job on files either gathered for a possible FOI release, or equally likely, items gathered and removed to avoid an FOI release.

    This tactic of trying to blame “hackers” is part of a quite deliberate PR campaign that is attempting to turn the attention from the contents of the release to the nature of the release, and to build “outrage” at the tactics of the evil deniers. Most of those pushing this line know it’s BS, but they’ve been given the campaign plan and are sticking to it.

    Also, rule 29 for highly effective pirates is “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy, nothing more, nothing less” (Rule 30 is better, “A little trust goes a long way, the less you use the further you’ll go”)

  • Rich Rostrom

    “Certainly the Russian state has plenty of motivation…” What interest does the Russian state have in undermining the AGW story?

    AIUI, Russia either has received, or stands to receive large “carbon credits”. The benchmark is to be IIRC 1991. Since then, lots of coal-burning legacy Soviet industry has closed down, so Russian CO2 emissions are already well below the 1991 level. Russia will get credits for this reduction, which they can then sell for $billions. Thus the Russians will get a lot of money for doing nothing.

    Furthermore, one of the easy ways to reduce CO2 is to switch to natural gas, and Russia is a huge gas exporter. CO2 restrictions and taxes will increase gas demand and Russian revenues.

  • Laird

    Ed, where can I find a complete list of the “rules for highly effective pirates”? I liked your two examples. (Sort of like the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.)

  • Laird

    Never mind, Ed, I think I found it (unless you have a better list somewhere).