How did whistleblower Edward Snowden steal all those top secret documents from a secure National Security Agency facility in Hawaii? Simple: with a good old-fashioned flash drive.

That’s allegedly how Snowden, who was working at the facility as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, smuggled the documents he then leaked to The Guardian and The Washington Post, according to officials questioned by The Los Angeles Times.

The classified documents leaked last week revealed that the NSA has been collecting millions of phone records from Verizon; the existence of an international surveillance system called PRISM which apparently collects data from the likes of Google and Facebook; a secret Obama order to draw up overseas targets for cyber attacks; and Boundless Informant, a tool to datamine the world.

According to the paper’s sources, portable devices were generally banned inside the NSA facility, although the ban wasn’t universal, at least not for system administrators like Snowden. “Of course, there are always exceptions” a former NSA official told the L.A. Times. “There are people who need to use a thumb drive and they have special permission. But when you use one, people always look at you funny.”

Snowden is now believed to be hiding in Hong Kong, where he traveled before his leaks were made public, and before he outed himself on Sunday. Meanwhile, authorities in the U.S. have publicly said he is under investigation, and one official told the L.A. Times that investigators already “know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from.”

One thing they don’t know yet though, is how he got access to the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court order sent to Verizon, which was supposedly only accessible to very few people, even inside the NSA.

While seemingly an innocuous item, the dangers of allowing flash drives into sensitive intelligence or military facilities have been widely reported in the past. And, in the case of Wikileaks source Pvt. Bradley Manning, he simply used Lady Gaga-labeled CDs to smuggle information out.

In the meantime, Reuters has uncovered some details from Snowden’s past, including his online nicknames and how he used to work for a Japanese anime company run by friends called Ryuhana Press. Its website has since been taken down, but Snowden’s profile is still accessible through the Wayback Machine, a web page archive.

After the Reuters exclusive, its former social media editor Anthony De Rosa discovered that Snowden was an Ars Technica reader. He was also an active member of its online forums using the nickname “The True HOOHA.”

In a comment made on an Ars article about a government wiretapping system made by Cisco, Snowden hinted at his passion for Internet freedom and his disdain for surveillance.

“It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behavior bothers those outside of technology circles. Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types,” he wrote.

In 2006, he even joked with another user, telling the user that the weird noise coming from his Xbox 360, which Snowden called the new “NSA surveillance program,” was “the sound of freedom.”

Mashable composite, image via iStockphoto, DigiClicks; logo courtesy of the NSA

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/13/snowden-nsa-thumb-drive/



Science has now provided yet another reason to play horrendously violent video games like Gears of War. Research released Friday by Keele University shows that those kind of games could potentially be used to relieve pain. In the same release, the university also confirmed that golf games don’t produce the same effect, which is not surprising given that golf can sometimes be a source of pain in and of itself.

The study had 40 volunteers playing video games and then dunking one of their hands in ice-cold water to gauge their reaction to pain from intense cold. After 10 minutes of gameplay, they found that participants kept their hands in the water 65% longer on average if they had been playing the violent game than those that had been playing a nonviolent golf game. This indicates that the participants’ pain tolerance was increased by the violent gaming.

The researchers suggest that it’s the fight-or-flight response to stress that’s to blame for this increased tolerance, as well as the faster heart rate measured by those playing violent games. Our brains respond to the virtual blood frenzy in much the same way as they would to an actual blood frenzy.

The whole reason this study was attempted stems back to a study the university’s researchers did about swearing and pain tolerance. They thought the emotional response invoked by swearing eased pain. So, naturally, they decided to see if violent video games could cause the same reaction. Maybe next they’ll see if Internet trolls do the same.

[via Keele University]

This article originally published at Geekosystem

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/09/video-games-pain-tolerance/


Burned out on Royal Baby updates? You’re not alone.

That’s why we’re bringing you the following extremely important story of a woman who was fined by police over the weekend for bringing her horse into a McDonald’s location in Greater Manchester after employees wouldn’t serve her from the drive through window. Once inside, the horse took its revenge for this act of discrimination by making the McDonald’s dining experience worse in pretty much the only way possible — taking a horse-sized dump on the floor.

According to a Facebook statement from the Greater Manchester Police:

The staff refused to serve the women due to company policy. The women then took the horse into the restaurant who ended up doing his business on the floor.

The sight and smell of this caused obvious distress and upset to customers trying to eat, as well as staff members.

Officers arrived at the location and woman was issued a Fixed Penalty notice for causing alarm and distress to other customers and staff.

Speaking of staff, here’s hoping the police also made the rider clean up after the animal, otherwise some poor British burger flipper just had the worst day at work in McDonald’s in recorded history — which is really saying something. On the other hand, we’ll wager those McDonald’s employees will think twice before turning away an equestrian who wants to get a Big Mac without dismounting first.

Mashable horse enthusiasts — we know you’re out there — have you ever tried to get drive-through fast food on horseback? Were you successful? Is this a thing?

Image: paukerman/Flickr

This article originally published at Geekosystem

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/22/horse-mcdonalds-uk/