Everyone has a different take on Climategate – typically one that aligns with your opinion of the particulars of global warming held before the e-mail trove came to light.
Regardless of your feelings on the matter, from the perspective of IT this is a relatively simple situation. There are 1079 e-mails in a directory marked FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) which appear to have been archived on a standard schedule from the mail servers (Exchange, Exim, and Sendmail.) There are also a number of other files. All of this data was assembled in a zip file named FOI2009 (Freedom of Information 2009) that appear to have been assembled in respose to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The zip file first appeared on public FTP servers from approximately November 13 to November 17. You know the rests from there – the story of the story that refused to die – that was by turns under-reported by the mainstream media and over-hyped by bloggers. I’ll leave the analysis of political media bias and the emerging strength of the “blogosphere” to others and instead focus on the IT perspective.
My guess is that this was a relatively simple break-in where the zip file that had been compiled internally was pulled off a server. I don’t know if that zip file would have ever seen the light of day if the hackers hadn’t have stolen it and released it. And I don’t know whether the file was pulled off of an original copy of a backup copy.
What I do know is that encryption would have saved the “scientists” at CRU an awful lot of pain.
Something to think about in terms of your company’s and your personal information.