ClimateGate an inside job
There has been some debate as to whether the CRU had been hacked or whether an insider released the information. It now looks like it was an insider.
Canadian network engineer Lance Levsen, the UNIX systems administrator for the PW Group, a major Canadian publishing firm, has generated a detailed forensic analysis of the released e-mails and files.
The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Levsen re-created the e-mail distribution system at UEA over the last ten years, capturing system changes by the university’s e-mail administrators during that time. Using information contained within the files that constitute the e-mails, as well as the filenames themselves, his modeling concludes and identifies the source for the leaked documents as an internal source within the University of East Anglia. The alleged “hacker”, Levson conludes, must have been someone with administrative, or “root” privileges, to UEA’s secure computer systems.
The original post can be found here.
For the hacker to have collected all of this information s/he would have required extraordinary capabilities. The hacker would have to crack an Administrative file server to get to the emails and crack numerous workstations, desktops, and servers to get the documents. The hacker would have to map the complete UEA network to find out who was at what station and what services that station offered. S/he would have had to develop or implement exploits for each machine and operating system without knowing beforehand whether there was anything good on the machine worth collecting.
The only reasonable explanation for the archive being in this state is that the FOI Officer at the University was practising due diligence. The UEA was collecting data that couldn’t be sheltered and they created FOIA2009.zip.
It is most likely that the FOI Officer at the University put it on an anonymous ftp server or that it resided on a shared folder that many people had access to and some curious individual looked at it.
The simplest explanation in this case is that someone at UEA found it and released it to the wild and the release of FOIA2009.zip wasn’t because of some hacker, but because of a leak from UEA by a person with scruples.
While we’re on the topic of insiders, whistleblowers and people with scuples it is worth comparing the CRU insider with Bradley Birkenfeld. So far the CRU insider has not identified themself nor attempted to plea-bargain for a lessor sentence following a guilty plea to a criminal offence. Rather the CRU insider has released important information to the world for no personal gain (that we have yet to see).
(HT: Offsetting Behaviour)
Update: Mitchell Porter points out that this isn’t a new story. The bottom line seems to revolve around who is correct in this exchange.