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Behind the scenes at Skeptical Science

Apparently someone has obtained a behind-the-scenes look at Skeptical Science. There was apparently a security hole in their internal forum.

Details here.

(H/T Shub)

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Reader Comments (326)

A counter-Gleick??

Mar 24, 2012 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandy

“.. we mustn't fall into the trap of spending too much time on analysis and too little time on promotion.”

Don’t worry. As usual, warmists will concentrate on promotion and sceptics will do the analysis.

Mar 24, 2012 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

From the original comment

Clearly the most climate-ethical way to proceed would be a "leak". I have no prior background in this area so this feels quite strange and counterintuitive. But who am I to dispute the experts?

This "leak" is just a format conversion of already public material. I don't want to commit theft or forgery which, as I understand, would be required to raise this to the heroic level, but you gotta start somewhere. This is an anonymous leak per the standard, but I will consider stepping bravely forward if I get caught.

Mar 24, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterTerryS

Liked this one from (rather luke) warmist Ari Jokim -

"I have to say that I find this planning of huge marketing strategies somewhat strange when we don't even have our results in..."

Sort of sums up the entire climate movement from day 1.

Mar 24, 2012 at 9:32 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

They identify Donna Laframboise a s a major thorn in their side and link to
wher they list Donna’s problem opinions:

- Peer-review is untrustworthy because people involved in journals (well, at least the Journal of Climate) are also incestuously involved in the IPCC
- Peer review is not a guarantee of truth
- Scientists should debate deniers
- Science is about doubt, not certainty. Saying consensus is trying to disappear dissenters.
- Consensus is the opinion of a small group of people. Hundreds of imminent [sic] scientists dissent.

These are apparently points of view that must be countered.

Mar 24, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

I can see it now... 'Deniers hack SKS...have lost the argument'

Mar 24, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Anyone who believes anything from the RealClimate offshoot needs their head examining.

Mar 24, 2012 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Self publicity stunt.
These days if you are not "leaked" you are not important enough.

Mar 24, 2012 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon


I suppose that's like climate-honest, climate-transparent and climate-truthful.

Mar 24, 2012 at 10:40 AM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

There they go again - confusing consensus with science. I notice that their 'know the enemy' reading list is just one book - poor dears.

Mar 24, 2012 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Geoff Chambers beat me to it on the marketing emphasis, which does not seem to be working well Down Under:

Mar 24, 2012 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Wood

Mr Montford
Once again you demonstrate your inability to offer a non-partisan commentary. When the Heartland docs were posted online Bishop Hill's first response was to declare them stolen. Yet your treatment today casually declares that the fruits of the SkS hack as 'obtained' . They contain personal information, just like the Heartland docs, where is your outrage at the publishing of personal information online today ? I have to suggest your sentence 'There was apparently a security hole in their internal forum' is invention on your part. The site was hacked, illegally, and the posting of the information online is a cynical attempt to dissemble, to bully and harass and divert attention from the real issues . Your failure to make similar declarations to those you made last month could well be viewed as an ethical volte face, and does you no favours.

Mar 24, 2012 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist

"Apparently someone has obtained a behind-the-scenes look at Skeptical Science. There was apparently a security hole in their internal forum."

Blimey, Hengist, you would be hard put to find something "partisan" about those two lines, surely? It would seem to me to be bending over backwards not to make any judgement whatever given the almost complete lack of information at the moment.

Should you not wait until you get a considered response to the "hack" before you go on your rant? At present it reveals rather more about you than it does about the Bish. I think you have made a fool of yourself.

Mar 24, 2012 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

@ Jack Savage I don't recall Bishop Hill reporting the Heartland affair as a "behind the scenes look "

Mar 24, 2012 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist

Doncha just love the telling phrase

'The Greens will get involved and unfortunately this can be counterproductive in a public campaign'

which really says it all........

Mar 24, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

We all thank these 'climate communicators' for raising the hackles back of the ridges.

Mar 24, 2012 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim protest too much. Perhaps you could tell us the politically correct "non-partisan" way to announce in two lines this particular non-event?
Going into psychopathic attack mode so early on in the proceedings just makes you look ridiculous.

I am telling you this for your own good, you know.

Mar 24, 2012 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Must be a slow day, Bishop, for this is a non-event. Or did you post this just to watch Hengist wind himself up and explode?

Mar 24, 2012 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

The initial John Cook "Marketing Ideas" post reads like it was "written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern."

(with due credit to Megan McCardle)

Actually it's not that unusual that a forum has a private area for the owner/mods to discuss things, but the simplest thing SkS could do in response to this is make all parts of their forum open to public view.

Mar 24, 2012 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterredc (rc)

Oh yeah Hengist the Bish was outraged at them being stolen /sarc

You mean this phrase under an item headed "Heartland Docs Leaked" ?

"They're stolen documents, I tell you, stolen!"

So you ignore the heading, the contents of the original piece, and yet pick on the use of irony to run off with a pathetic claim of hypocrisy. LOL! you really are funny. I don't think you understand how to work with information it is strange, I don't think it is dishonest, just a debilitating condition. I really shouldn't laugh at how po faced and silly your condition makes you seem ;).

As for this leak I am about as interested in them as I was in the original Heartland leaks, if it later turns out there is some meta-angle like some high-profile sceptic is found to have personally hacked them or phished them I might be interested in the story.

Mar 24, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I have no particular interest in this story, other than wondering what Occam's Razor might lead an impartial observer to conclude about a possible source for the "hack" or "leak". From the Skeptical Science site's announcement under the heading of "Skeptical Science hacked, private user details publicly posted online", under the byline of John Cook:

"While we are still attempting to verify the authenticity of the file, initial scans seem to indicate the hacker has included the entire database of Skeptical Science users. Access to the full database (which includes private details) is restricted only to myself and I am the only one with access to all of the raw data ..."

So, is the release due to a "hack"? Possibly.

Is it due to a "leak"? Can't rule that one out, can we?

Mar 24, 2012 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterfortunatecookie

The Leopard In The Basement

You must admit that watching Hengist can be amusing, as he is today.

Mar 24, 2012 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

SkS has a post up about it now, they say they were hacked but the leaker claims the daily log files were on their site and available to the public all along:

"An anonymous whistleblower has brought to my attention some database logs and other files (e.g., (the current day is txt, past days zip))."

Doesn't seem possible to determine which is which, would John Cook be prepared to state that the db logs were never dumped into that directory with that filename format?

Mar 24, 2012 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterred (rc)

This was in fact a hack. Has been confirmed by sources involved. Quite an extensive one at that. I believe they are still backtracking.

Mar 24, 2012 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert

SkSc self promotion - nothing more.

Mar 24, 2012 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Shame, shame on the hacker. That sort of thing isn't right no matter your cause.

Ok now that I have expressed my outrage I want to rubber neck at the crash in progress that is SKS.

Mar 24, 2012 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterLamontT


Do you have more definitive information about "who, what, where?" Just who are the "sources involved"?

Mar 24, 2012 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

"we are still attempting to verify the authenticity of the file"

I think they'd have said if it wasn't...

Mar 24, 2012 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P


Please provide information regarding the type of hack. Was it a compromised account? Was it SQL injection to obtain user names and passwords?

Or alternatively was it simply the case that Skeptical Science had the wrong permissions?

Since one of the links the "hacker" provides for downloading files (no longer working) actually points to SKS I'm tempted to think that SKS simply misconfigured their web server and all this stuff was publicly available.

Just in case you think that not telling somebody about an URL and then somebody finding the URL is hacking I would suggest you look through SCO vs IBM where, if I recall correctly, Judge Dale Kimball ruled that it wasn't.

Mar 24, 2012 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Downloading the dossier now. It is taking a while at 18 KB/s (35.5 MB).

I very rarely read SkS and care even less what those bunch of climate doomsday cult members have to say about anything. If I avoid them like plague on the web, then sure enough I won't like them if I get to know them personally as well.

What I am fascinated with and would like to know more about is how they manufacture consensus. That IP addresses are part of the release will matter because it will give us clues as to what contribution has been made from the computers of various Australian and world institutions. Wikipedia already offers the same transparency.

Meanwhile, the governing Labor Party in Queensland has just suffered one of the most humiliating election defeats in Australian political history. Two days ago the media was mulling over whether the Labor will have enough numbers in the parliament for a cricket team. Today, the party will be deciding on whether volleyball or a basketball will make a better team sport.

I blame it all on climate change. The sight of Brisbane desalination plant getting flooded would have been enough for me to abandon Labor.

Mar 24, 2012 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Interesting to see to what extent SkS is a highly orchestrated "marketing" and PR project for a deceptive fairytale of CAGW "consensus"....

I find it hilarious (and so revealing) that the pitiful, contemptible Oreskes farce is the jumping off point for all of their work on "The Consensus Project".....

Oh, and Henghist is funny, too..... What an entertaining thread.

Mar 24, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

One man's leak is another man's hack. Is it intelligence? Or spying? My guess is, it's both a leak and a hack: it's a lack. Of intelligence.

ferguson has it right. This is self promotion - nothing more. Nice wind-up of The Hingest, though. Had to put on me goggles and waterproof, I did.

Mar 24, 2012 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar


Perhaps Robert made it all up. We shall see. Your points are quite correct. One of the most common "hacking" attacks is to Goggle the keywords of interest. You will often find "hidden" URLs that way.

As for the great secrets exposed, why were they on a Russian server?
( )

That, in my mind, is like the hens setting up their hen-house in the middle of the fox's den.

This whole thing does have a problem with regard to the "sniff" test. The writing itself is puerile and silly. It looks like a group of twelve-year-olds got tired of playing "WORLDS OF WAR" and so sat down and did this masterpiece.

Hopefully, Robert will be able to dispel our doubts with some substantial facts. We will see.


Yes, I quite agree that Hengist can be quite a show. I rather enjoy watching him ricochet off the walls.

Mar 24, 2012 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Download complete. The file won't decompress. What an anti-climax.

Mar 24, 2012 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

"...and we're going to say there's a ~99% consensus..."

97% is not enough.

Mar 24, 2012 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

It was a server cock up. Look at the info. They left the door open and someone knocked and entered. I have done it several times to other climate servers. Purely accidently.

Mar 24, 2012 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Don’t bother downloading the zip file (

It isn't a zip file, it is a text file. All it contains is 6,213,438 lines of "xxxxx".

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

All it contains is 6,213,438 lines of "xxxxx"

Climate data? Sounds like it.

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

sHx wrote: "I very rarely read SkS and care even less what those bunch of climate doomsday cult members have to say about anything."

I have to agree. While they occasionally are informative, they give an extremely slanted view. They will reflexively back anything which promotes a view of dangerous AGW, and equally reflexively against any contrary indications.

Those who recommend SkS as a source for AGW information are clearly not interested in promoting an objective view.

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

SkS is the message control machine that they claim that sceptics have.

But we don't.

And now everyone knows that they do.

So it goes.

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Mr Montford

The one-sided moderation on this blog is shameful. At 3:10 PM a commenter makes snide underhand ad-hom comments suggesting I suffer from a 'debilitating condition'. That commenter who is clearly using a pseudonym has never met me nor has ( to the best of my knowledge) any medical qualifications, and is thus clearly unable to support his (or her) assertions.

I put it to you that you allow (and hence encourage) ad-hominem comments against those supporting the scientific consensus but you would moderate such comments if they were made against those supporting your point of view. The moderation on this blog (or in this case lack of it) is simply biased .

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

I bet it was self leaked

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterjason f


If your contributions were less dishonest I think people would be more inclined to be civil to you.

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:54 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Hengist I only said rather than take you as being dishonest about missing the Bish's irony, I thought you seemed to have a debilitating condition that can't process information. I wouldn't have extended it to claim it be a medical condition (why think that?) just debilitating to your position.

Look you get a lot of what I think are dishonest positions where someone cutely summarises someone elses position incorrectly and then knocks it down to try and look like they've made a point. Apparently it works a treat with the hard of thinking. The practice has got a name ... er what is it? Begins with S.. er Skeptical Science blogs? Er no not that, I know a Strawman! at mildest or lying - at its worst either way dishonest to me.

Maybe you were being super ironic and the fault is mine but when you said above:

When the Heartland docs were posted online Bishop Hill's first response was to declare them stolen.

And I reminded myself that the Bish's first response was this:

Heartland docs leaked

Some documents have been leaked from the Heartland Institute, which detail its funding of various sceptics - Idso, Carter and Singer - together with some funding for Anthony Watts' temperature stations project. They're stolen documents, I tell you, stolen!

There are apparently nine or ten documents, which will no doubt be scanned for evidence of malfeasance. I haven't seen any serious allegations as yet.

There's coverage all over the place. Try here for starters.

I felt you were erm either trying it on or couldn't process information correctly.

Now the information is all here above let us see who has a debilitating condition and still sees that the Bish seriously declared the HI docs as "stolen" in his first response. I'll give you a leading clue there is some irony in there ;)

Mar 24, 2012 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I nominate Hengist for Minister of Silly Posts.

Mar 24, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSparkey

"Debilitating condition" is perhaps a more charitable take on it than my one.

It never ceases to amaze me how some people will say things that are so simply refuted. It's almost Gleick-like in its otherworldliness.

Mar 24, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

If you do not know who the poster is how do you know that they have not met you?

Or have you modelled it based on proxy history?

Mar 24, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterArgusfreak

Hengist, considering that you habitually misrepresent the position of others to make reckless smears against them, you are one of the last people on earth who should be complaining of incivility.

When invited, many times, to submit any reasoned argument with evidence for any of the positions you may hold with such fervor, you always ignore the invitation to reasoned dialogue.

Like many others here I have inferred that you are either not sincere or not exactly bound by rational discourse. Whether or not this is connected to any kind of medical infirmity in you I have never tried to speculate....

Mar 24, 2012 at 8:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

As an SkS user Im affected by this hack and have had to spend time today changing passwords because my details have apparently been posted online. You havent condemned that illicit capturing and dissemination of information. And yet you call me dishonest. What an upside down set of values you espouse.

Mr Montford you haven't refuted anything I've said. Perhaps you would care to enlarge on your characterisation of my contributions as 'dishonest' . Or are you going to retreat and let your loyal followers speak for you ?

Mar 24, 2012 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

@argusfreak There 7 billion people on this planet. It's a reasonable assumption that any random person I haven't met.

@skiphill Ive read your first sentence and Im going to interject there. Thats your opinion not fact. Beyond that Im not interested

Mar 24, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

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