David E. Sanger, a countrywide security correspondent, recounts his gear from the computers in use while he joined The Times in 1982 to his overloaded backpack now. How do New York Times journalists use the technology of their jobs and of their private lives? David E. Sanger, a countrywide security correspondent based totally in Washington, discussed the tech he’s the use of.
You previously have been bureau chief for The Times in Japan, considered one of your many jobs for the newspaper. When you arrived in Tokyo within the past due 1980s, what tech have been you ready with?
In retrospect, nothing very remarkable. Our “transportable” computer systems weighed approximately similar to an electric typewriter, had a tiny cathode-ray tube display that showed a paragraph or at most and stored testimonies on magnetic bubble reminiscence, which in the Nineteen Eighties turned into supposed to update difficult drives.
Needless to mention, it changed into a generation whose time never arrived. Oh, and the laptop had two black rubber cups at the top. You positioned the handset of a difficult-line cellphone into them and dialed up a pc in New York to transmit at the astoundingly slow speed of 300 bits in step with 2nd. Half the time we had to give up and get in touch with the dictation room, where someone might find out the tale that you study to them.
When we gave up on bubble reminiscence computer systems and moved to the first laptops, I sent a notice to New York asking what to do with these dinosaurs. The answer I got lower back became: Your office seems out over Tokyo Bay. Figure it out.
So today the era is a lot quicker, however perhaps not lots greater dependable. What’s the worst tech failure you’ve suffered?
Naturally, matters die when time limits are tightest. There changed into the time I become dashing off the lower back stairs of Air Force One within the Middle East with an open pc, story half of-written and past due to the enhancing desk, and managed to drop my computer 20 feet on the tarmac. (Not suitable.) I’ve had modems die in Egypt and the blue display screen of loss of life crawl throughout my pc in India. Power supplies don’t like variable modern-day — I’ve melted my share.
This has all made me focus intently on what NASA calls “undertaking-critical additives.” If you can’t record your story — or report video, or connect up with “The Daily’’ — you may as nicely now not be there.
So I travel with a laptop and a backup iPad with a keyboard, so there may be continually a manner to put in writing. I take two phones — and booster battery packs. I bring an AT&T transportable hot spot, and nonetheless, I’ve had to fall lower back at times on the integrated Wi-Fi hot spot on my iPhone. Oh, and a Logitech digicam that permits me to do TV hits over a Skype connection without the usage of the integrated pinhole digital camera in the laptop.
So my backpack weighs lots — and my wife and our sons suppose wearing it everywhere is faintly ridiculous. Until they run out of cellphone strength.
You’d assume that a belt-and-suspenders approach could cover everything. It doesn’t. In Hanoi, Vietnam, this 12 months for a summit assembly among President Trump and Kim Jong-un, we were, as my colleague Edward Wong placed it, “comms cursed.”
Lots of factors failed. It didn’t help that I changed into staying within the Metropole inn, where the meeting was being held, and safety personnel included the foyer with a mobile phone suppression era that maintains terrorists from detonating bombs remotely. Turns out it also keeps reporters from updating their stories at the internet.
You posted your third e-book, “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age,” final yr. It’s a geopolitical take a look at how nations are the usage of cyberweapons, and not only for espionage. Ever been a goal?
I’m afraid that if you are in my line of work — writing about the intersection of technology, spying, cybersabotage, and countrywide energy — you appeal to attention from intelligence services.
In Beijing in 2017 with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, I made the mistake of looking up something about the Tiananmen Square bloodbath from my lodge room, over a portable hot spot. Big mistake. The hot spot stopped working. I couldn’t revive it in Japan, or again at home. We later determined that Chinese intelligence had fried the firmware.
A few years ago I began seeing that big pink banner over my email account that declared: “We have detected a nation-backed attacker in search of to obtain your facts.” That may be everyone: Russians who didn’t like our investigations into the 2016 presidential election and next hacks; Chinese People’s Liberation Army officials who didn’t take care of our paintings exposing Unit 61398, which stole intellectual assets; North Koreans who didn’t like our insurance of the Sony hack, the Bangladeshi crucial financial institution cyberheist or the cyber attacks on their missiles.
And I’ve survived enough F.B.I. Leak investigations to come to be mildly paranoid approximately our very own authorities.
So what do you operate to defend your self?
There is not any everlasting technological technique to hacking, information manipulation and, quickly, deep fakes — like weather alternate, this is a hassle we must manage. Ultimately, we will need a combination of technology, political agreements and retaliatory responses that establish that attacks are not cost-unfastened.
That said, I’m a large fan of Google’s Advanced Protection program. It makes use of a combination of a key that suits in a USB slot (with a button that needs to be pressed) and a Bluetooth dongle, each registered for your pc or cellphone. Try to get admission to a person’s debts on a computer without that hardware present and you don’t get in.
If you had been cyber king for an afternoon, what mandates might you difficulty?
First, I’d ban the use of any voting machine that doesn’t rely upon a hand-marked paper poll, so there’s something to be counted later. I’d require encryption for all personal facts that you are asked flip over, together with when I had my passport to an inn clerk. (Hear that, Marriott? It’s time.)
And I’d make it unlawful to have Social Security numbers used as an identifier on any digital report, website, app or password combination. It’s the one quantity to your existence you honestly can not change, without an extremely good attempt. It became by no means supposed for use as a secure identifier. So let’s not try.
What favorite cool generation do you constantly take with you?
Sanity-maintenance devices that reduce me off from the arena, from editors and from the lawsuits of presidents, secretaries of the country and national security officers. The three maximum vital: Bose noise-canceling headphones, small shortwave radio and a seven-piece, four-weight fly rod that breaks all the way down to healthy in a tube under a foot long.
When the climate warms up, I deliver the rod in that overloaded backpack at the side of a reel and a box of flies. No batteries required. I’ve been acknowledged to sneak out of resorts in early-morning hours to cast into rivers, harbors, ponds, you call it. I don’t even care if nothing’s biting — the casting is healing.
Don’t inform the bosses, O.K.?