New York, November 25 -- “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline,” wrote Climatic Research Unit’s (CRU) professor Phil Jones in an e-mail in 1999.
The hundreds of emails and documents hacked from a British university and posted online have no doubt sparked criticism from the blogosphere, where readers have raised questions about the authenticity of the data provided by the scientists.
Leaving this climate change debate aside, the email leak issue could now brew a political debate.
Congress probing the issue
Congress has launched an investigation to find whether the scientists at the CRU of the University of East Anglia manipulated facts and misrepresented the truth to present their theory that global warming is man-made.
CRU is recognized as the leading institution conducting study of natural and anthropogenic climate change and its findings were included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report in 2007.
The congressional investigators are basically focusing on the e-mails written by White House Science Adviser John Holdren.
In one of the e-mails, Holdren stated that he supported view of Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University that humans are responsible for global warming.
Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican was quoted by CNET news as saying that the e-mail messages, highlighting the correspondence between prominent climate change researchers in America and UK, show that they “cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not."
Was hacking politically motivated?
This is not the first time that confidential data has been hacked online. Many institutions have suffered data breaches in the past, but the fact that data has been released by the climate change skeptics has raised many eyebrows.
The hacker had stated on the site Air Vent, “We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.”
"There is no doubt in my mind that the break-in was a targeted attack,” Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security, told Top Tech News.
He further added that hackers “seek assets worth value on the black market -- private and personal information primarily”.
Hundreds of emails discussing climate change is not worth much value and if the hackers had felt that the facts had monetary value they would have not released the information so easily.
A wake up call
Regardless of the fact that the hack is politically motivated or not, one thing is clear that the hack has surely underscored the need to use technologies such as encryption to safeguard sensitive documents and communications.
Dave Perry, director of global education for Trend Micro, told ChannelWeb, "What would your choice of words say to the world at large?
"Don't assume that online is private ever. There is no privacy online. Everything is a matter of public record and a determined person will be able to uncover it."