Sunday, 7 August 2016

Edward Snowden's "dead man's switch"

Edward Snowden is not dead: He’s fine says insider after cryptic tweet, dead man’s switch scare

6 August, 2016

Many feared that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was dead after two cryptic 64-character codes were tweeted to his public Twitter profile and quickly deleted. The cryptic code tweets led many to believe that Snowden may have been captured or killed and the codes were the result of a “dead man’s switch” designed to release if he did not check in to the computer at a certain time. However, a journalist with The Intercept that has worked with the whistleblower in the past says that Snowden is “fine,” but would not elaborate further.

A Russian news site, Sputnik News, reported that the strange 64-character codes could have been part of a “dead man’s switch” which would indicate that Snowden had been captured or killed. The dead man’s switch is “a message set up to be automatically sent if the holder of an account does not perform a regular check-in. The whistleblower has acknowledged that he has distributed encrypted files to journalists and associates that have not yet been released, so in Snowden’s case, the dead man’s switch could be an encryption key for those files.” Therefore, when the code was released for a brief moment on Snowden’s Twitter account, his followers quickly went into internet sleuth mode and attempted to decipher the meaning of the message.

One of Edward Snowden’s mysterious tweets that many feared was a dead man’s switch. (Image via Twitter)

The codes follow another cryptic code posted by Snowden in which he revealed to his former colleagues “It’s time.” In the tweet, which has since been deleted, Snowden asked people that worked with him to recontact him securely, or to talk directly to Barton Gellman, a reporter currently working on a book about Snowden.
Did you work with me? Have we talked since 2013? Please recontact me securely, or talk to@bartongellman. It’s time.
Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 3, 2016
If you have information on the work @Snowden did in the IC, help me tell it truthfully.
Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) August 3, 2016

The request for contact was deemed symbolic of some future release of information that Snowden may have been holding on to since his initial bombshell surveillance report. Snowden revealed early on that he had more information that he would release when the “time was right.” Therefore, the use of the words “it’s time” may be indicating that the next major leak will be released shortly. Therefore, many believe that the cryptic code could be the encryption code for the file.
To further conspiracy theories that Snowden had been killed or captured before he could release the next big NSA leak, it was noted that shortly after the release of the mysterious codes, numerous major torrent websites went down without warning. This led to speculation that someone was trying to take down all the methods that Snowden may use to release the encrypted data to the public and to prevent the spread of the data.
Though many feared the code release meant Snowden’s demise, a journalist for The Intercept Glenn Greenwald says Snowden is “fine.”
@HannahhhBeth @Snowden He’s fine
Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 6, 2016
However, when pressed further about what the cryptic code could have represented, Greenwald did not respond. Meanwhile, Edward Snowden’s twitter account has remained silent for 24 hours with many hotly anticipating his next move.
Another user, Dan Rolle, also claims to know that Snowden is safe.
@Snowden is safe. #Snowden #wikileaks
dan rolle (@danrolle) August 6, 2016
Barton Gellman also took to Twitter to note that some tweets have “private meaning” indicating that the cryptic code was not meant for the public but for certain individuals.
1. Everyone requesting proof of life for me and @Snowden, take a deep breath.
2. Some tweets have private meaning.
3. My 
@SecureDrop is up.
Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) August 6, 2016

What do you think of the strange 64-character tweets released by Snowden before his “disappearance” from the social media channel? Do you believe Greenwald that Snowden is “fine?”
From earlier - 

Edward Snowden Tweets Cryptic Code: Was it a Dead Man’s Switch?
After posting a 64 character hex code that is believed to be an encryption key, the internet worries that the famed whistleblower may have been killed or captured resulting in the triggering of a dead man’s switch and potentially the release of many more US national secrets.

6 August, 2016

On Friday night, famed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted out a 64 character code before quickly deleting the message along with a mysterious warning earlier this week that “It’s Time” which had called on colleagues of the former contractor to contact him leaving the internet to speculate that the characters could be an encryption key for a major document leak, it may be a “dead man’s switch” set to go in effect if the whistleblower were killed or captured, or potentially both.

A dead man’s switch is a message set up to be automatically sent if the holder of an account does not perform a regular check-in. The whistleblower has acknowledged that he has distributed encrypted files to journalists and associates that have not yet been released so in Snowden’s case, the dead man’s switch could be an encryption key for those files.
As of this time, Edward Snowden’s Twitter account has gone silent for over 24 hours which is far from unprecedented for the whistleblower but is curious at a time when public concern has been raised over his well-being. The 64 hex characters in the code do appear to rule out the initial theory that Edward Snowden, like so many of us, simply butt dialed his phone, but instead is a clearly a secure hash algorithm that can serve as a signature for a data file or as a password.
The timing shortly after the "It’s Time" tweet also have caused concern for some Reddit theorists such as a user named stordoff who believes that the nascent Twitter post "was intended to set something in motion." The user postulates that it is an encrypted message, a signal, or a password.

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