Reporter Claims Computer Self Deleted Text While He Tried to Write Book About Snowden

February 22nd, 2014

My first question would be: Was the system really offline?

Was he using a computer with a wi-fi network adapter (pretty much any laptop made in the last decade)? If yes, then it’s probably safe to assume that he wasn’t actually offline. Whatever rootkit was running on the system could simply turn on the wi-fi radio and make it connect to the spook’s wi-fi access point conveniently installed within range of the computer.

If the computer had no wi-fi or ethernet interfaces, or if it had just ethernet but wasn’t plugged into the network, that’s potentially a much weirder situation.

As for TrueCrypt, that’s not going to do anything against an attacker who has rooted the computer. Once you type your passphrase on a compromised machine, 1) all the data is decrypted and accessible to the attacker during the session and 2) the attacker, who is no doubt logging keystrokes, has your passphrase to use at more convenient times, like when you’re not sitting in front of the computer.

Via: Guardian:

Such moments may, of course, have an innocent explanation. Still, back at my home in Hertfordshire I took a few precautions. I worked offline. I stored each draft chapter in a TrueCrypt folder, a virtual encrypted disk accessible only via a long, complicated password. When I conducted interviews I left my mobile behind. Having seen Snowden’s documents, I knew something of the NSA’s and GCHQ’s extraordinary capabilities. As of April 2013, the US spy agency had 117,675 active surveillance targets. Was I perhaps now one of them?

By September the book was going well – 30,000 words done. A Christmas deadline loomed. I was writing a chapter on the NSA’s close, and largely hidden, relationship with Silicon Valley. I wrote that Snowden’s revelations had damaged US tech companies and their bottom line. Something odd happened. The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish. When I tried to close my OpenOffice file the keyboard began flashing and bleeping.

Over the next few weeks these incidents of remote deletion happened several times. There was no fixed pattern but it tended to occur when I wrote disparagingly of the NSA. All authors expect criticism. But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel. I began to leave notes for my secret reader. I tried to be polite, but irritation crept in. Once I wrote: “Good morning. I don’t mind you reading my manuscript – you’re doing so already – but I’d be grateful if you don’t delete it. Thank you.” There was no reply.

A month later the mysterious reader – him, her, they? – abruptly disappeared. At a literary event in Berlin my Guardian colleague David Leigh told a journalist about my unusual computer experiences; he led with the anecdote in a piece for the leftwing daily Taz. After that, nothing. I finished The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man in December.

In idle moments I wonder who might have been my surreptitious editor. An aggrieved analyst at the NSA’s Fort Meade spy city? GCHQ? A Russian hacker? Someone else intent on mischief? Whoever you are, what did you think of my book? I’d genuinely like to know.

Research Credit: P7y845W4

2 Responses to “Reporter Claims Computer Self Deleted Text While He Tried to Write Book About Snowden”

  1. tito Says:

    Sticky backspace switch on a keyboard + Surveillance State = spontaneous excitement

  2. mangrove Says:

    I’ve been using personal computers since the early 80s, long before the internet and the current surveillance state. You learned early on to make back-ups and keep them in safe places — we took our floppy discs to a safe deposit box at the bank, in case fire destroyed our entire business.

    So this smart guy is writing a book, and relies on truecrypt ON THE SAME COMPUTER to secure his work. Is this some kind of a joke? Besides what you pointed out, Kevin, about truecrypt’s vulnerabilities (seemingly obvious), didn’t the guy worry about a hard disk failure or a fire? Maybe he deserved to have his book deleted, if that’s really what happened. But, honestly, I’m VERY skeptical of this story, just as much as I am the Edward “I can go anywhere in the world with the entire NSA’s top secret files on a thumb drive without interception” Snowden story.

    For me, just add this one to the real psy-op: they WANT us to know we’re being watched, and now, they are potentially inside all of our computers. Be afwaid, be vewy afwaid. Mission accomplished. Snowjobbed.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.