Did Cyber Tyke Eddie Snowden Leave Cyber Crumbs?
Haystack Series #1: Edward Snowden
When Edward Snowden pulled a blanket over his head in an interview to apparently type a password into his laptop, was it to an encrypted file, an email, or some hacked server or cloud account? And was it a killer password that law enforcement might never crack?
Those are a couple of questions we’ll try and tackle as we run a mock test on his possible passwords by looking into his past. Our goal is to find his proverbial needle in the haystack.
We all know Mr. Snowden was a trained computer official with a skill set that enabled him to place a spider program inside an insecure environment at the NSA in Hawaii. And the odds are his password profiles at the NSA were pretty strong-long upper and lower case characters with symbols and entropy. As he stated in an interview with John Oliver, a killer password is something like Margaretthatcheris110%SEXY. So he kind of knows his stuff. Mr. Oliver was sad to learn his 5 character password really sucked. What Snowden didn’t say was that using old Margaret more than once can kill you. We’ll discuss this later in the article.
What kind of online password did Little Eddie use when he got his first keyboard and opened his first email, gamer, or social media account? Did he pick his dog or a crush name from school? Or like the compulsive gamer whose keyboard is a third arm, did he pick a video hero? At that young age, he probably picked something fairly easy to remember, like many of us did back then. No forced 8 characters and symbols or password graders-just the lush ILOVEYOU and 12345 could get you into many accounts.
So let’s see what happens when we start our mock test on Little Eddie using our historical database “PitchFork,” a collection of 4 billion breached records. A sort of “Wayback Machine” containing compromised passwords.
We type in the most basic password for Little Eddie:
Ok, many people have the name snowden. But maybe Eddie, before he was a self-proclaimed cyber anarchist and just a cyber tyke, used this simple password.
Wow, I see an account from an old My Space hacked database. Maybe that’s Little Eddie? Why is this relevant? Well, let me tell you. I do recall the time Microsoft and a 3 letter agency had been looking to identify a famous hacker. He had eluded them for years until one Hotmail account buried deep in a 90 page intelligence report was run against all MS databases and low and behold, an XBOX registration popped up from 7 years prior, when the hacker was just 13 years old. Voila! The account had his real address and home phone. That professional hacker (tyke) was outed!
So let’s expand our search to include wildcards. More accounts pop up:
I see more accounts at My Space and other compromised databases, some with interesting email permutations. What’s intriguing about older databases like My Space is that as a standalone, it’s obsolete and dated. But when merged with all compromised databases, value is created out of this “dark data” as we can see the progression of ones’ password profile. That killer password above, SEXY Margaret, now tags the user and we can see multiple accounts. Even if SEXY Margaret is altered a bit, we can see the variations. It’s easy to see when one is forced to capitalize the first letter and add a symbol at the end. (Darn it…nobody is supposed to see these small tweaks to my password!)
So as Little Eddie grows up and enters high school, maybe he ups his password game. Let’s run snowden backwards:
As Little Eddie has now become sophomore “Ed” in high school, when running passwords backwards is trending. When he drops out of high school and later attends his first strip club, his manhood starts to take a dark turn. As many law enforcement officials will tell you that during their cyber cases, perversion pops up abnormally in their investigations of hard drives. So maybe Ed switches his password to something that has a greater power over him, like pole dancing:
Bingo! We see some accounts that could be Ed. It seems he has an affection for this profession. We try poledancersare110%SEXY…no hits! Shucks.
Let’s tweak the word snowden a bit. We run it backwards with a capital ‘N”:
Ok, now we’re talking. This is a pretty obscure password that means nothing and its pre-NSA days. This one is high on our hit list. These passwords are from the Yahoo hack and used the email permutation of b8926198. Pretty definitive. It must mean something.
So just on face value, what person would spell snowden backwards, nedwons, capitalize the first letter and use a very uncommon email permutation for the address B8926198@xxxx.com?
Now I’m perked. Definitely more drilling is needed on these two accounts with the same password. Profiling is about probability. Odds favor that these belong to the same person. Clearly the email here is a cyber print, but more importantly, the password is the DNA.
With these interesting results and others, the next steps would be scrubbing them across all social media for hits. Law enforcement would need to turn over every stone. The pebbles of Little Eddie’s life and his password profile could be added to the criteria of a cracker program specifically aimed at Mr. Snowden. The word lists could be enhanced and the rules of password patterns would give the cracker program a much higher probability of success.
So to recap: Little Eddie, like most cyber tykes, started out naïve and trusting with his passwords. And like most of us, we inherently think we are secure when we create a password, which may contain something about our life. We never thought someone could run a password progression test on us against all passwords of all time (OK, I fudged, it’s really ~4 billion). There are many password leads on Mr. Snowden that need to be checked. Just one over turned pebble could lead to that PS2 tyke registration and crack the case.
So our closing question is when Little Eddie Snowden peeked under that blanket, was he looking at his trump card of data, his so-called “get out of jail free" card? We all know this story isn’t over.
Stay tuned for Haystack #2. Up next is Mike Pence and John Podesta.
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