Russian Media: Snowden Checked Out of Hotel

For exactly a month, NSA leaker Edward Snowden has sat holed up in a Moscow airport, caught in the purgatory of its so-called "transit zone." Now, he's gone.

Or at least that's what RIA-Novosti is reporting. "If I'm not mistaken he is not here," a hotel employee told the state-run news agency.

If Snowden has in fact left the Sheremetyevo airport, his departure would mark an appropriate end to the media spectacle that has played out inside its terminals. As Snowden has fed documents to his preferred media outlets and the world marveled at the true capabilities of the NSA, the man behind those revelations has stayed almost entirely out of the spotlight. He provided one interview to the Guardian at an early stage in his saga, and then, promptly disappeared.

With the exception of a meeting with human rights groups, Snowden has managed to utterly elude the combined efforts of the global media. False rumors that he had boarded an Aeroflot flight to Havana, sent the media scrambling to buy tickets on the flight. Camera crews dreamed of interviewing him aboard the flight, but his seat remained empty, leaving the disappointed reporters with a pointless one way flight to Havana -- one of the few that doesn't serve alcohol. At one point, the Associated Press sent a reporter to Moscow without a Russian visa for the express purpose of getting himself detained in the hotel where Snowden was allegedly hiding. But Snowden was nowhere to be found, and the reporter's only real accomplishment was to get into arguments with his jailer at the hotel. When Snowden finally appeared in public to speak with human rights activists, journalists weren't invited and were left to deduce what was said from second-hand accounts and tweets from the meeting.

Now, the world's most elusive celebrity seems to have checked out of his hotel and managed to continue his incredible streak of passing unnoticed under prying eyes. Consider for a moment the number of authorities Snowden has now managed to deceive and evade: the NSA, Booz Allen Hamilton, the combined forces of U.S. law enforcement and the State Department, and the international press corps in Hong Kong and Moscow.

So why did he ever leave? Well, for one thing the room service is terribly expensive, according to the AP:

Buffalo mozzarella and pesto dressing starter? 720 roubles (about $20).

Ribeye steak: 1,500 roubles (about $50).

Bottle of Brunello di Montalcino red wine: 5,280 roubles ($165).

A miniature bottle of Hennessy XO cognac: 2,420 roubles ($80).

Or maybe Snowden has grown tired of being holed up in a hotel that functions more like a jail for visa-less travelers than the luxury accommodation its room service makes it out to be. "Should you wish to see the full range of facilities offered by our hotel during your next stay, we strongly recommend you to get a visa before flying to Moscow," a sign at the capsule hotel reads.

Or does Snowden even exist? Out of sight like Schrödinger's cat, he occupies a strange metaphysical space to his global audience, dead and alive to us all at once.



Report: Indonesia Emerges as Hacking Powerhouse

Internet hackers have found a new home from which to spread online mayhem , and it's not where you might expect. According to a new report from cloud computing provider Akamai, Indonesia became a hotbed of hacking activity during the first quarter of 2013, rocketing to second place behind China among the most prevalent sources of Internet attacks.

In the final three months of 2012, Indonesia played host to a mere .7 percent of all Internet hacking activity, but during the following three months that figure ballooned to 21 percent. Accounting for a full 34 percent of Internet attacks, China remains the global hacking superpower, but Indonesia's sudden rise in the tables is indicative of how diffuse networks of hackers around the globe can exploit weaknesses in the web. (It's theoretically possible that detection has improved but that's still a pretty incredible jump.)

According to Akamai, the sudden rise in hacking activity emanating from Indonesia probably doesn't mean hackers are picking up their bags and laptops and decamping for the tropical climes of Jakarta. Rather, the sudden spike in activity is probably indicative of a decision by hacking collectives or large operations to utilize Indonesian servers for botnet operations, automated attacks that use a set of linked programs to carry out an attack and amplify their effect. That same system allows hackers to largely mask their true location.

With 8.3 percent of hacking activity emanating from its shores, the United States comes in third place in Akamai's ranking. With 4.5 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively, Turkey and Russia round out the top five. Here's the full ranking:


But this Akamai table also highlights the central problem of confronting hacking activity today: extremely hazy attribution. Consider a scenario in which a large financial institution finds its servers under siege by an attack emanating from a server in Shanghai. The company sees that data and makes an obvious conclusion: the Chinese government is trying to steal the bank's trade secrets. But IP attribution is not on its own sufficient to ascertain the identity of an attacker -- the assault on this hypothetical financial institution could easily have been bounced off servers in different corners of the world to mask the attacker's actual location. For all the bank knows, it could have been their competitor in the office next door trying to swipe trading strategies. 

Unsurprisingly, businesses remain the biggest targets of Internet attacks, according to Akamai. In an examination of so-called distributed denial of service attacks -- a type of hack that directs a massive amount of Internet traffic at a given website in order to take it off life -- the company found that its enterprise clients received 35 percent of all attacks. The full breakdown is here:


The following graph breaks those attacks down further and show how financial services remain a favorite target of hackers.