Techworld

Data-leak lessons learned from the 'Climategate' hack

Security breach puts Anthropogenic global warming under a cloud

In case you've missed it, someone recently dumped a large cache of e-mail files and documents from the University of East Anglia University's prestigious Climactic Research Unit onto the 'Net. The CRU is one of the leading climatology research institutions, and its data and models provide much of the infrastructure on which the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is based.

Many of the files and emails discuss hiding or manipulating data, which has disturbing connotations for the credibility of AGW overall. (In one document, a researcher explicitly acknowledges making up data sources.) For a relatively unbiased look at some of the issues, please click here.

Leaving aside the political hot potato of AGW itself, there are several lessons for networkers to take away from the exposure of the CRU's internal data.

Lesson 1: Don't let users put passwords in their signatures. Yep, you got that right: One of the scientists included both on his e-mail signature — which means that anyone receiving an e-mail from this guy had access to his files. This may have been the source of the hack; in fact, some folks have theorized that a recipient of the e-mail was the source of the data dump.

Lesson 2: Don't evade Freedom of Information requests. As noted in the Science Magazine link above, many of the e-mails discuss how to destroy documents in anticipation of Freedom of Information requests. That's a criminal offense in the United Kingdom (where the CRU is located). IT folks should be aware that an increasing amount of data (particularly scientific and research data gathered via public funding) is subject to FOIA. They should work with researchers to ensure documents are stored and organized with that in mind.

Lesson 3: Lock down sensitive servers. Another theory behind the supposed "hack" is that the files were compiled in response to a FOIA request — then stored on an unlocked server. The CRU declined to honor the FOIA request, but left the compiled response freely available.

Lesson 4: Advise your users that all e-mails (and indeed, voice, message and video communications) may be the subject of public disclosure. You may work in an industry that's not subject to FOIA — but anyone can get sued. And the process of "e-discovery" may make plenty of data public. If you don't have a comprehensive multimedia data retention policy (what gets retained, what gets destroyed and on what timeframe, how destruction is confirmed), get one now.

As someone with a background both in IT and in science (I participated in particle physics experiments as a physics PhD student), I would also add the following lesson to the folks writing scientific code: Don't make stuff up. The released document HARRY_READ_ME.txt contains examples in which the coder, supremely frustrated with the poor quality of his data, simply creates some. Even if the underlying science is sound, "created" data taints the integrity of the entire process. Don't do it, no matter how tempting.

Johnson is president and senior founding partner at Nemertes Research, an independent technology research firm. She can be reached at johna@nemertes.com.

Tags global warmingsecurityclimategateanthropogenic global warming (AGW)

6 Comments

John A. Jauregui

1

Stop Bitching, Take Responsibility and Take Action

Stop all donations to the political party(s) responsible for this fraud. Stop donations to all environmental groups which funded this Global Warming propaganda campaign with our money, especially The Environmental Defense Fund. Write your state and federal representatives demanding wall to wall investigations of government sponsored funding and coordination of this and related propaganda campaigns and demand indictments of those responsible. Write your state and federal Attorneys General demanding Al Gore and others conducting Global Warming/Climate Change racketeering and mail fraud operations be brought to justice, indicted, tried, convicted and jailed. That’s what I have done in response to this outrageous violation of the public trust. Think of the consequences if you do nothing! For one, the UK is becoming the poster child for George Orwell’s “1984” and the US government’s sponsorship of this worldwide Global Warming propaganda campaign puts it in a class with the failed Soviet Union’s relentless violation of the basic human right to truthful government generated information. Given ClimateGate’s burgeoning revelations of outrageous government misconduct and massive covert misinformation, what are the chances that this Administration’s National Health Care sales campaign is anywhere near to the truth?

Michael Suede

2

Hacked Climate Model Source Code Explained

The entire thing is a gigantic fraud.

The actual hacked climate model source code explained by a software developer:

http://fascistsoup.com/2009/11/25/more-on-the-climategate-source-code/

This is epic.

tom809

3

CRU leak

Your response to what you describe as a "hack" (informed opinion suggests the most likely sourcce is a whistleblower - I will use "leak") seems to be to suggest ways for researchers to further protect their work from critical scrutiny. You seem to be some kind of scientist, yet what you write betrays no hint of understanding the bedrock of the scientific method - the subjection of hypotheses to the test of repeatable experiment. The point about the CRU data is that it should have been shared from the outset!

M Btok

4

Worst Scientic Scandal of Our Generation - Climate Gate

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6679082/Climate-change-this-is-the-worst-scientific-scandal-of-our-generation.html
(see McIntyre's blog Climate Audit and Anthony Watt's blog Watts Up With That), is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.What is tragically evident from the Harry Read Me file is the picture it gives of the CRU scientists hopelessly at sea with the complex computer programmes they had devised to contort their data in the approved direction, more than once expressing their own desperation at how difficult it was to get the desired results. The third shocking revelation of these documents is the ruthless way in which these academics have been determined to silence any expert questioning of the findings they have arrived at by such dubious methods – not just by refusing to disclose their basic data but by discrediting and freezing out any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics' work. It seems they are prepared to stop at nothing to stifle scientific debate in this way, not least by ensuring that no dissenting research should find its way into the pages of IPCC reports.
The former Chancellor Lord (Nigel) Lawson, last week launching his new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, rightly called for a proper independent inquiry into the maze of skulduggery revealed by the CRU leaks. But the inquiry mooted on Friday, possibly to be chaired by Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society – itself long a shameless propagandist for the warmist cause – is far from being what Lord Lawson had in mind. Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with a whitewash of what has become the greatest scientific scandal of our age. Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the Obsession with 'Climate Change' Turning Out to be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History?

On top of all this evidence of fraud, this on Monday Dec7 - Dec 18, the Copenhagen Treaty people will expect countries to sign a Sovereignty country killing Treaty based on this Fraudulent Climate Change, Global Warming Science! Signer beware you are being conned and cheated and you will be commiting HIGH TREASON against YOUR CITIZENS and YOUR COUNTRY!

Do you know what is going on behind your back? Click here to find out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VebOTc-7shU

Geosota

5

t

Mon, 30/11/2009 - 00:00 — gbrown@alum.mit.edu New
The Who on Global Warming Data Dumping
Sun, 29/11/2009 - 23:56 — gbrown@alum.mit.edu New
The Who on Global Warming Data Dumping
Climate change data dumped
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece

The Who: Another Tricky Day

You can't always get it
When you really want it
You can't always get it at all

Just because there's space
In your life it's a waste
To spend your time why don't you wait for the call?

Just gotta get used to it
We all get it in the end
Just gotta get used to it
We go down and we come up again
Just gotta get used to it
You irritate me my friend

This is no social crisis
This is you havin' fun
No crisis
Gettin' burned by the sun
This is true

This is no social crisis
Just another tricky day for you

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHT8v9bw4Nk

Anonymous

6

Climategate Forecast...

“• What is the current scientific consensus on the conclusions reached by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes? [Referring to the hockey stick propagated in UN IPCC 2001 by Michael Mann.]
Ans: Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on MBH98/99. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”
AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION, also known as The Wegman report was authored by Edward J. Wegman, George Mason University, David W. Scott, Rice University, and Yasmin H. Said, The Johns Hopkins University with the contributions of John T. Rigsby, III, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Denise M. Reeves, MITRE Corporation.

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