A Predator of Information

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.

From the Ashes of Disaster

3 January 2017 1:46 AM (life)

Once upon a time, I went to Minnesota to be cured of the dreaded butt pneumonia. I organized my trip quite thoroughly, much more so than I organize most things. I planned in advance, arranged all my travel, and didn't put off packing until just before I had to leave.

This was a mistake. When I arranged my trip to the airport, I somehow scheduled my ride at the same time I needed to get there. I didn't realize this until a few minutes before the car arrived. I felt woe and sadness and a bit of fear that I might miss my flight.

I had made my margin for error so wide that I arrived at the airport fifty minutes before my departure. I thought I was home free. I'd check in, go through security, and be on my way.

The TSA had other ideas. Only one scanner was running, the line seemed almost completely unwilling to move, and by the time I finally got through, I heard them calling me to get on my flight because they were about to shut the door.

I put my shoes on, grabbed my bag, and ran as fast as I could toward my gate. I almost missed it, but a gate agent shouted at me, “Hey! You look like you're running to catch a flight! …is it this one?” I looked and saw that I had almost gone right past my gate. I hopped into the airplane (I am rather taller in person than most people expect, and this was a short-haul commuter jet. Standing in the jetway ready to board, I was taller than the plane. Getting on board I had to crouch over and shimmy down the aisle. I felt like Gandalf entering Bag End.) We took off, landed shortly thereafter, and I got out for my layover in Chicago.

I reached into my bag to pull out my laptop and found a distinct lack of laptop. It hit me. I had taken my laptop out of my bag at the TSA checkpoint, and not put it back in before grabbing my bag and running.

I was sorely vexed. And…well, I didn't curse, unless you count “Arrrgrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” I looked up the lost and found and discovered that Detroit International Airport is blessed with four lost and found departments.

  1. If you lose something in the airport generally, you call the Airport Police.
  2. If you lose something in a security checkpoint, you call the TSA.
  3. If you lose something on a plane or at a gate, you call the airline.
  4. If you lose something on the ground transportation level or in a car, you call ground transportation.
I filed a report with both the Airport Police and the TSA, then figured I'd file one with the airline just on the off chance I had grabbed my laptop but left it on the plane. They said to expect a three day turnaround, so I lay back and took my flight to Minnesota.

It was about then I was glad that I had, as part of my sudden bout of preparedness, printed out copies of all the documents related to my trip and my appointment. I went to the clinic and the day progressed almost without incident. Almost. They decided to add one extra test, meaning that I would not actually have my last visit of the day when I thought I would. I was a bit distraught since I had scheduled my flight out that evening and there wasn't much room for error.

They stuck me in a waiting room, and the doctor walked into the room by accident. I wasn't scheduled for another forty-five minutes and he meant to see a different patient. He decided to examine me since he was there anyway, and I got out in time to catch my ride and take the flight home.

The Airport Police, the Airline, and the TSA all called to tell me they didn't have my laptop, and so I set about buying a new one. A few days later my phone woke me up at six in the morning with a call from the airport police. Someone had just turned in a laptop that printed the exact password prompt I had described when it was turned on.

I went straight out to pick it up, but the whole event got me thinking of evil maid attacks. I thought that I should really defend more against them. I didn't suspect foul play, but it got my mind on the subject and I figured it couldn't hurt to set up SecureBoot properly and maybe involve the TPM in my full disk encryption.

That evening, I plugged a USB thumb drive into my desktop to write a rescue image, then rebooted. The rescue OS came up. I wondered if my boot order was screwy, so I pulled the USB thumb drive out booted again.

The rescue image came up.


I realized that I had made a typo when writing the rescue image and overwritten my hard drive. A quick check realized that the rescue image was long enough to slam straight through the both the EFI System and /boot partitions and blast the key block into oblivion.

Whimper indeed.

I reinstalled my system and discovered that my backups were three years old. Fortunately, several of my friends sent me back things I'd sent them (I'm pretty promiscuous with information) or that they had archived on their own, and I had swnc my password store and keys onto my laptop before traveling. (Losing my password store would have been particularly unfortunate.)

I got my mail up and running first, then my XMPP server. It took me awhile to get this website up and running partly because I thought I should rewrite part of the server software before doing so, but since I kept having actual work and other things to do, I just put it up and ran with it.

Here I am.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled posting.

One response

  1. Digital says:

    Welcome back to the land of the Internet-living! Though painful, I'm glad you've recovered, and hopefully backups avoid this in the future.

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