‘Horcruxes’ help whistleblowers

The Oconee Enterprise, September 21, 2017:
Dr. David Lewis

Whistleblowers risk their careers whenever they release information about corruption within government, industry and academia. And, when they do, managers involved in the wrongdoing often focus on destroying their electronic files and disrupting their communications.

As a case in point, a participant in a private conference I attended in a remote area of North Carolina several years ago had her computer repeatedly disabled with malware. The conference dealt with corruption at EPA headquarters. The hackers’ IP addresses, as it turned out, belonged to EPA field offices in two different states.

My own computers have been disabled multiple times since I began publishing information about data fabrication by EPA’s Office of Water regarding the safety of land application of inadequately treated sewage sludges. On one occasion, a computer technician remarked that the malicious software file he removed from my computer was so large and sophisticated that it had to have been created by some government entity and downloaded by hand.

Dr. Lewis’ article posted in The Oconee Enterprise – Click to enlarge David Lewis

“Odd you should say that,” I replied. My computer crashed as I watched someone paid by my Internet provider drive out my driveway. He had just finished adjusting my satellite dish, and was given access to my computer.

I had assumed that was a coincidence. But then the director of an FBI cyber-security division in Raleigh, NC informed a colleague of mine that her computer had just been hacked by China. He also wanted to know if anyone else had physical access to the computer, and why China was interested in it.

To counter state-sponsored cyber-security threats against my own operation, I turned to Chris Easton, an information security officer with the National Whistleblower Center. He offered to help and decided to take a very low-tech approach involving “horcruxes.” It reminded me of Sir Barnes Wallis, who used simple, transecting light beams to guide British bombers that destroyed Hitler’s “impenetrable” dams during WWII. A similar example was Navajo Marines using their native language as an unbreakable radio code. Sometimes, going low-tech is the best defense against advanced technology.

In the Harry Potter series, wizards and witches could gain immortality by concealing fragments of their souls in inanimate objects called horcruxes. In my case, horcruxes take the form of a sizable number of cheap, used hard drives, which were wiped clean, loaded up with my encrypted electronic files, and distributed among a network of contacts unknown to me. This secret cyber-security network decentralized and concealed the locations of my files, making them virtually impossible to completely destroy.

Fortunately, my life so far as blowing the whistle on the state of science at EPA can go on no matter what. My horcrux network stands ready to decrypt all of my electronic files and widely distribute them, including to international news media outlets.

David L. Lewis, Ph.D., a former EPA research microbiologist, is the author of Science for Sale and Research Director for the Focus for Health Foundation.

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David Lewis, Ph.D.

Former U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist

David Lewis is an internationally recognized research microbiologist whose work on public health and environmental issues, as a senior-level Research Microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research & Development and member of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia, has been reported in numerous news articles and documentaries from TIME magazine and Reader’s Digest to National Geographic.

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