Shaun Lowthorpe

Police investigating the leaking of thousands of emails and data from climate change experts at the University of East Anglia are working with a team from Scotland Yard amid speculation that hackers also tried to break into a second climate institution in Canada.

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Police investigating the leaking of thousands of emails and data from climate change experts at the University of East Anglia are working with a team from Scotland Yard amid speculation that hackers also tried to break into a second climate institution in Canada.

Extracts from emails sent by academics at the UEA's climatic research unit (CRU) were posted on a Russian website more than a week ago including some which talked about deleting messages as part of a move to avoid releasing data under freedom of information (FOI) rules.

The leaks sparked uproar and calls for CRU director Prof Phil Jones to quit, though the university is standing by the academic, who has also received personal threats since the storm broke.

While expressing regret at the tone of some of the emails, academics insist that the science of man-made climate change is beyond dispute, and the leaked emails have been taken out of context.

The scientific reputation of the CRU has come under further attack after the university admitted it no longer held the original raw data it used to calculate its predictions of rising temperatures, but only its modified version because of "data storage issues" in the 1980s, with critics questioning whether its science can be trusted. But the university insisted that no information has been lost and the raw data was still held by the meteorological services of the countries it originated from.

Others fear the so-called 'climategate' scandal could damage the reputation of the UEA overall and, if unchecked, could hamper other research funding bids.

Last night Norfolk police confirmed that the inquiry was being headed by Det Supt Julian Gregory and detectives were working with a team from the Metropolitan Police.

Meanwhile it is believed that hackers unsuccessfully attempted to secure data from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma), a division of of the climate research branch of Environment Canada.

An Environment Canada spokes-man would not go into details, but said: "We have no evidence that any attempts to hack into computers at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis have been successful. For security reasons, Environment Canada does not comment on threats against its infrastructure."

A Norfolk police spokesman said: "This matter is being investigated as a potential criminal offence. An inquiry team has been established under the leadership of Det Supt Julian Gregory and the investigation is being supported by relevant experts from other organisations.

"We are currently investigating the exact nature of the alleged breach and the content of the data that may have been accessed. It would be inappropriate at this early stage to comment on the exact nature of the investigation or speculate publicly on the person or persons involved."

It is not clear if officers have established whether hackers based either in this country or abroad had got hold of the information, or whether it had been physically stolen from somebody at the university. Police have also not disclosed whether they have interviewed any UEA staff. But a second potential breach would seem to confirm the UEA's view that the breach is the latest move in a "sustained and in some cases vexatious campaign" from those opposed to urgent action to tackle climate change in the run-up to this month's climate summit in Copenhagen.

A UEA spokeswoman also confirmed that the information was not available on a server that could be easily accessed and could not have been inadvertently released.

The university has been bombarded by a large number of FOI requests included many seeking detailed information about computer codes used in putting together some of its climate change modelling. Requests to release information under the data protection act have also been received.

Some academics fear the requests are part of a campaign by climate change sceptics to get them bogged down in protracted and detailed rows over the science and divert them from their research. But many of those seeking to get hold of the information insist they were doing so to test the validity of the science.

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