Chinese hackers linked to 'Warmergate' climate change leaked emails controversy

By Jason Lewis and Simon Parry
Last updated at 6:42 PM on 27th December 2009

The investigation into the so-called Warmergate emails - the leaked data from the University of East Anglia’s climate change department - took a new twist last night when The Mail on Sunday tracked the stolen messages to a suspect computer which provides internet access to China.

The address used to post the emails is also on an international ‘black list’ which highlights suspicious behaviour on the internet.

The revelation comes after the Russian security service, the FSB – the former KGB – authorised the release of confidential information that allowed us to retrace the route taken by the email traffic.

A computer company in Siberia was ultimately used to post the controversial messages - which cast doubt on the reliability of scientists’ global warming claims - on the internet.

The revelation led to claims that the Russians were behind the release of the information.

But, anxious to distance themselves from the leak, the FSB revealed how the data had been sent to Siberia from a computer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The evidence passed to The Mail on Sunday now raises questions about whether Chinese hackers, backed by the communist regime, are the source of the emails.

Supported by their government and its security and intelligence services, Chinese hackers have been at the centre of huge number of ‘cyber attacks’ in recent years, including attempted computer ‘break-ins’ at the House of Commons and Whitehall departments, including the Foreign Office.

Earlier this year, MI5 chief Jonathan Evans warned 300 British businesses that they were under Chinese cyber-attack. The People’s Liberation Army is reputed to hold an annual competition to recruit the country’s best hackers.

Last week, The Mail on Sunday traced the stolen climate change emails to a so-called Open Access server run by Malaysian telecoms giant Telekom Malaysia Berhad.

The Malay government owns more than a third of the company and it supplies internet access to nearby China.

Last night, the company confirmed the leaked emails passed through Kuala Lumpur using its open relay mail server that can be accessed and used to forward mail by internet users without the need for a password.

Company spokesman Saiful Azmi Matmor said: ‘We cannot divulge any confidential information about our customer accounts. However, we are aware of the international stories about the leaked emails and our technicians are looking into this matter now that you have drawn it to our attention.’

A source within the company said: ‘Because this is an open relay mail server, the emails could have been sent through it from anywhere in the world. It is just as likely to
be someone outside Malaysia as someone within the country.’

The internet address used to post the messages is linked to several others used by the Chinese -- one is a Chinese environmental institute, the Research Institute of Forest Ecology and Environment Protection, based near Beijing.

Several professors from this institute are regulars at climate change conferences where they have shared a platform with the University of East Anglia experts.
After our enquiries in Malaysia began, the suspect computer links to China were suddenly cut.

Scotland Yard and Norfolk Police are leading the investigation into the email theft at the University of East Anglia.