© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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Hackers

Near the beginning of August, 1999 I started to become psychotic. I am using the word psychotic to mean that my perception of reality was becoming predominately influenced by internal stimuli and not external stimuli. There were certain external stimuli that triggered a flood of internal thoughts, but my perception of the real world began to be influenced more by my thoughts than by stimuli from my environment. Although I was having delusions about surveillance for over a year, my general day to day perception of reality until that time had been based more on true events. At this point, the delusions began to predominate.

On Sunday, August 1, 1999, I had decided that I was going to break off the relationship with the girl I was dating. The odd thing is, there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. In fact, I actually liked her quite a lot. However, I felt very uncertain and uneasy about my future and I didn't want her to be involved with my problems. I thought something very significant was going to happen to me. I arranged to meet her in the morning and gave her the news. She started to cry, and I left. I felt like a jerk. I don't think she realized I was having mental problems.

That night, I returned home about 10pm. As I pulled into my driveway, I looked back over my shoulder and saw a car perhaps 300 feet up the road, driving very slowly with its headlights off. I immediately became very suspicious of this car. It was THEM. They must have been following me. I quickly backed out of the driveway, and drove towards the car. The car was facing the opposite direction from me. The car's headlights came on and it drove away quickly. It made a U-turn and started to leave my community. I followed it and got its license plate number--ZD1 178. I then called the police. I told them there was a suspicious car in my neighborhood. They told me an officer would be over to look around the community. When the officer arrived, I gave him the license plate number. He called into his dispatcher, and they ran the license plate number. He then told me, "That tag doesn't exist in the State of Maryland."

I thought, "OK. Hmm. That's definitely what I saw on the car. " I thought maybe I had gotten the state wrong. Maybe it was an out-of-state car.

I went into my apartment and got on the Internet. I tried to find resources on the net for license plate number searches. I could not find any that were free of charge, so I gave up looking and I started to surf the net at random. I was feeling very vulnerable, and was aware that THEY could be watching all my online activities. After perhaps one hour, something unusual happened. I had requested a Yahoo Search Page and was clicking on the various links that were returned. I clicked on two links that supposedly pointed to different locations on the web. In each case I was redirected after the initial connection to some page named sting.htm. It was a blank page with no data. A few minutes later, I brought up my web surfing history from the week before. I clicked on another link to visit a site where I definitely knew the content. Instead of being able to view the correct page, I was again redirected to this page named sting.htm. My computer wasn't behaving normally. Immediately, I thought this was definite evidence that my computer had been hacked. Here, I was trying to connect to a known site, and instead I was being directed to a totally different site. This was the first time I was absolutely sure that my computer had been hacked. It was THEM.

I also became very alarmed that the page I was being directed to was called 'sting.htm'. I thought this might be an inside joke of some sort on the part of the hackers. They were 'stinging' me. I also had another idea which made even less sense. I thought perhaps the page was called sting.htm because somehow THEY were trying to implicate me in online criminal activities. Perhaps they were collecting information about my online activities and the collection process somehow involved this page titled 'sting.htm'. Perhaps I was not supposed to see this page. Somehow the software they had installed on my computer was functioning improperly and my browser was being redirected to this page in error. In any case, I was now certain that my computer system had been hacked, and that THEY had installed some type of spyware on it illegally and without my permission.

I started to wonder again who exactly THEY were. Were THEY the FBI, CIA, DOD, Iridium? Somehow I came to the conclusion very quickly that THEY were the FBI. The FBI had tapped my phone, the FBI had placed spyware on my computer, the FBI was monitoring my every move. But why? I couldn't understand how the FBI was connected with Iridium. Maybe they were investigating me as a corporate spy. I didn't know or understand why the FBI was involved, but I believed it. It was clear to me that they had overstepped their jurisdiction and authority. I couldn't believe they had any legal authority to tap my phone, or put spyware on my computer. To how many other people were they doing this same thing? What should I do? I decided I was going to find evidence that spyware was on my machine. I was going to identify and locate the relevant files that were on my computer. However, I knew that I didn't have enough computer knowledge or the tools to do that. I would have to work with someone that had more experience than myself. I disconnected my computer from the Internet so THEY wouldn't have the opportunity to erase the evidence.

It was now almost midnight. I was becoming very agitated. I called someone I knew named Dave who owned one of the largest Internet service providers in the state of Maryland. He also owned a computer repair shop. We had gone to high school together. I thought for sure that he would be able to help me with his technical knowledge. It was clear when he answered the phone that I had woken him from his sleep. I explained what I thought was happening and asked him if he would investigate the 'sting.htm' url I was connected to...could he try to connect to it in the morning and investigate the source code for it? He said sure. He did not question me or complain about being called in the middle of the night. I thought, great, I have some help. I then called my brother. I asked him if he would get on the Internet and try to connect to the same urls and see if he was redirected to the 'sting.htm' document. I wanted to be sure the behavior was only happening to my own computer, and no one else's. He wouldn't do it. He said he was tired, it was late, he was not going to do it. I told him it was very important to me. He still refused. I hung up the phone. I was very angry with him.

I called one of my best friends, Chip, and I called my Dad. I told them to come over right away, it was very important. They both came to my apartment within 15 minutes. I told them both I thought the FBI had planted something on my computer and were monitoring my online activities. My dad was very skeptical about that, but he said "So what if they are monitoring your activities? Why worry about it?" My friend Chip said very little but I could tell he was also skeptical. I said, "Even if you don't believe this is happening to me, what would you do if you did believe it?" They had very little advice to give me.

My dad soon left to go home. Chip stayed a little while longer. In the meantime, for some reason I began to think that if I turned off the computer, I might destroy some of the evidence. Perhaps the monitoring process used temporary files. If I shut down the computer, these temporary files might be deleted. So I decided I needed to leave the computer on until I got some help from technical experts. I had to be sure no one else would turn it off either. I thought someone might cut the power to our apartment. I was also worried that my roommate, Jim, who was probably in his room, was overhearing all this talk. I still had suspicions that he was working for THEM. I decided that I needed to make sure that no one would turn off the power to our apartment. Our circuit breakers were located in a basement which had an exterior door that was always unlocked. I had to go down into the basement and secure this door so that no one would be able to flip off the circuit breakers. I did not want to allow Jim the opportunity to come into my room and turn off the computer while I was down there. So I begged my friend Chip to wait in my room until I could secure the basement door. He waited. I went downstairs and, using some ingenuity, I was able to secure the door so that no one else but me would know how to open it. I came back upstairs and my friend Chip left.

On Monday morning, I woke up very early without an alarm clock. That was very unusual for me. I started calling around to various Internet Security consultants I located in the phone book. I did not speak to anyone directly, but I left messages for them. I also knew of a special organization in Washington DC called the Center for Democracy and Technology (www.cdt.org) which advocates for reduction and prevention of government surveillance in cyberspace. I thought they might have the technical resources to expose the spyware that was installed on my computer by the FBI. I thought they would be interested in my case. I put together a packet of information explaining what I thought was happening to me and delivered it to them in Washington. I also delivered a copy to a computer science professor at the University of Maryland.

I expected that THEY knew from my telephone calls that I was going to try to expose their illegal actions. I thought they would want to protect themselves and they would try to prevent me from exposing them. I expected they might take drastic measures. I thought they might start to put pressure on me in some way. I thought the Intelligence community might have a whole array of sophisticated tools they could use on me, but I didn't know exactly what to expect. I thought they might do something to discredit me. I began to mentally prepare myself for the onslaught I thought was coming.

On my way back home from Washington, I was listening to the radio in the car. I usually listen to music. After one of the songs stopped, I heard what sounded like demonic voices coming through the speakers. After the voices stopped, an announcer said something like, "You think that's scary, wait until you hear about the cost of health insurance these days!" Obviously, it was some type of commercial. But I didn't think so. I thought, it's THEM. They are trying to stir up feelings of fear in me. They are close by somewhere. They know what radio station I am listening to because they have a microphone in my truck. They are broadcasting their own message over the same radio frequency. But their message predominates over the legitimate radio station because they are so close to me and the power of their broadcast is greater over such a short distance. Anybody else hearing the message would believe it is just a commercial. They are using psychological warfare against me. They probably have a whole team of people dedicated to psychological warfare. They're not going to fool me. I'm smarter than that. I had all these thoughts within a few seconds after hearing the commercial. I quickly noted what time it was on the clock. I had a plan.

I needed to stop at Woody's house on the way home to check on it. When I got there, I thought, I'll call the radio station and confirm what commercial was ACTUALLY on the radio at that time. However, I wondered if Woody had been cooperating with the surveillance team. I thought, there might be hidden cameras located all over the house. The phone might be bugged. Even worse, the telephone calls might be diverted somehow through a surveillance team operator. For some reason, I thought, depending on where I make my call, I might actually get a surveillance team member, pretending to be the person I called. I decided THEY could not know ahead of time who I was trying call. I got a phone book to look up the phone number of the radio station. But if I'm on camera, then they might see I was looking at radio stations in the phone book and that would tip them off, they would be ready for my call. Instead of being connected to the radio station, I might be connected to a surveillance team member, who would pretend to be working for the radio station. I decided I would give them no time to formulate a plan. They would not have the advantage. How could I look up the phone number without them knowing it? There must be cameras everywhere. Hmm. I thought of the ONE place that was most unlikely to have a hidden camera....inside the chimney of the fire place! Woody and Judy had a LARGE circular fireplace in between their kitchen and living room. I crawled up under the chimney with the phone book and looked up the number for the radio station. I thought, there was NO WAY a hidden camera would see what I was looking for. Of course, I could have just gone OUTSIDE to look at the phone book, but I didn't think of that. I immediately called the radio station. I thought, THEY'LL never be able to formulate a strategy against me this fast. I was curious to see what would happen. Someone picked up my call and the conversation went something like this:

"Hello." (They did not say the name of the station)

"Hello. I'm calling to find out what commercial you were playing on the radio at 1:55pm"

"What?"

"I'm calling to find out what commercial you were playing at 1:55pm"

"I don't have that information"

"Don't you have some kind of play lists or something?"

"No. I don't have that."

I hung up. I thought, "A radio station that doesn't have a play list. That doesn't make any sense. I wondered if I was actually talking to the radio station, or if I was talking to an impostor. The surveillance project seemed to be getter bigger and bigger. THEY were pulling in all kinds of resources to deal with me. Another delusional expansion was occurring.

The next day was Tuesday, August 3, 1999. I was scheduled to work at Iridium. I wondered, had the FBI been in contact with the people at Iridium since Sunday? I arrived early at work, as I usually did, between 7 and 7:30am. Bob was already there and had a list of things for me to do. I wondered if anything unusual was going to happen. Bob gave me his list and I noticed there were only three or four things on it. He usually went over the list with me thoroughly, showing me what he wanted done. We went into a nearby room to a particular person's cubicle so he could show me the first task. It was one of those modular cubicles that are divided by fabric-covered walls. Bob wanted me to cut off part of the desk and reposition it a certain way. This also involved moving the computer and possibly a filing cabinet. The second task I was to perform was to go to another building called the Annex, and spackle some holes in the walls of a particular office. The few remaining items on the list were small and would only take a few minutes. I thought, "I have the whole day to do two hours of work!".

I decided to go to the other building first to accomplish Task #2. When I arrived, the door to the office was locked and no one was there. This was the human resources office. I did not have a key to that door. I asked the secretary when the human resources director would be back. She didn't know. I decided to wait. I waited for approximately an hour. No one showed up. I had the option of asking one of the security guards to let me into the room, and he would have...but I had been warned the week before by the human resources director herself that I was not allowed in that room when she wasn't there. In the meantime, some people in adjacent offices had asked me if I would replace the burned out light bulbs. Since that was also part of my job, I decided to do that. That took perhaps another half an hour. I waited another hour after that. The human resources director did not show up. I decided to go back to the Master Control Facility.

I went to work on Task #1. I went to this person's cubicle, and started to disassemble the desk. As I was about to cut it, the person whom the cubicle belonged to came along. He said, "What are you doing". I explained what the plan was. He said, "I would rather you do something else instead. How about cutting it on the opposite side and putting the desk in the corner? Then you could put the filing cabinet and computer on the other side." This was a different plan than what Bob had suggested. I stood there for a few minutes thinking about it. During this time, this guy started talking with a coworker. Their conversation went something like this:

"Hey, Joe, I need to talk to you."

"Yeah, about what?"

"About those clicking noises. You know.the clicking noises on the telephone line."

"What about them?"

"Where do they come from, what are they for?"

"They happen when the system switches from analog to digital."

"Oh. Can't we stop them? Why do we need them?"

"I don't know, that's just the way the system works."

I became very interested in this conversation. I wondered if they were talking about the system that was monitoring me at home, since I had heard clicking noises on my telephone. However, they did not speak about anything else. I wondered whether they were trying to communicate something to me.

I started thinking about my work again. I decided I should check with Bob before making any changes to his plan. I went back to Bob's office, and he wasn't there. I looked for Bob around the building. I couldn't find him. I decided to return to the Annex. After I got to the Annex, I found the human resources director still wasn't there. I came back to the Master Control Facility. I then decided to go to lunch.

By the time I got back from lunch, it was probably one or two o'clock. I was worried about my performance for the day. None of the items on the list had been completed. I eventually found Bob in his office. He asked me how the day was going. I told him about the office being locked, and how this guy wanted me to do something different with his desk. Bob looked at me very sternly and said with a sharp tone of voice, "Listen, when I give you a job to do, I want you to do it my way! I don't care about anybody else! Don't listen to anybody else! Do it the way I tell you, and that's final! If they have a problem with it, they can talk to ME afterwards! Is that clear?"

I felt like he was scolding me. I felt like he was yelling at me. I felt like I hadn't lived up to his expectations. I don't know why exactly, but I started to cry uncontrollably. I couldn't stop. Bob left me alone for a few minutes. When he came back, I was still crying. He said, "Listen, pull yourself together! Come on now. Lighten up. Get it together. I want you to know that I care about you and I'm doing this for your own good. Come on, pull yourself together." Immediately after this, Bob got a telephone call. Then, I heard him say, "Yeah, See what I mean? It's no mystery. I told you so. Ten minutes and ten phone calls later and its just like I predicted." I wondered if he was talking about me. Who was he talking to? Bill, perhaps. Maybe this incident was meant to be some kind of demonstration. Everything had taken place directly in front of the security cameras. Maybe Bob was just trying to demonstrate that what I cared about most was doing a good job. He had never scolded me like that before. Why was he doing it now? Was he doing this as a result of some directive he was given by his superiors? Was he doing this to prove a point?

© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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