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Jackal novelist blames NSA for wife's laptop hack

Barking tale of West African cyber-snoop told to Beeb

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Novelist Frederick Forsyth has accused heavy handed US cyber-spies of destroying his wife's computer in an attempt to tap into copy he was filling for the Daily Express from West Africa.

The author of The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File made the bizarre claim during an recent interview with BBC TV programme Hardtalk. Forsyth told the programme that he arrived in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau to research an upcoming novel to find the country in the middle of a coup, following the assassination of an army chief.

Forsyth wrote a story on the unfolding events for the Daily Express, a UK tabloid paper for which he writes an occasional column, and began to dictate his copy over the telephone to London before computer disaster struck. The novelist reckons that US spooks not only listened into his conversation but hacked into his wife's laptop, incompetently drawing attention to their nefarious activities by totalling the machine.

Unfortunately, the American intelligence services listened to it and wasted my wife's computer screen and totalled all her lunch dates... Everything up there in the ether is intercepted, probably by the National Security Agency at Fort Meade in Maryland, and I think my report ended up somewhere on a desk at Fort Meade.

Forsyth went on to say that he had "friends in low places" who confirmed his suspicions that his spouse's PC was the target of a remote attack. A pre-existing malware infection seems far more likely, as security consultant Graham Cluley of Sophos points out.

The idea that the NSA might be listening into international telephones calls from a country in the middle of a coup seems more than likely, but the remote blow-up yarn is wildly implausible. Perhaps Forsyth was retelling a story he'd earlier used to placate his wife for a damaged machine or to explain the tardiness or non-arrival of his copy.

UK readers can see Forsyth's Hardtalk via the BBC's iPlayer here. ®

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