Jacob Appelbaum

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Jacob Appelbaum
Jacob Appelbaum-IMG 9320.jpg
Jacob Appelbaum at the Congress on Privacy & Surveillance (2013) of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
Born (1983-04-01) April 1, 1983 (age 33)
Citizenship US
Fields Computer security
Institutions University of Washington,[1]
Eindhoven University of Technology,[2]
Known for

Jacob Appelbaum (born April 1, 1983) is an American independent journalist, computer security researcher, artist, and hacker. He has been employed by the University of Washington, and was a core member of the Tor project,[5] a free software network designed to provide online anonymity. Appelbaum is also known for representing WikiLeaks.[6] He has displayed his art in a number of institutions across the world and has collaborated with artists such as Trevor Paglen and Ai Weiwei.[7] His journalistic work has resulted in a number of books as well as publication in Der Spiegel. Appelbaum has repeatedly been targeted by US law enforcement agencies, who obtained a court order for his Twitter account data, detained him at the US border after trips abroad, and seized his laptop and several mobile phones.

Appelbaum was among several people to gain access to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's top secret documents released in 2013.[8] He has been contributing extensively as a journalist to the publication of those documents.[9][10][11][12][13] On December 28, 2013, at Chaos Communication Congress,[14][15] he presented documents revealed by Snowden, showing that the NSA can turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and has developed devices to harvest electronic information from a computer even if not online. The devices are listed in the NSA ANT catalog, published in part by Der Spiegel[11] and in full by LeakSource.[16]

Appelbaum, under the handle "ioerror", was an active member of the Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective from 2008[5] to 2016.[17] He was the co-founder of the San Francisco hackerspace Noisebridge with Mitch Altman. He has worked for Kink.com,[18] Greenpeace[19] and has volunteered for the Ruckus Society and the Rainforest Action Network.[4]

The Tor Project and several other organizations ended their association with Appelbaum in June 2016 following serious and credible allegations of sexual abuse.[5][20][21][22][23][24] [25][26] [27] He has not, however, to date been charged with any crime.[28][29]

Early life and education[edit]

Appelbaum tested out of high school.[30][clarification needed] In a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2010, Appelbaum revealed that "I come from a family of lunatics... [a]ctual, raving lunatics." He stated that his mother "is a paranoid schizophrenic. She insisted that Jake had somehow been molested by his father while he was still in the womb". He was taken away from his mother by his aunt when he was 6. Two years later, he was placed in a children's home in Sonoma County. At age 10, his indigent father was awarded custody of him. Having been introduced to computer programming by a friend's father, Appelbaum said, saved his life. "The Internet is the only reason I'm alive today."[4]

As of September 1, 2015, Appelbaum is a Ph.D. student studying under Tanja Lange and Daniel J. Bernstein at the Eindhoven University of Technology.[2]



One of several Autonomy Cubes on display.

Appelbaum has taken part in a number of art-projects, both together with dissident-artists Ai Weiwei and Trevor Paglen, and on his own.[7] His art often straddles the border between art and technology and has given rise to projects such as Panda to Panda (P2P) and the Autonomy Cube.[7] Appelbaum is also a photographer and has exhibited his art in a solo show at NOME.[31]

He was an artist in residence for the art group monochrom in 2006.[32]


He appeared with Julian Assange on Episode 8 & 9 of World Tomorrow, "Cypherpunks".[33][34]

He is a contributor to Julian Assange's 2012 book Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet along with Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann.

He regards Tor as a "part of an ecosystem of software that helps people regain and reclaim their autonomy. It helps to enable people to have agency of all kinds; it helps others to help each other and it helps you to help yourself. It runs, it is open and it is supported by a large community spread across all walks of life."[35]

Appelbaum at a talk at 30C3 in Hamburg (2013).

In August 2013, Appelbaum delivered Edward Snowden's acceptance speech after he was awarded the biannual Whistleblower Prize by a group of NGOs at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.[36][37]

In September 2013, he testified before the European Parliament, mentioning that his partner had been spied on by men in night-vision goggles as she slept.[38]

Appelbaum talks at the protest march, Freedom not fear, in Berlin (2013).

In December 2013, Appelbaum told Berliner Zeitung that he believes he was under surveillance and that somebody broke into his Berlin apartment and used his computer.[39]

Appelbaum was a member of the outside volunteer technical advisory board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation until June 8, 2016.[40]

Technology and activism[edit]

In 2005, Appelbaum gave two talks at the 22nd Chaos Communication Congress,[41] Personal Experiences: Bringing Technology and New Media to Disaster Areas, and A Discussion About Modern Disk Encryption Systems. The former covered his travels to Iraq—crossing the border by foot, the installing of Internet satellites in Kurdistan, and his visit of New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. The latter talk discussed the legal and technical aspects of full disk encryption. At the 2006 23rd Chaos Communication Congress, he gave a talk with Ralf-Philipp Weinmann titled Unlocking FileVault: An Analysis of Apple's Encrypted Disk Storage System.[42][43] The duo subsequently released the VileFault free software program which broke Apple's FileVault security.

Appelbaum has also collaborated on several other high-profile research projects, including the cold boot attack,[44][45] SSL certificate authorities[46] and smart parking meters.[47]

Appelbaum was a Debian Developer from September 16, 2013 to June 18, 2016.[48]

Allegations of sexual abuse and organizational responses[edit]

In March 2015, Appelbaum was suspended from his position at the Tor Project for ten days due to an alleged harassment incident.[49][50][51]

On May 25, 2016, Appelbaum stepped down from his position at Tor;[52][53][54] this was announced on June 2 by the non-profit.[55] On June 4, Shari Steele, the Executive Director of the Tor project, published a statement saying that the recent allegations of sexual abuse regarding Appelbaum were consistent with "rumors some of us had been hearing for some time," but she asserted that "...the most recent allegations are much more serious and concrete than anything we had heard previously."[5][20]

Also on June 4, a website appeared with anonymous accounts of mistreatment by Appelbaum.[56] Security engineer Leigh Honeywell came forward on June 7 to publicly relate the website's stories with her relationship with Appelbaum, in which she described Appelbaum ignoring a safeword and becoming violent.[57] On June 15, Alison Macrina (the director of the Library Freedom Project) and Isis Agora Lovecruft publicly announced that the website's anonymous accounts of sexual abuse, under the pseudonyms of "Sam" and "Forest," respectively, were their own.[58]

Appelbaum issued a statement on June 6 denouncing the allegations as part of a concerted strategy to damage his reputation.[59]

An anonymously leaked letter that the Tor Project's human resources manager had written to Appelbaum in conjunction with his March 2015 suspension for unprofessional conduct was published on June 7.[60][50][51] Another leaked human resources document, a Tor/Appelbaum separation agreement prefaced by an anonymously authored narrative, was published by Cryptome around the same time.[61][non-primary source needed]

In response to the allegations the Cult of the Dead Cow ended their association with Appelbaum on June 7,[62][22] and the Freedom of the Press Foundation removed him from their volunteer technical advisory board on June 8.[23][63] Noisebridge announced on June 10 that co-founder Appelbaum had triggered their Anti-Harassment policy and is "no longer welcome in our community, either in its physical or online spaces,"[25][64] and on June 17 the Chaos Computer Club announced that he was not welcome.[27]

In June 2016, Appelbaum's Berlin apartment was defaced with graffiti stating in English and German "A rapist lives here."[65][66]

On 17 June 2016, activists, journalists and legal professionals supporting Appelbaum signed a document defending his right to due process[67][68] as a response to the story's treatment by social media.

Airport detention and DOJ investigation[edit]

Appelbaum has been detained at airports and had his electronic equipment seized several times.[69][70][71][72] In 2010, the US Department of Justice obtained a court order compelling Twitter to provide data associated with the user accounts of Appelbaum, as well as several other individuals associated with Wikileaks. While the order was originally sealed, Twitter successfully petitioned the court to unseal it, permitting the company to inform its users that their account information had been requested.[12][73]

Personal life[edit]

Appelbaum is an atheist[74] of Jewish background and identifies himself as queer, "though he refers to at least a dozen female lovers in nearly as many countries".[4] He also is an anarchist[4] and enjoys photography.[75]

He has moved to Berlin, where he has applied for residence authorization; his stated reasons include that he doesn't want to go back to the USA because he doesn't feel safe[76] and that privacy protections are better in Germany than in the US. In December 2013, Appelbaum said he suspected the U.S. government of breaking into his Berlin apartment.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tor Project: Core People". Tor. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Jacob Appelbaum on Twitter". 
  3. ^ "Noisebridge user page". Noisebridge. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Rich, Nathaniel (1 December 2010). "The American Wikileaks Hacker". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 July 2014. An anarchist street kid raised by a heroin- addict father, he dropped out of high school, taught himself the intricacies of code and developed a healthy paranoia along the way. 
  5. ^ a b c d Farivar, Cyrus (June 5, 2016). "Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum quits after “sexual mistreatment” allegations". Ars Technica. Conde Nast. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  6. ^ McCullagh, Declan (17 July 2010). "Wikileaks editor skips NYC hacker event". CNET News. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
    McCullagh, Declan (16 July 2010). "Feds look for Wikileaks founder at NYC hacker event". CNET News. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
    Singel, Ryan (19 July 2010). "Wikileaks Reopens for Leakers". Wired. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Poitras, Laura (2015-06-09). "'The Art of Dissent'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-25. 
  8. ^ a b "Snowden ally Appelbaum claims his Berlin apartment was invaded". Deutsche Welle. 21 December 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Spiegel Online: Catálogo Revela os dispositivos de Back Door da NSA - by Jacob Appelbaum- Spiegel Online
  10. ^ Spiegel Online: NSA Secret Toolbox: ANT Unit Offers Spy Gadgets for Every Need - Spiegel Online
  11. ^ a b Spiegel Online: Interactive Graphic: The NSA's Spy Catalog - SPIEGEL ONLINE
  12. ^ a b Democracy Now!: Parte 2: William Binney, Daniel Ellsberg, Jacob Appelbaum falam sobre WikiLeaks e Vigilância | Democracy Now!
  13. ^ April 20, 2012 | Democracy Now!
  14. ^ Democracy Now!: Jacob Appelbaum: Futuristic-Sounding "Radar Wave Devices" Can Help NSA Monitor Your Computer Usage | Democracy Now!
  15. ^ CBS News: NSA can spy on offline computers wirelessly, says security expert - CBS News
  16. ^ LeakSource: NSA’s ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware | LeakSource
  17. ^ Veggie, Deth (6 June 2016). "CULT OF THE DEAD COW Statement on Jacob Appelbaum / ioerror" (Press release). Cult of the Dead Cow. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  18. ^ Hartwell, Lane (10 June 2007). "‘So Who Wants to F**k a Robot?’". Wired.com. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  19. ^ Appelbaum, Jacob (22 June 2004). "Geeks Love Trees, Too". Greenpeace – Weblog. Retrieved 26 January 2011. 
  20. ^ a b Beuth, Patrick (June 5, 2016). "Abuse allegations against Jacob Appelbaum". Die Zeit. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  21. ^ Grauer, Yael (10 June 2016). "Security News You Might Have Missed: Twitter Hacks And Snowden Concerns". Forbes. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  22. ^ a b Holland, Martin (8 June 2016). "Nach Missbrauchsvorwürfen: Cult of the Dead Cow trennt sich von Jacob Appelbaum" [After molestation allegations: Cult of the Dead Cow separates from Jacob Appelbaum]. heise online (in German). Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  23. ^ a b Trevor, Timm. "Statement on Jacob Appelbaum". Freedom of the Press Foundation. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  24. ^ Turton, William. "Jacob Appelbaum Has Allegedly Engaged in Sexual Misconduct for Over a Decade". Gizmodo. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  25. ^ a b Cameron, Dell; Larson, Selena (2016-06-15). "2 more people publicly allege sexual misconduct by Jacob Appelbaum". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 
  26. ^ "Noisebridge Statement on Jacob Appelbaum". Noisebridge Blog. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  27. ^ a b Turton, William (2016-06-17). "Jacob Appelbaum Banned From Prominent Hacker Conference Following Sexual Assault Allegations". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  28. ^ Alphonso, Don (13 June 2016). "Aktivistinnen rufen zum Ende der Hetzjagd gegen Appelbaum auf" [Women activists call for an end to the witch-hunt against Jacob Appelbaum]. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  29. ^ Riegel, Tobias (13 June 2016). "Die Presse und der Pranger" [The press and the pillory]. neues deutschland (in German). Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  30. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20110219135907/http://crypto.nsa.org/f-21/blogger-in-the-lions-den.html
  31. ^ "NOME presents Jacob Appelbaum’s first solo show". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  32. ^ monochrom.at: retrieved June 2016
  33. ^ "Assange 'The World Tomorrow' — Ep 8: Cypherpunks Part 1". Digitaljournal.com. 2012-06-05. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  34. ^ "Assange Episode 8: Cypherpunks, stumbling block in the way of total surveillance — RT News". Rt.com. 2012-06-05. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  35. ^ "Interview uncut: Jacob Appelbaum | The Verge Forums". Theverge.com. 2013-03-11. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  36. ^ Detlef Borchers (2013-07-23). "Whistleblower-Preis für Edward Snowden". Heise online. Archived from the original on 2013-07-25. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  37. ^ Edward Snowden: Die Wahrheit auszusprechen, hat Whistleblower ihre Freiheit gekostet - the acceptance speech in English and German, Die Zeit, 3. September 2013
  38. ^ NSA Hearing European Parliament, 5 Sept 2013
  39. ^ Snowden ally Appelbaum claims his Berlin apartment was invaded, Deutsche Welle, 21 December 2013.
  40. ^ Trevor, Timm (2016-06-08). "Statement on Jacob Appelbaum". Freedom of the Press Foundation. Retrieved 2016-06-08. 
  41. ^ "22nd Chaos Communication Congress: Jacob Appelbaum". Untrusted connection. 
  42. ^ "Unlocking FileVault: An analysis of Apple's encrypted disk storage system". Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  43. ^ Jade, Charles (December 2006). "FileVault or VileFault?". Ars Technica. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  44. ^ Markoff, John (22 February 2008). "Researchers Find Way to Steal Encrypted Data". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  45. ^ J. Alex Halderman, Seth D. Schoen, Captain Sassypants, William Clarkson, William Paul, Joseph A. Calandrino, Ariel J. Feldman, Jacob Appelbaum, and Edward W. Felten (21 February 2008). "Lest We Remember: Cold Boot Attacks on Encryption Keys". Princeton University. Retrieved 22 February 2008. 
  46. ^ Krebs, Brian (30 December 2008). "Researchers Hack Internet Security Infrastructure". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  47. ^ McCullagh, Declan (30 July 2009). "Hackers: We can bypass San Francisco e-parking meters". CNET News. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  48. ^ https://nm.debian.org/public/person/error
  49. ^ Greenberg, Andy (6 June 2016). "Tor Developer Jacob Appelbaum Resigns Amid Sex Abuse Claims". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 19 June 2016. 
  50. ^ a b Bernstein, Joseph (10 June 2016). "Sources: Tor Project Board Knew Of Allegations Against Jacob Appelbaum For Over A Year". BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed Inc. Retrieved 19 June 2016. 
  51. ^ a b Gierow, Hauke (8 June 2016). "Appelbaum wurde bereits 2015 von Tor suspendiert". Golem.de (in German). Retrieved 19 June 2016. 
  52. ^ "Jacob Appelbaum leaves the Tor Project". The Tor Project, Inc. 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-06-04. 
  53. ^ Smith, Jack, IV (2016-06-04). "Jacob Appelbaum, Digital Rights Activist, Leaves Tor Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations". Tech.Mic. Retrieved 2016-06-05. 
  54. ^ Steele, Shari (2016-06-04). "Statement". The Tor Project, Inc. Retrieved 2016-06-05. 
  55. ^ Cimpanu, Catalin (2016-06-06). "Jacob Appelbaum Leaves Tor Project amid Multiple "Sexual Misconduct" Accusations: Tor Project leadership distances itself from Appelbaum as the "sexual misconduct" accusations gain more ground". Softpedia. Retrieved 2016-06-05. 
  56. ^ Turton, William (2016-06-07). "Eyewitnesses Recount Tor Developer Jacob Appelbaum’s Unwanted Sexual Advances". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2016-06-09. 
  57. ^ Larson, Selena (7 June 2016). "Security engineer goes public about Appelbaum: ‘I felt afraid and violated’". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  58. ^ Cameron, Dell; Larson, Selena (2016-06-15). "2 more people publicly allege sexual misconduct by Jacob Appelbaum". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 
  59. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (6 June 2016). "Breaking silence, ex-Tor developer decries “vicious and spurious allegations”". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  60. ^ "Jacob Appelbaum Suspension". fearlessblogging.com. 7 June 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2016. 
  61. ^ "Tor/Appelbaum Separation Agreement" (PDF). Cryptome. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2016. 
  62. ^ Grauer, Yael (10 June 2016). "Security News You Might Have Missed: Twitter Hacks And Snowden Concerns". Forbes. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  63. ^ Turton, William. "Jacob Appelbaum Has Allegedly Engaged in Sexual Misconduct for Over a Decade". Gizmodo. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  64. ^ "Noisebridge Statement on Jacob Appelbaum". Noisebridge Blog. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  65. ^ Kaul, Martin (12 June 2016). "Tage der Abrechnung" [Day of Reckoning]. Die Tageszeitung (in German). Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  66. ^ Winterbauer, Stefan (13 June 2016). "Jacob Appelbaum und Gina-Lisa Lohfink: Sex als Ware und Waffe im Netz und in den Medien" [Jacob Appelbaum and Gina-Lisa Lohfink: Sex as a commodity and weapon on the net and in the media]. Meedia (in German). Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  67. ^ Alphonso, Don (13 June 2016). "Aktivistinnen rufen zum Ende der Hetzjagd gegen Appelbaum auf" [Women activists call for an end to the witch-hunt against Jacob Appelbaum]. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  68. ^ Riegel, Tobias (13 June 2016). "Die Presse und der Pranger" [The press and the pillory]. neues deutschland (in German). Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  69. ^ Democracy Now!: "We Don’t Live in a Free Country": Jacob Appelbaum on Being Target of Widespread Gov’t Surveillance | Democracy Now!
  70. ^ Mills, Elinor (31 July 2010). "Researcher detained at US border, questioned about Wikileaks". CNET News. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  71. ^ Jardin, Xeni (12 January 2011). "Wikileaks volunteer detained and searched (again) by US agents". Boing Boing. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  72. ^ Fontain, Paul (27 October 2011). "Jacob Appelbaum Detained At Keflavík Airport". Grapevine. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  73. ^ McCullagh, Declan (7 January 2011). "DOJ sends order to Twitter for Wikileaks-related account info". CNET News. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  74. ^ "Jacob Appelbaum (Part 1/2) Digital Anti-Repression Workshop - April 26, 2012". Retrieved 28 June 2013. Like, for me, as an atheist, bisexual, Jew, I'm gonna go on, uh - oh and Emma Goldman is one of my great heroes and I really think that anarchism is a fantastic principle by which to fashion a utopian society even if we can't get there. 
  75. ^ "Jacob Appelbaum". The World Justice Project. Retrieved June 6, 2014. 
  76. ^ https://gnunet.org/tor2013tum-video video of a talk at the TU Munich from 24. Juli 2013 (statement at approx. 0:05:00)

External links[edit]