This article was originally published on March 12, 2018.
Like the great Nostradamus, Edward Snowden has been a purveyor of the future, signaling time and again signs of things to come. Since joining Twitter a few years ago, he’s amassed one of the largest and most influential Twitter accounts in the world. With more than three million followers, he only follows a single account in return: the NSA. Very snarky, Snowden.
As an NSA contractor turned whistleblower, Edward Snowden is a hero for some, and a villain for others. Whatever opinion you have, there’s no denying he single-handedly changed the way we look at privacy.
Here are some of his strangest, strongest, and most influential messages over the last few years.
1. Snowden says time’s up
It all started with his cryptic tweet a few years ago. On August 2, 2016, Edward Snowden issued a chilling request for his friends and followers to come forward, mysteriously stating “It’s time.”
As someone known for being forthcoming with his messages, this tweet was a stark contrast to the whistleblower’s usual body of work.
But it didn’t end there.
A few days later, Snowden posted another confusing tweet, this one in the form of a hash. The random string of numbers and letters wasn’t some unexpected accident; it was an intentional code laid out for the world to uncover.
The internet was quick to react with their own interpretations: some called it a hoax; others said it was proof that Snowden was being held against his will. Both tweets have since been deleted, and Snowden himself has been eerily silent on the whole matter. What this could mean, well, no one knows.
Snowden’s longtime confidant Glenn Greenwald has recently assured everyone Snowden is “doing fine.” Is he though?
2. Snowden shines a light on the Shadow Brokers
In late 2016, news surfaced on how an elite group of hackers named the Shadow Brokers had infiltrated the NSA and stolen classified intel secrets. By releasing excerpts of the documents via piecemeal online, the group provided irrefutable proof that they had indeed taken classified government secrets.
While the world scrambled to uncover any leads on the mysterious group, Snowden was already one step ahead, cautioning the public that this was just a warning sign in an ongoing power struggle between the U.S. and Russia.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 8, 2017
While details on the Shadow Brokers are still forthcoming, most experts now agree it was likely a Russian-ordered operation.
So, how did Snowden know?
3. Snowden squashes Intel’s malware bugs
As with so many large companies, internal exploits aren’t disclosed until muckrakers and white hat hackers dutifully uncover them. So is the case with Intel’s Meltdown and Spectre bugs that were found earlier this year.
These exploits, which allow hackers to see inside your network easily, were reportedly known about in June but weren’t made public until January of the following year. Even then, Intel drastically watered down how bad the exploits were—first claiming that the issues weren’t significant and then issuing a vague statement a day later that raised more questions than answers.
Within hours, Snowden was quick to tweet his opinion on the matter, providing video evidence of not only how the exploit worked but also how to protect against it.
You may have heard about @Intel's horrific #Meltdown bug. But have you watched it in action? When your computer asks you to apply updates this month, don't click "not now." (via https://t.co/J84n79LRIA & @misc0110) pic.twitter.com/cWEiZWZdcJ
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 4, 2018
“When your computer asks you to apply updates this month, don’t click ‘not now,'” Snowden warned. Naturally, this went against everything Intel was saying, causing them to change gears quickly and both acknowledge and take responsibility for the exploit.
(You can read our report on the Meltdown and Spectre bugs here.)
4. Snowden says the NSA is watching your TV
In a video conference in early 2017, Snowden detailed how the NSA could easily hack into your smart TV not by going through your WiFi network, but by using your Amazon account.
The video, shown below, piggybacks off of Wikileaks’ recent Vault 8 dump and focuses on the NSA’s terrifying ability to hack your Amazon smart devices before you even receive them.
We're at SXSW at a live taping of the Intercepted podcast. Host Jeremy Scahill is interviewing Edward Snowden. Our first guest is Libyan-American hip-hop artist Kayem. Subscribe here: https://theintercept.com/podcasts
Posted by The Intercept on Tuesday, 14 March 2017
According to Snowden:
“They [the CIA] wait for when these devices are being shipped to you, when you order them on Amazon or whatever. They go to them at the airports, they get the box, they use a little hair dryer to soften the adhesive, they open the box, then they put the USB stick in. They seal the box back up all nice and perfect, and then they ship it on to you. And now your router, your computer, your TV is hacked. This is a very routine thing that happens.”
5. Snowden schools Joe Scarborough on surveillance
Snowden’s revelations—though reviled by some—have ultimately had a positive impact on the state of surveillance. So when Snowden was again called out for being a traitor (this time by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough), he was quick to fire back.
With respect, that "reckless" approach led to the largest reform of unconstitutional domestic surveillance since 1978, and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service journalism. If that's what recklessness looks like, we could use a hell of a lot more of it. https://t.co/QliTqo7o3h
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 4, 2018
It’s true: In addition to sweeping surveillance reforms, both The Guardian and The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after they brought these issues to light. That said, there’s still a lot to be desired on the privacy forefront.
No matter where you stand on Snowden, there’s no denying we have a fundamental problem with citizen surveillance. Until further steps are taken to help safeguard your privacy, do yourself a favor and secure your network with ExpressVPN.