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Privacy Encryption The Media

Privacy Advocate Jacob Appelbaum Reports Break-In Of Berlin Apartment 194

Posted by timothy
from the watch-your-friends'-enemies dept.
Jacob Appelbaum isn't shy about his role as a pro-privacy (and anti-secrecy) activist and hacker. A long-time contributor to the Tor project, and security researcher more generally, Appelbaum stood in for the strategically absent Julian Assange at HOPE in 2010, and more recently delivered Edward Snowden's acceptance speech when Snowden was awarded the Government Accountability Project's Whistleblower Prize. Now, he reports, his Berlin apartment appears to have been burglarized, and his computers tampered with. As reported by Deutsche Welle, "Appelbaum told [newspaper the Berliner Zeitung] that somebody had broken into his apartment and used his computer in his absence. 'When I flew away for an appointment, I installed four alarm systems in my apartment,' Appelbaum told the paper after discussing other situations which he said made him feel uneasy. 'When I returned, three of them had been turned off. The fourth, however, had registered that somebody was in my flat - although I'm the only one with a key. And some of my effects, whose positions I carefully note, were indeed askew. My computers had been turned on and off.'" It's not the first time by any means that Appelbaum's technical and political pursuits have drawn attention of the unpleasant variety.
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Privacy Advocate Jacob Appelbaum Reports Break-In Of Berlin Apartment

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  • by dclozier (1002772) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @12:33PM (#45760209)
    As we improve our ability to keep private things private the government's orginizations will find it easier to snoop by gaining physical access first. There's no doubt we're on the slippery slope. I have to wonder, which orginization broke into his apartment? Or maybe it was a combined effort and they are sharing in the information gained, if any.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 22, 2013 @01:13PM (#45760451)

    almost surely *not* gummint employees, which is -to a large extent- the problem...
    no, these are prob *EX* gummint spooks who are now private contractors doing the dirty work of unka sam...

    can you say : plausible deniability, sure, i knew you could...

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @01:17PM (#45760495)
    This computer holds the latest and greatest they have in espionage software and possibly hardware. I'd say get it thoroughly examined so we know what to look for on other machines.Make good forensic copies of anything that is able to hold data in the device and only work on copies of copies so you'll always be able to start from scratch if you mess up or want to prove your findings.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 22, 2013 @02:42PM (#45761119)

    I can set it up so even the most competent spy can be detected.

    Insert USB dongle in laptop that tracks power on/off cycles, motion sensor, etc. with RF transmission as well.

    Remotely record the RF transmission with scanner (not a paired device); check that device, which can readily be hidden anywhere (including a block or two away).

    A custom device like this is simple, but unless you are truly absolutely exceptional you're not going to bypass it. And that level of exceptional only exists in people's imaginations.

    (You could block the rf signal, if you expected the possibility, but how do you fix its flash storage if it's on chip like many low end processor designs? And how do you not trigger the watchdog event timer on the remote device when it expects to be received, but you have it shielded?)

  • by icebike (68054) on Sunday December 22, 2013 @04:38PM (#45761855)

    But turning the computers on is just plain gross incompetence.

    Turn the computer off/reboot into a forensic linux cd/dvd, examine the hard drive, do what you want, switch some system files for files more under your control, then hope he doesn't notice you've done these things.... then follow his computer activity/trail, his tor activities....

    No "security researcher and hacker" would have his computer set up to boot from the CDrom, or have his bios un-password protected, or his hard drive unencrypted. If they were "Really Good" at computer forensics they might have simply removed the drives cabled them up and cloned them, encrypted partitions and all. (It would be impossible to add their own versions of software to an encrypted drive. Of course this assumes he's not running Windows).

    If done right, and everything put back in place, the only thing he would have to determine that the "computers" were turned on would be the power on count in the drive's SMART data.

    Of course, he could have gone old-school, and placed a tuft of cotton fuzz in the fan vent. Someone who uses 4 alarms might just be that careful.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990