Published on December 22nd, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan
Was Climategate Cyber-Terrorism?
It was obvious to me the second I heard about “climategate” that it was a crime (on the part of the hacker). But it hadn’t crossed my mind that it could be “cyber-terrorism” — now, it seems painfully obvious that it very well could be. Don Shelby of the Minnesota Post delved into this idea this week. It’s really a great piece and I recommend checking the whole thing out. If you’re not yet ready to click over, though, here’s the intro (well, intro and a little more):
One of the world’s most famous climate scientists, Dr. Michael Mann at the University of Pennsylvania, communicated often with Dr. Jones at East Anglia. In the original reporting, Mann was often quoted, misquoted and taken out of context. Though the investigations have found he did nothing wrong, climategate has nevertheless hurt him.
Mann told me that the people who can’t abide the idea of global warming being true “have no legitimate scientific leg to stand on. So, they have turned to criminal acts in an attempt to distract the public and policymakers.” Dr. Mann is convinced that the criminal act shows the work of “industry-funded front groups and the individuals who do their bidding.”
The question is whether this can be characterized as a simple cybercrime — or are there elements of cyber-terrorism involved? Bombing a building is an act of terrorism, but it is not the goal. The goal, according to experts, is to terrorize, immobilize and destroy one’s sense of security.
So I turned to one of the most respected cyber-terrorism experts in the country, Bruce Schneier. Schneier has been called to testify before Congress. He is the author of eight books on the subjects of cryptography, warfare, crime and terrorism committed by cyber-criminals.
Schneier told me: “What I’ve been thinking about is whether the hack was intended to intimidate, threaten or bully. Then the crime becomes an effort to stop people from doing legitimate research. So, it is not just a data theft, but has a goal of creating a chilling effect, a threat, an intimidation.”