When your trusted friends take the side of a charming psychopath and gang up against you

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Wow, this is a very sad and shocking story:

Because the last thing anyone needs is to be targeted by Jake Appelbaum, I purged everything this person and sent and refused to hand over anything on privacy grounds. I explained what my reasoning was for doing what I did, was chastised further, let it go and considered the matter over.

But really, I thought, why would Jake be so defensive about some random LT that might have otherwise gone completely unnoticed? If I were a government operative hell-bent on destroying the global hacker community, what would I do differently from what Jake is doing now?

Once I arrived at the 30c3, not more than 10 minutes went by before Jake himself comes and accosts me, warning “there will be severe consequences” unless I hand over everything this person sent. I told him that I no longer had the records he sought, but that simply wasn’t good enough. Without warning, several times each day throughout the 30c3, Jake or one of his proxies would find me say the same thing. Each time, no matter who I was with or how long they had known me, I was made out to be the one “causing drama”, bringing down the good feelings whatever group I happened to be around.

Every night, I came back to my hotel room, a typewritten note on my pillow stating, “Don’t make us use extreme measures. Hand it all over.”

I tried to reach out to people I thought I could trust. I tried to tell them what was going on. I tried showing them. I told Jake very calmly when he approached that he needed to stop harassing me. Everyone I talked to told me to just give him what he wanted, to “dialogue” with him to “find a solution” and to “stop creating drama”.

You can’t dialogue with a sociopath. What’s worse is when people you consider your trusted friends take the sociopath’s side.

At that point, I was rather well known, I had earned a pretty good deal of social capital, thousands of Twitter followers from Europe and the confidence that people knew me and trusted me. But none of that mattered, Jake was a rockstar whose followers went to great lengths to make me feel unsafe and unwelcome in the very place I felt most at home in the entire world.

By the last night of the 30c3, after one last ditch effort to get Jake and his cronies off my back was rebuffed, it got to be too much. I physically could not take it anymore, handed in my badges and phone and left with no intention of returning. It was only with a lot of support from 3 friends, one of whom was another victim of his abuse that I was able to fulfill my commitment to show up for the last day of the LTs.

After breaking my back the following August, my doctors had cleared me to travel internationally by the time the 31c3 was coming around. When it came time to actually figure out the logistics, my body shut down. While there was a lot physically wrong with me, the doctors told me that what ailed me was very likely stress-related. I had long since repressed why this was happening, chalked it up to my pain medication, really anything other than what I had experienced on account of Jake. But in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense why I physically couldn’t bring myself to go. One measure of the support I enjoyed and recognition of my work was the hundreds of postcards I received from well-wishers at the 31c3, cards I still cherish today.

But even with the encouragement of hundreds in my hands, I couldn’t physically bring myself to go to the 2015 Camp. I tweeted about a “diagnosis” to avoid “creating drama” but the truth of the matter was by that point, the damage was done. Jake destroyed those events for me, and I didn’t even consciously realize it until I started writing out this story. Ironically, I feel safe thinking and writing about this only after seeing others come forward with their stories of what Jake did to them.