TFW (The Band-Aid Solution)

Originally published by Rose C. on Medium on .

For anyone not up on slang, TFW stands for “That Feeling When”…

TFW when you first heard about George Floyd’s death. You just realize the cops have gone too far this time. This time is different. You wonder what’s going to happen next.

TFW when you hear about the protests, and you think, “If Black lives matter, why are people putting themselves at risk by marching in large crowds and gatherings?” COVID is not gone. In fact, infection rates are still growing all over the country. They are just growing more slowly, i.e. 10–20% growth rather than exponential growth.

TFW when you get texts from friends in other parts of the country (Denver, Minneapolis) about the protests and the riots, with violence happening only a few blocks from their houses. You check the local news and see reports of buildings on fire and cars overturned — only a few miles from your neighborhood.

TFW when you realize you may be personally at risk, more from roving gangs of white supremacists than from the protesters themselves. You can just see those ugly skinheads driving over the bridge in a pickup truck loaded with guns and picking your apartment complex as an easy target.

TFW when you say something stupid on a private hacker forum.

And you realize it could get you in trouble.

We’ve all had that feeling, right?

What I said was that I wanted a gun, whether it was legal or not. I panicked. I was totally panicking, in that moment. That’s all it was. By the way, I’m not a gun nut, or a gun enthusiast, and one week later I think that was almost certainly a bad idea.

Why was I even talking to a bunch of 2600 people in Albany? I guess because I thought they were my friends. I’ve always felt like I had more in common with computer geeks than almost anyone else, even though I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore hacker. Definitely not a cracker. (Except I guess in the other sense. That can’t be helped.)

To be totally honest, I don’t “hack” into anything. No DOS attacks or aggressive actions. I build things. My specialty is more UX/UI. The languages I know are nothing to write home about. And I write my own code, albeit slowly. I do have a boutique cryptocurrency (Omni blockchain) but I guess what I’m best at is developing new kinds of user interfaces. For AR, VR, or just plain ol’ web and mobile. The more technical the product, the better.

TFW when you start to wonder if your system has been hacked by the Feds.

Because…

Let’s see. You gave them probable cause. Assuming there were any law enforcement agents hanging out in that particular cell of 2600 (as seems extraordinarily likely… I think I even knew who it was), they now maybe have something on me. Keep in mind, I changed my mind about seeking to possess an illegal firearm about two seconds later. But a screen cap can be taken out of context. Context is everything.

Other reasons why I have wondered this week whether I am being surveilled…

  • My computer abruptly slowed down. I could only open one power app (for example Photoshop) at a time. Sometimes running even a web browser dragged like a wheelbarrow full of bricks. I could barely run Spotify at all.
  • Weird artifacts that I have not seen before — such as having the Firefox icon appear in the taskbar twice.
  • Internet was also intermittently, quite slow. We are talking 4MB files that took over a minute to download, from my own gmail account.
  • Most worrisome of all, my phone, which runs off a totally different ISP, was also intermittently slow. Some secure domains would not load at all.

That’s all, really. Still much more likely that I downloaded a virus or have a hardware failure on my main computer. I know all this. You could say I’m a little on the paranoid side. But it messes with your head when you think you’re being watched.

The Band-Aid Solution

My solution was to finally do what I had silently mocked other paranoid people I knew for doing: cover up the camera on my main computer. I used a band-aid, so that I could easily restore and remove the covering for teleconferences and the like.

Now I need to get some better firewalls. For Mac.

I have no idea why I would be singled out for this kind of treatment and again, I should stress that it’s far more likely this is all in my imagination. This didn’t prevent me from cussing out the NSA before I put the band-aid over my camera. I used the worst words I could think of.

I am guilty of being scared shitless, saying something stupid, and immediately changing my mind. That is all. I have nothing to hide. No illegal activities at all. I don’t even torrent.

I guess it’s possible that having a former cofounder who was offered a job working for the government (she wouldn’t tell me where), and an ex-boyfriend who built a darknet might attract undue attention. It’s also possible that being openly out and female might draw some special scrutiny in the hacker world. That’s about all I can think of.

Hopefully the law enforcement community has better things to focus their time on. I am very law-abiding.

 

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