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New climate centre email incident

Cross-posted from Daniel Cressey on The Great Beyond

Climate change researchers in the UK have been subjected to a new cyber-attack.

Last month staff at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, part of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), were sent fake emails that purported to come from Nicholas Stern, the head of the institute.

“The attacker did not gain access to any e-mail messages. The attack was identified very quickly by members of the school’s IT security team who took steps to prevent it from causing any damage,” says Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the institute.

This is not a computer hacking incident such as some commentators have suggested occurred in the so-called climate-gate theft of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. Instead, this is an email spoofing attack where an incoming email is doctored to make it look like it has come from someone other than the real sender.

Further details on the content of the email were not available. Spoofing attacks can be used to trick the recipient into revealing information of use to the spoofer or to get them to open files that may contain computer viruses, among other things.

The fact that the message purported to come from Stern might suggest this was more targeted than a run-of-the-mill ‘phishing’ attack for bank details, perhaps even an incident inspired by the climate-gate theft, which gave succour to climate sceptics.

However Ward says there are “no indications of the motives behind the attack”.

Details of the attack have been passed to the Police Central eCrime Unit.

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