I call it espionage

Nov 23, 2009 2:29pm


By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director

A recent New York Times article, Hacked E-Mails Fuel Climate Change Skeptics reports on the public disclosure of emails between scientists in engaged in climate change research in the United Kingdom and the U.S.

The release of the emails by unknown hackers purportedly had the goal of diminishing the credibility of some leading researchers in the field trying to document global warming. While the article goes into deep details about the various scientific claims and the back and forth between the scientists, it fails to address the most serious aspect of this story the outright theft of information. Throughout the article the word hacking is used to describe the acts by which the emails were obtained. Espionage would be more appropriate way to characterize the behavior.

Wikipedia defines espionage as “an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information.” A fancy word for stealing.

While no details of the method the information thieves used in this case were provided, it is totally unacceptable to try and make a political point by stealing information. While I am sure some people will argue that system the emails were stored on should have been more secure, and that’s true, lack of security is not an excuse. If I accidentally leave my front door unlocked, it is not an indication that I want my house burglarized. There is no difference between digitally intruding is a system to steal files and breaking down a door and rummaging through a file cabinet.

At NCSA, we think a great deal about what it means to be evolving into the digital age. There is increasing agreement that preparing young people to be digital citizens requires education about the ethical considerations of hacking, stealing, and otherwise invading people’s privacy through using computers.

For that matter, a lot of adults could use the same education.

Clearly, the criminals in this case had a political agenda that overrode their moral compasses.

SSO (stay safe online),

Michael