Prince Andrew Can’t Avoid His Day in Court, a Judge Rules

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You first wrote about this scam a year ago. When did the phishing start?

I learned about it sometime in 2020, but the scam had been going on for years already at that point. According to the indictment, it’s been going on for at least five years.

How did you hear about it?

From a source. Somebody called me who works in publishing and basically said, “The weirdest thing is happening. People are being hacked, but nothing ever happens.”

What I thought was, let me call someone who knows about hacking, that’s what I thought. I called Nicole Perlroth, who covers cybersecurity. I had known Nicole for years. And so we worked on it together.

What books were targeted? What publishing houses? Was there any apparent rhyme or reason?

Everybody was targeted — really famous novelists like Margaret Atwood, celebrities like Ethan Hawke and things like debut short story collections which would have no monetary value on the dark web.

Why would someone do this? It seems like a lot of effort for no apparent payoff.

No one really knows the answer. The prosecutors theorize that maybe he was doing it to steal ideas he could pass off as his own, but that doesn’t really make sense. Publishing a book takes time. If he were to rip off somebody’s idea, by the time whatever he wrote came out, the original already would have been published.

Some other possible explanations make more sense, like he did it to get a leg up at work by showing himself to be really in the know, but this was a really extreme level of in the know. And, working where he worked, for most manuscripts he could call someone up and just ask for one.

For all that, though, wasn’t it a relatively low-tech scam?

Even if technologically it’s not that complicated to create a new domain or set up a fake email address, you have to write all the emails and know the people you are targeting. He was deliberate about impersonating — he was careful to sound like the person he was claiming to be when he was talking to a particular author or a particular editor. This clearly required some research and time. Every little request was tailored for what he was looking for.



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