The recently released book No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald is a page-turning thriller and I find this portion (below) really stands out:
One can’t help but wonder if this “secret technology” is beyond what’s already been known, ie. the NSA’s ability to penetrate into “air gapped” computers.
Air gapped (or air-gapped) computers are also known as “clean machines” because they are not and would never be connected to the internet – and they have to be brand new and not used computers, preferably paid by cash.
No doubt a computer that cannot be connected to the internet is pretty limited in what it can do but it is deemed absolutely safe.
These machines are usually used by the military and intelligence agencies dealing with highly sensitive or classified information.
However, it has been reported that the NSA has managed to use radio waves to break into computers disconnected to the internet.
Edward Snowden, and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, are known to carry 3 to 4 laptops with them and it is no surprise one of these has been air gapped.
Snowden has even advised Greenwald on how to set up such a machine before the latter left New York to meet him in Hong Kong in the days building up to the Snowden revelations last year, as Greenwald wrote in his book.
But setting up and maintaining such a machine is more complex than one would initially think. Here’s a guide on the 10 rules to follow if you are still keen to have a clean machine.