The background to my need to seek asylum — a brief review of the events over the last three years of my life and detailed review of events in September 2017 that lead me to flee Budapest on September 25 2017.
Note — that this is a sub article — the context for which is provided in the main Index article:
Summary — all my asylum information in one article — an index if you like and way to navigate the growing amount of…medium.com
In early September 2017 I experience some suspicious activity related to my laptops and phones and come to the most obvious conclusion — that since I’d be actively trading crypto currencies that I was the target of a financial hack. I set about changing all my passwords, locking my accounts and reviewing all my security procedures to ensure that I do not lose any money or data.
This turns out to be quite a large undertaking as I have been actively also trading on ebay for around 15 years at this point. So I’d accumulated around 10 main gmail accounts, two yahoo accounts, two Facebook accounts, around three slack accounts. Plus I was using around 5 android devices (four phones, one tablet); an iPhone 5s, a surface pro 3, two macbooks and also an older windows xp netbook, and also had data spread across 6 or 7 hard drives, google drive (on around 6 accounts), a couch surfing account, a meetups.com account, around 15 USB sticks/ SD card/ Micro SD cards. Quite soon I realise to be fully secure its probably best to erase everything and start over from a clean slate. So I decide to methodically save any crucial data and then wipe everything else so I can delete any possible virus or keylogger which may have infected my laptops, phones or storage media.
The surface pro 3 seemed the most ‘obviously compromised’ as somehow it had persistent screen sharing hard baked into it. Meaning that whenever I used it — a third party could also see whatever was being typed or viewed on the screen. The eventual solution to turning off this hard baked screen sharing was to re-download Windows 10 ‘Surface Pro 3’ image as a bootable restore USB and do a fresh install. A destructive install that would wipe the drive and then do a complete re-imaging of the special windows 10 build. After realising the Surface Pro had probably been physically interfered with I contacted the UK Police Business Fraud Specialists (https://app03.actionfraud.police.uk/report/Account) . As well as contacting Microsoft Support to log a 29 GBP support call in an attempt to have the log files examined to see who might (the IP address etc) have been spying on my surface pro 3. After 30 or so attempts over the course of a week I fail to successfully get ANY support contact via the telephone with Microsoft. Also the UK Police Cybercrimes division gets back to me and informs me the Business Reporting Tool is aimed more towards bigger businesses and does not support small freelancers such as myself.
By mid September I’d spent a significant amount of time and energy improving security and wiping all phones, laptops and storage media — in fact I had wiped my phones around 3 times each (full factory reset as well as wiping the cache where possible). I also done a full format of my macbooks and also factory reset them around three times as well. And with the storage media I’d done a 3 pass DOD (Dept of Defense) secure erase on all of them using a bootable CD called DBAN. Also I’d switched away from using the home WiFi network and opted instead to use a MIFI device with some PAYG 1Gb Data sims (three.co.uk sims I’d bought a few years earlier). I figured that the Hungarian mobile network, or home UPC WiFi network was also a possible source of a leak.
By mid September, however, the suspicious activity on my phones and laptops continued and so I started to realise two things:
- This was probably not a financial hack
- The sophistication of the attack went well above what your average financial hack would attempt
At that point I realise that the suspicious activity is most probably related to the medium.com articles written in late August. A review of those articles and the time in which they were published is available here:
I’d not wanted to come to this conclusion as it seemed somewhat unlikely. But at this point I was being faced with ever greater levels of evidence to confirm my suspicions. PLUS I’d gone well above what most people would have done in this situation. I’d really gone the extra mile and had extensively reviewed and implemented new security processes on every device, account and storage media I owned. Plus I had also locked down all devices with the highest level of encryption and security available to them.
Also as part of my security review at this time I’d also begun bringing my laptops, phones and critical technology around with me to ensure that I knew where the technology was at all times and limit any third parties access to physically interfering with the technology. A somewhat drastic measure but one which I felt was warranted given the persistence of the hack. A simple password reset plus factory install had NOT solved my issues. Nor had installing 2FA (two factor authentication) on all my gmail accounts.
I also took out two new sim contracts around this time to see if that would help. I believed that starting afresh on as many fronts as possible would potentially isolate the source of the leak.
Around September 16 2017 I decide to take down all 60 the medium.com articles. I also decide that I should delete all 350 tweets and also delete all my gmail, google drive material, all my Facebook posts, my couch surfing posts, I even delete my airbnb accounts. Basically I set about sending a ‘cease and desist message’ as best I can — my thinking is something like — if my articles are the source of the suspicious account behaviour then a total digital reset will send a message that I have decided to not only stop any such activity but also to not engage in any such activity again. So pretty much all available online digital information that I can delete is deleted. Believe me when I say this was no small undertaking as I soon discovered. I proceed and within the next week or so I have pretty much eradicated as much of the information I can that is stored online (gmail, google drive, Facebook, twitter, couch surfing, tinder, airbnb, medium.com).
By around September 24 2017 even placing mobile to mobile calls becomes difficult. Its at that point that I realise that despite my BEST EFFORTS to send a ‘cease and desist’ message that my laptops, phones and instant messaging accounts are STILL behaving suspiciously. Plus I’d also come to suspect my mobile phone and laptop CHARGERS as being a potential source of the hack as I’d sold and shipped one of my three MacBooks (a macbook 12 early 2016 model) on ebay. But the buyer had reported to me that 20 hours after me shipping the item he’d received the laptop minus the laptops power adapter and minus the USB-C cable. This really alerted me to the possibility that the laptop chargers had been interfered with. PLUS explained the bizarre bootup behaviour they had shown and also why even despite wiping them the hack had persisted (short of replacing the chargers you cannot wipe a compromised charger, its a hardware level modification).
So also on September 24 I decide to make a rough plan to leave Budapest in the next 24 hours. The next morning I keep all my phones and laptops in a powered down state and proceed to Budapest airport. My plan is to fly to Copenhagen and there claim asylum based on political persecution.
Aug 2014 to July 2017
I move from Pembrokeshire (UK) to Budapest (Hungary) in late August of 2014. Budapest figures holds the most potential to me as its alternative ‘scene’ (i.e. mix of eclectic meet ups, technology savvy individuals and the art scene interests me). Plus being a city of 1.7 million with around 145,000 students in university its fair to say its a pretty vibrant city and also rated very highly in a lot of livability studies. Plus from research I also find out it has only 25% the annual rainfall of the UK, gloriously warm summers and a plethora of thermal baths. Added to all of this is the data from numbeo.com which shows rents are lower than the other three cities I’d also investigated (Prague, Lisbon and Bucharest). So it is quite literally head and shoulders above the other cities based on the research I do. Overall I determine it to be around 40% the cost of living of the UK. My rent alone will be reduced by 60% by moving there temporarily. So with trepidation but a sound research base I decide to ‘give it ago’ while also keeping my options open. One of the ways I keep my options open there is to take a month to month rolling verbal agreement with regard to rent. My horizon of month works well for me as I like to be able to travel frequently — in fact since late august of 2014 I actually only spend around 20 of the next 37 months in Budapest and break up my time with extended periods in Asia and Ireland (India — 5 months, Thailand 5 months and Nepal 2 months, Ireland 3 months) as well as shorter trips to Barcelona (4 days), Jerusalem (4 days), Copenhagen (10 days), Bristol (10 days), London (2 days), Prague (7 days), Belgrade (2 days) and Seattle (12 days).
I make two ‘ 3 day’ trips to Copenhagen to explore it as a possible place to relocate to — after my first visit I am indeed charmed by the people but somewhat alarmed by the poor weather and very high cost of living.
I fly to North Thailand to begin what will be another 14 weeks residential psychotherapy at a Buddhist mindfulness based retreat centre. In late January 2017 I decide to leave the retreat centre and live in the nearby town of Chiang Mai to explore life there with a view to being based there more permanently. I’m very actively reading and researching — especially with regard to career as I feel somewhat under utilised in my current ebay trading life. I come across John Demartini’s work and begin a very active period of studying and applying his thinking to determine my highest values and also consequently where these can be employed most usefully. Around this time I also start investigating trading financial instruments — I’d explored this as early as 2003 by attending an Options Trading course with Chuck Mellon (http://chuckmellon.com) as well as having studied Market Wizards (https://www.amazon.com/Market-Wizards-Updated-Interviews-Traders-ebook/dp/B006X50OPW) and also Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. My core approach which has served me well in all areas of life has been to conduct extensive research into areas which interest me. I have and continue to have a very wide range of interests so after having had this approach since my early teens I have explored in reasonable depth a extremely wide range of subjects. I begin looking into Forex trading after having met a successful young forex trader (10 years my junior in Thailand). I decide though that I wish to gain a very broad understanding of trading theory in order to give myself the best possible starting place. Over the course of Feb to July 2017 I engage in some serious study of investment theory and strategies. Around May 2017 I hear about ethereum and explore it so I can advise a friend who has been advised to invest in it. This kickstarts my ongoing fascination with blockchain based technologies (the most common and famous derivative of which are so called ‘cryptocurrencies’). After another chance encounter with a trader I’m encouraged to ‘cut my teeth’ by actually engaging in some real trading so I can get a feel for it and ‘learn by doing’. From my research pretty much every book had advised this too. Start. But start small and be prepared to lose since you would in effect be a total beginner and need to make numerous mistake to attain some degree of mastery.
I spend in Chiang Mai, North Thailand. I spend the time working on some ideas around publishing my thoughts on what is needed for couples to engage in successful navigation of attachment issues — I’d experienced first hand the problems created by a fearful avoidant style of attaching (also called anxious avoidant). I spend significant time researching and discussing ideas I’d explored from recent relationship. I’d spent a significant amount of time since late 2013 undergoing residential Buddhist based psychotherapy (around 10 months in total, over the course of Sept 2013 to Jan 2017). As well as continuing to study and practice tools and techniques I’d come across along the way. I think it would be fair to say I’ve got a very good grasp of a lot of pyscho therapeutic tools and techniques as well as having effected a large and positive change in my personal life. Part of that change in my personal life was the decision to explore living outside of the UK. After researching Lisbon, Prague, Bucharest and Budapest I decide that Budapest has the most potential and so tentatively move there with a view to trying it on a month to month basis.
I work extensively on ebay after returning from Thailand. My plan is to work for 30 days and then visit a friend in Seattle who I’d met in Thailand. We had begun dating in around late December 2016. I’m invited to spend 60 days (so March and April in Seattle). I set about working to generate the funds to make such a trip possible. The cheapest tickets go via Copenhagen.
I spend 12 days in Seattle but unfortunately the new relationship does not work out and so decide to return early to Budapest. I return to Budapest via Copenhagen.
May and June and early July 2017
The stock market trading research and the work of John Demartini research are my dominant ‘hobby’ projects.
Late July 2017
I register with around eight major online cryptocurrency exchanges with a view to having a wide selection of choices of exchange on which to trade. And also so I can verify which exchanges will fulfill my needs (good range of currencies, reliable execution of trades and good levels of security and integrity (since a lot of crypto currencies exchanges had in fact closed — often with their customers funds).
I continue trading — the ‘learning by doing’ model is a baptism of fire and I make modest returns but am relatively lucky to have not incurred losses as looking back I make some very bad decisions. These ‘bad decisions’ are a core part of my learning process — learning to manage ones emotions while trading and also learning to diversify and take a very rational probabilistic approach. I find that a technical analysis approach combined with using probabilities seems like a good approach. This is borne out by experience as I begin to be able to meld technical analysis with successful trade execution. As I learn more about bitcoin and its implications though I start to see its potential role in wider societal change. After a period of trading actively for around 30 days I decide to take a break and as part of that break I decide that I would like to explore my view of bitcoins potential to effect societal change and this desire leads to medium.com which had become somewhat of a regular website visited as part of background research I’d done when investigating new bitcoin like investments (often good founders tended to have a range of articles which demonstrated their thinking and approach which is incredibly useful when assessing the strength of a team behind a project).