Becoming the Grey Man (and crypto, Snowden redux)

Useful skills in life, partial list: not standing out from the crowd.

Here’s a handy guide… I particularly like their suggestions for “learning to see the grey man” — this is dynamite. You gotta learn to spot what doesn’t draw your attention if you want to stay secure against a crafty adversary.

Here, the exercise is simple. Go into a crowded public area. As people walk by, notice what drew their attention to them, and (IN YOUR MIND ONLY) mock them for it. (Or compliment, if you’re nice; the authors aren’t.) After a while you start noticing people that have nothing about them to mock or compliment.

Those are the people to watch.

“Yes — don’t trust anything you don’t understand still applies to crypto,” Snowden edition. “we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic.”[…] In a WIRED story in March of last year — the pre-Snowden era of NSA reporting — James Bamford reported that the NSA secretly made some sort of “enormous breakthrough” in cryptanalysis several years earlier.”

Also, though Wikileaks didn’t publicly do much to warrant their attention last year, it seems the entire US spy corps scrambled to give it to them anyway… which, frankly, is really odd.

“The agencies had budgeted for a major counterintelligence initiative in fiscal 2012, but most of those resources were diverted to an all-hands emergency response to successive floods of classified data released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.” bb78-10ab-11e3-8cdd-bcdc09410972_story_4.html

“The following exercise was one I developed for the Urban Escape & Evasion class I teach. To learn to see the previously invisible gray man, go to a public area with lots of foot traffic. Sit back and watch the crowd. As a person walks by, notice the stimulus that drew your eye. In your mind (not out loud), create an insult about that person’s stimulus. The more outlandish the better. Before you all get offended here, the purpose is to pound into your consciousness the stimulus – what you notice about each person. “That guy has a huge nose.” “That guy has completely bizarre taste in shoes” “Do they sell men’s clothes where he bought those pants?” “Wow. That almost looks like he got dressed in the dark.” Remember your purpose is to identify the stimulus.

Then after a few minutes, someone will walk by and you will not find anything. Nothing to make fun of, nothing to ridicule. Pay attention to that person. Observe them carefully. See how they move, what kind of energy they project. See how they interact with others, what they pay attention to (or not). If possible follow them for a bit. Observe them move. I am sure from having done this myself, and observing as classes do this that the key to becoming a gray man lies in your ability to observe and mimic.”

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