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Edward Snowden hits legendary status for teaching about online privacy and Tor while stealing NSA secrets

SecurityNews
by Aatif Sulleyman
, 22 May 2014News
Edward Snowden hits legendary status for teaching about online privacy and Tor while stealing NSA secrets

Six months before breaking the PRISM spying programme to the world, Edward Snowden held a small "Crypto Party" at the back of a furniture shop in Hawaii.

Back on 11 December 2012, before anybody had even heard of the now world-renowned whistleblower, Snowden got together with Runa Sandvik, a former Tor developer, and Asher Wolf, an Australia-based activist. Neither Sandvik nor Wolf knew that Snowden, who was understandably shady about his background, was contracted to the National Security Agency (NSA) at the time.

Read more: The year the NSA hacked the world: A PRISM timeline

"If I'd known it was someone from the NSA, I'd have gone and shot myself," Wolf told Wired.

Snowden approached Sandvik and Wolf for help with organising the get-together, which was intended as an opportunity to teach people how to protect their online privacy.

"He was just very nice, and he came to the door and introduced himself and talked about how the event was going to run," said Sandvik.

Sandvik and Snowden delivered individual presentations before collaborating for a joint talk about Tor, the specialised software that allows users to surf the Internet anonymously. Only around 20 people turned up to the event, but Snowden still deemed it a "huge success".

"He was definitely a really, really smart guy. There was nothing about Tor that he didn't already know," said Sandvik. "Everything ran very smoothly. There were no questions about how to do things or where to put the chairs. Maybe he's just really good at organising events."

Half a year later, Snowden's leaks were made public by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and the rest is history.

Read more: Furious Cisco CEO slams Obama after NSA is caught sneaking spy bugs into products

Interestingly, at the time of the Hawaii event, Snowden was still waiting for Greenwald to reply to his initial email, which had been sent 11 days earlier.

"I kind of hope, secretly, that the crypto party offered Snowden an outlet to think about what he was already beginning to plan to do," said Wolf. "I'm kind of proud that he taught a group of people as well. That's huge. We relied on volunteers who often put themselves at risk to teach at places and situations that were uneasy for them. That was a huge risk for him to teach a crypto party while he was working for the NSA.

"I'm glad he did. What a f*****g legend."

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