Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weather Data Disrupted

It is not just retailers, banks, research and development divisions of manufacturers, and military operations that are targets of well-organized online break-ins. Basic infrastructure is also a target. We’ve seen this in criminal groups’ attempts to collect data from hospitals, email servers, and delivery services. In October, web sites that provide U.S. weather data were a particular target. Jose Pagliery at CNN reported:

Why would criminals want to break in to weather sites, if they did not seem to be altering the weather data itself? I can think of two obvious reasons:

  • To gain access to connected military servers. Military operations are among the most avid consumers of weather data, and they also provide a small fraction of weather observations, so it seems a likely guess that there might be a data conduit set up between a weather server and a military server. Intelligence organizations and military contractors might think of the weather servers as an indirect route to gain control of military servers.
  • Fossil fuel energy suppliers, such as the companies behind proposed oil pipelines, might want to disrupt the flow of weather data to delay climate statistics. The delay would be only a matter of days or weeks, but that would still be long enough to matter for commercial groups wanting to manipulate the political process to create favorable legislative action or forestall unfavorable action.

Of course, the real reason for a well-funded weather data disruption could just as easily be something that is not so obvious.