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The latest round of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks has revealed that climate negotiators in the US State Dept. were the target of a sophisticated hacker attack last year. The attacks were timed to coincide with the run-up to the climate talks in Copenhagen, at a point when China and the US were in the midst of negotiations -- and they occurred around the same time that hackers stole scientists' emails from a research database, precipitating the event that would later be dubbed 'Climate Gate'. Here's the Wonk Room describing the leak:
Five officials within the State Department's Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern's office received an email about "China and Climate Change" designed to look like it came from a National Journal columnist, with a PDF attachment that harbored malicious code. If the attack had been successful, the hackers could have gotten "nearly complete control" over the computer systems. However, State's Cyber Threat Analysis Division detected the attack and the users' software was kept up to date, preventing harmAnd here's a snippet from the cable itself:
CTAD's Technical Analysis/Special Operations monitoring detected a malicious e-mail massage targeting five DoS individuals employed within the Division of Ocean Affairs, Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change ... Though the incident has not been attributed to any known hostile actor, the event appears to be a targeted spear-phishing attempt and may be indicative of efforts to gather intelligence on the U.S.'s position on climate change issues.Though the attacks failed, the cable nonetheless reveals that the Climate Gate hack may not have been an isolated incident. It also serves to call attention to the fact that, despite the media circus surrounding a handful of out-of-context statements, no real effort has been made to uncover the hackers themselves, or their motives. It seems that would be a much more useful investigation than the one conducted on the semantics of some private emails.
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