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Climate change hackers leave breadcrumb trail

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The hackers who leaked more than 1,000 emails from one of the top climate research centers may have used an open proxy to cover their tracks, but that doesn't mean authorities can't figure out who they are.

Rob Graham, CEO of penetration testing firm Errata Security, said his analysis suggests that the hackers used three open proxies when they posted a 61 MB Zip file of email belonging to staff at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. CRU officials say they've brought in police to assist in their investigation into the leak of the internal documents without permission.

Open proxies have long been a favorite of people trying to hide their online identities. By funneling web requests through the third-party, websites see only the IP address of the proxy, rather than the IP address where the request is actually being made. This post by the hackers on ClimateAudit was made using an open proxy located in Russia, while another of their posts used a proxy located in Saudi Arabia.

CRU representatives have said the hackers used a Turkish IP address when breaching CRU security and posting the Zip file on its servers. One would presume its an open proxy as well.

But that doesn't mean the posts were anonymous. Graham tested the Russian proxy used by the hackers and has found it adds the originating IP address in HTTP request headers sent to websites being visited. Assuming ClimateAudit admins log the "X-Forwarded-For:" header, the hacker's identity may already be known.

Of course, the folks at ClimateAudit aren't on the best of terms with CRU, so it's not clear if they'd be willing to reveal the identity of someone who has brought so much scrutiny to one of their adversaries. So far, CRU representatives haven't said much about their investigation, but it's safe to assume the people poring over their web logs are looking for precisely the same type of data.

Graham's analysis is here. ®

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