International Journal of Inactivism (now supplanted by Decoding SwiftHack)


Did a system administrator just save the world?

[cite as: F. Bi. 2009. Did a system administrator just save the world? Intl. J. Inact., 2:106–107]

While the climate regulation talks in Copenhagen continue, I’m reminded of something that Gavin Schmidt wrote regarding the attempted cyber-attack on RealClimate after the CRU attack:

At around 6.20am (EST) Nov 17th, somebody hacked into the RC server from an IP address associated with a computer somewhere in Turkey, disabled access from the legitimate users, and uploaded a file to our [RealClimate] server. They then created a draft post that would have been posted announcing the data to the world that was identical in content of the comment posted on The Air Vent later that day.

Now think for a moment what would’ve happened if the attack on RealClimate had succeeded. There would’ve been a blog post, ostensibly written by mainstream climate scientists, announcing that the global warming theory is a hoax and they’re finally going to Tell All. The real climate scientists would’ve been unable to reply, being shut out of their own blogs, while the ‘climate scientist’ attacker could start fielding questions from a confused public — and make them even more confused. And if the attacker could maintain this state of affairs long enough to last till Copenhagen, it can really turn the climate talks into a total train wreck the likes of which we can’t even imagine.

But none of this happened. The so-called “ClimateGate” or “SwiftHack” is now nothing more than a huge load of hot air. All thanks to one system administrator who was able to spot the attack, and promptly regain control of the web server.

* * *

And in case anyone missed this: our friendly climate inactivists Steve McIntyre and Jeff Id are saying that the CRU cyber-attacker’s comments on their blogs came from the IP addresses (Russia) and (Saudi Arabia). Jeff’s ‘deductions’ from these bits of information, however, are nonsense:

Then we have the release of the info from proxy servers in less than friendly countries. This is not unsophisticated and made me think of a government agency first. Someone with resources and knowledge. Who’s going to be able get a proxy link from Russia, Saudi Arabia or Turkey and which proxy sent the email to those? They knew what they were doing. […]

It all seems to me like a whistle blower who got ticked that FOIA was ignored (illegally). Perhaps someone who heard the conversations between Phil Jones and the Govt. officials.

No, Jeff, unless you’re saying that system administrators working in a climate science department have the same kind of information as people working alongside Jack Bauer breaking into terrorist networks.

(Then again, if what McIntyre and Id say are true, they may actually lend some support to the Daily Mail‘s theory that the CRU crack was the work of foreign intelligence agents. Or not. Ugh, are we confused enough yet?)



  1. Did he just say that proxies servers are not unsophisticated (double negative FTW!)? Really?

    Comment by scruffydan — 2009/12/10 @ 08:59 | Reply

  2. Do you have the first piece of evidence that the “hack” on RealClimate was anything other than a comment in the moderation queue? Just curious.

    Comment by moptop — 2009/12/20 @ 12:05 | Reply

    • Well, can you find a way, as an ordinary web site user, to upload a file to the location If not, then I think that’s pretty compelling evidence that it’s not merely a moderated comment.

      Do you have any other nonsensical theories which you’d like me to debunk?

      Comment by frankbi — 2009/12/20 @ 12:57 | Reply

  3. If it was successful, the prank would topped the hack of Conservapedia. Too bad they failed; it was a good joke. Do you think “scientists” live in caves and bang rocks together to communicate? People have phones and cars and stuff. Just because they can’t access a blog doesn’t mean they can’t interact with the world. Get a grip.

    Comment by DPirate — 2010/01/18 @ 08:28 | Reply

    • DPirate:

      Do you seriously think the inactivists will be content with calling it a “prank”?

      Lastly, what’s with all the snark? It makes you sound like a concern troll.

      Comment by frankbi — 2010/01/19 @ 13:01 | Reply

  4. I’m curious why you don’t think this could have been done by a student. The way it was initially released to RC with a link at CA looks a lot like a prank by a somewhat savvy IT college kid. If someone with more age under their belt did it, why would they add the extra risk?

    They wouldn’t.

    My guess is that pissed off college kids/grad students with enough understanding to be dangerous did this.

    Another point was explained by me several times, whomever released the emials didn’t have a working understanding of climate literature, they did have a good one, but they highlighted an email in their link at my blog which would have been (and was) a complete shoulder shrug with respect to climate. If they read the literature, they would have known it already.

    Comment by Jeff Id — 2010/04/09 @ 18:12 | Reply

    • The cracker took the time and effort to crack into RC, upload a file to, and a few hours later send comments to Climate Audit, WUWT, your blog, and other places. Plus, the whole operation didn’t seem to be aimed at making people laugh. Doesn’t look like a prank.

      (Some of the other attacks on machines related to climate science may be pranks, but not this.)

      Comment by stepanovich — 2010/04/10 @ 05:16 | Reply

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