From Russia with Love?

Global Warming Skepticism Graph
Image by wstera2 via Flickr

 

Note: if you are looking for a link to download the new batch of Climategate e-mails, you can download them from here.

For much more on this, see Watts Up With That?.

The “Climategate 2″ release of further hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia are once again embarrassing for Phil Jones, Michael Mann and the other climate scientists involved – whatever their supporters in the media may say.

The latest release, that FOIA2011.zip file, contains 5,000 e-mails in plain text and also a further archive of 220,000 files that is password-protected (with 256-bit AES encryption – in other words, state of the art uncrackable encryption – no less).

The “readme” file released in the package says that those additional e-mails have been encrypted “for various reasons”, and states that the hackers do not intend “publicly” (sic) releasing the passphrase. (It is a passphrase and not a password to make it almost impossible to crack.) So it is not likely we will be able to read those additional 220,000 files unless the hacker relents and releases the passphrase.

I am interested in a few features of all this though.

  • This leak (like the previous one) was released on a Russian server, and then removed a few hours later.
  • The compression method used was 7Zip. 7Zip was (and is) developed by Igor Pavlov, a Russian computer programmer. As such, it is widely used in Russia – by contrast, in the West, almost everybody uses Winzip compression as a standard.
  • The readme file talks about 5,000 e-mails being released and 220,000 being in the encrypted archive. But it writes those numbers as “5.000” and “220.000” – with a decimal point rather than a comma separating the groups of figures. That format is not generally used in the UK (or indeed in the USA), but is the normal format in some other countries, including Russia.

All of this leads me to conclude that it is likely that this Climategate leak, as well as the previous one, was orchestrated by somebody in Russia.

Interesting.

I am also interested in the fact that the archive was included in the file but encrypted. The obvious thing to do would have been to publish the 5,000 e-mails, but say that you had 220,000 more. So why did the leaker decide to release that encrypted archive? Without the password, it is of no use to anybody.

Finally, the original filename on the Russian server was not “FOIA2011.zip” but “25FOIA2011.zip”. The “FOIA” I can understand I guess (Freedom Of Information Act). But why the “25”? Does that have any significance?

Not especially useful information, but my two-pennyworth on this.

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6 thoughts on “From Russia with Love?

  1. I’ve been wondering about this too. The encryption idea seems quite neat because the next release is merely a matter of sending out the key – no additional risk of detection. It keeps the pressure on without any further risk of detection.

    Maybe the whole thing is state-sponsored?

  2. Why 7-Zip? There’s a technical reason for it: the .zip format’s default encryption method is quite weak and susceptible to a known plaintext attack.

    Also, what was the heinous crime that was ‘revealed’ by FOIA2011.zip? Last I checked, it’s not a crime for Michael Mann to be nasty to people he doesn’t like, so if that’s the most serious ‘crime’ you can come up with…

    — frank

    • Not so sure about that technical reason. Winzip can use 256 bit AES encryption now, even if originally it was less sophisticated.

      You’re right that there weren’t any more serious revelations in this new release, but it did serve to remind people of how the climate scientists had been subverting due scientific procesd. We also do not know, of course, what is in the remaining encrypted files. I almost think maybe they just wanted someone to crack modern encryption for other reasons”

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