© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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Backup Copies

On Wednesday, August 4, 1999, I had promised my friend Patrick that I would take his mom and stepdad to the airport in the morning. He was unable to do it because he had work commitments. The plan was for me to drive their van to the airport and bring it back to Patrick's house afterwards. After dropping them off at the airport, I was on my way back and I was thinking about my computer system. I wanted to preserve the 'evidence' that was on my hard drive. I decided that I needed to make a copy of my hard drive as soon as possible. It was much easier for me to transport my computer in the van, than in my pickup truck. So I decided I would use the van to take my computer to Dave's computer repair shop. Then, I would drive the van back to Patrick's house.

When I got to the repair shop, I asked for Dave. I hadn't spoken to him since Sunday night. I wondered if he had checked on the 'sting.htm' url. He wasn't there. I inquired about making a copy of my hard drive, and I told them I needed it as soon as possible. One of the chief technicians took me into his office. He asked me what I wanted it for, "Why do you need it so soon?" I explained a little about where I worked and what I thought about spyware on my computer. He said, "Are you hearing clicking noises on your phone?" I said, "Actually, yes!" He said, "I used to work on some surveillance projects before I worked here. I was a contractor for the Department of Defense. The clicking noises are recorded with your conversations. They mark key words in your speech. I wouldn't worry about it. You might actually be up for a promotion! As far as copying your hard drive, we really don't do that here. You might want to take your computer to Best Buy-they can copy it for you." "OK". I left and decided to drive directly to Best Buy in Annapolis.

On my way to Best Buy, I stopped at a traffic light. While I was stopped, the door locks all unlocked. The van had those remote control door locks-the type that are operated by radiowaves. I pushed the button to lock the doors. Immediately, they unlocked again, by themselves. I pushed the lock button a second time and the locks locked. As soon as I released the button, they all simultaneously unlocked again. I held my finger on the lock button for twenty seconds, when I let go, the locks unlocked. Then after a short pause, the locks locked themselves, and then unlocked in succession several times in a row. They went back and forth between being locked and unlocked. Then, they stopped.

Immediately, I knew it was THEM. Who else but the intelligence community would have the ability to intercept and reproduce the radio signal required to lock and unlock the van doors? THEY must have been using a very sophisticated piece of equipment to do this. They were playing psychological games with me. They were trying to make me feel vulnerable, and their plan was working.

Until this point, I still had a small bit of doubt about whether I was being followed, but this incident made me absolutely sure. I was now convinced that I was being followed by a group of people from the intelligence community. Only they could have operated the door locks like that. I doubted that any other group would have the technology to do this.

Once I was convinced, I became very scared. I don't know exactly what I was afraid of. I began to imagine that a bunch of government agents would pull their vehicle up beside the van, open the doors, and steal my computer, with all the 'evidence' on it. I thought had to protect myself somehow. I decided the computer was no longer safe with me. For some reason, I decided immediately to go see a lawyer.

I knew a lawyer that had an office nearby. I thought I could leave the computer with him, acting as my agent. I drove straight to his office. When I got there, I tried to open the van door with the remote control button. It would not open. I thought, "It's THEM! They are transmitting some kind of interference signal." I had to manually open the door. I picked up the computer and carried it into the office. When I got inside, I found out that the lawyer I knew was not there, but the secretary suggested I should talk to someone else in the office.

I met with a different lawyer, and explained to him that I thought the FBI had illegally hacked my computer system, and that I wanted him to safeguard my computer until I could get some more technical help. He said he could not accept responsibility for my computer, he said I should instead contact a lawyer that deals with 'intellectual property rights'. He also suggested that I should talk to the local police.

I did not want to drive to the police station by myself. I wanted someone else to follow me there, in case the FBI decided to stop me and steal my computer. I was also very afraid, although I don't know specifically why. I needed help. I decided I could not call my Dad, because he didn't believe me when I had explained what was happening on Sunday. I expected my friend Patrick should be home from work by now. He would be wondering where I was. I called Patrick on the phone from the lawyers office. I was going to ask him to come to the office. He answered the phone and immediately he said, "Where are you?" I told him I was at a lawyer's office. Then, he said, "Where are the keys to the van?" I thought, "Where are the keys? What does he mean 'Where are the keys?' I have the keys in my pocket of course! What is the problem with him?" He asked me again, demanding, "Where are the keys? Where are the keys?" I started to become suspicious of him. I wondered whether I was actually talking to Patrick, and not some impostor. I hung up the phone. "Who else can I call for help?" I couldn't call Woody, because as far as I knew, he was in Colorado. As I was thinking of Woody, I also thought about a friend of Woody's named 'Rudy' for whom I had done some handyman work. He seemed like a very nice man. I thought he might be willing to help me.

I called Rudy on the phone. When he answered, I said, "Rudy, this is Kurt Snyder. I'm in trouble, I'm at a lawyer's office in Annapolis, can you come help me?" He said he would be over right away.

When Rudy got to the lawyer's office, he told me that Woody had returned from Colorado and would be home for a few days. I explained a little bit about what I thought was happening. I told him I thought the FBI had placed something on my computer system to monitor me. He could see that I was afraid. I asked him if he would follow me to the police station. He agreed to do this. In the meantime, I carried the computer back out to the van. I opened the van door, but when I tried to close it, it would not close. I gave the remote control to Rudy and asked him if he would try it. Even Rudy had trouble closing the door. The door would close halfway, and then open again. I knew it was THEM. They were interfering again. I was eventually able to close the door by manually forcing it closed.

When we arrived at the local city police station I explained some of my concerns to one of the officers. The officer told me this was not their jurisdiction because I lived in the county, and not the city. He referred me to the county police station, which was located 10 miles away. I asked Rudy if he would follow me over to that station. He said he had a dinner engagement and really needed to get back home, but he agreed to follow me anyway. Rudy told me that when we got to the station, he would only be able to stay for a few minutes.

We arrived at the county police station and an officer came out to talk to us. Rudy started to talk to the officer first and said "I can't stay here longer than a few minutes, but I want you to know that I am a professor from the University of Maryland, and former chair of the business school. Here is my card. This man here needs your help. Please listen to him. He is not crazy! I'm sorry but I have to go now." Then, he left. I sat down with the officer and explained to him that I thought the FBI was following me and that they had placed something on my computer. He said he personally did not want to get involved in anything that the FBI was dealing with, but that he would refer me to a special agent of the police department that dealt with computer crime. Apparently there was only one specialist for the entire county. He tried to call this officer on the phone, but only got his voicemail. He gave me the officer's contact information and suggested that I contact him in a few days.

I was still resolved to get a copy of my hard drive as I had intended earlier. I wanted someone to follow behind me after I left the police station. I tried to call Woody's house but there was no answer. I had no one left to call but my parents. I called them and asked them to come to the police station. They did. After they got there, I told them I had already talked with an officer at the station, and that he had referred me to a specialist. I told them I needed to make a copy of my hard drive and that I wanted to go the Best Buy store closest to Annapolis. My mom followed me over there. I don't think my mom or dad knew I was experiencing a mental illness at this time. I left my computer with the Best Buy technicians and asked them to make two copies of my hard drive, including the boot sector of the disk. I would pick up the computer in a few days. I was worried that someone from the FBI might come in to try to claim the computer for themselves, so I printed a fake name on the service ticket, instead of using my own name. I also put a password on the ticket and I specified that anyone claiming the computer would have to know this password. Afterwards, I drove the van back to Patrick's house. His girlfriend 'Alex' came out to meet me. Patrick was there, but he wouldn't talk to me...apparently he was angry with me for keeping the van so long-I was about six hours late. I left the keys with Alex and went home.

© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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