Monday, May 18, 2020

"Watching my iPad turn against me was remarkably unsettling"

Barton Gellman describes becoming a target for the worlds' espionage services after interacting with Edward Snowden:

He resisted questioning about his private life, but he allowed that he missed small things from home. Milkshakes, for one. Why not make your own? Snowden refused to confirm or deny possession of a blender. Like all appliances, blenders have an electrical signature when switched on.

...

I moved the audio files from the memory card of my voice recorder to an encrypted archive on my laptop, along with the notes I had typed. I locked the archive in such a way that I could not reopen it without a private electronic key that I’d left hidden back in New York. I uploaded the encrypted archive to an anonymous server, then another, then a third. Downloading it from the servers would require another private key, also stored in New York. I wiped the encrypted files from my laptop and cut the voice recorder’s unencrypted memory card into pieces.

...

Six months earlier, in June 2013, when the Snowden story was less than two weeks old, I went on Face the Nation to talk about it. Afterward, I wiped off the television makeup, unclipped my lapel microphone, and emerged into a pleasant pre-summer Sunday outside the CBS News studio in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. In the back of a cab I pulled out my iPad. The display powered on, then dissolved into static and guttered out. Huh? A few seconds passed and the screen lit up again. White text began to scroll across an all-black background. The text moved too fast for me to take it all in, but I caught a few fragments.

...

I sent a forensic image of its working memory to a leading expert on the security of the Macintosh operating system. He found unexpected daemons running on my machine, serving functions he could not ascertain.

...

Soltani and I used laptops from which we’d removed the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hardware, and disconnected the batteries. If a stranger appeared at the door, we merely had to tug on the quick-release power cables to switch off and re-encrypt the machines instantly.