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Worst summer of my life, Part 2 -- Robbery. - Alex Belits
Worst summer of my life, Part 2 -- Robbery.
On July 3 I have returned to San Francisco from an interview in Palo Alto, and before going back to Dmitry's (dk379) home where I was living at the time, I went to Sugarlump cafe, and was working there on something while drinking coffee until closing at 10pm. The place is on a busy 24th street in a safer part of Mission, so I didn't expect any problems. After 10pm I was on my way home -- west on 24th, then north on Harrison. 24th is full of stores, bars, cafes and other places that close late, so there were still people everywhere on 24th, however Harrison was rather empty. I didn't see it as a problem, Harrison crosses plenty of streets with a lot of traffic, cyclists and pedestrians everywhere. I was walking on the Eastern side of Harrison somewhere near the intersection with 23rd or 22nd, talking with Dmitry on a celphone.

Suddenly someone jumped at me from behind, pushed me, and started stabbing my right leg with a knife. I fell on the ground, attacker was on top of me, trying to get my laptop bag. Despite the fact that I obviously couldn't offer much resistance, and laptop bag can be easily unlatched from the strap, someone was still continuing stabbing me in the arm. I think, there were two attackers, however I didn't see their faces -- after getting laptop, camera, celphone and Zaurus PDA (celphone and Zaurus were attached to my belt, camera hanging on the laptop strap) they ran off while I was still on the ground holding my wounded arm while searching for my glasses.

Some woman was cycling nearby, noticed me and called 911. I managed to stand up, still holding my arm, trying to reduce bleeding abd keep wounds closed. There were six shallow but large wounds in my right arm, later I came to conclusion that they were made by a box cutter -- too shallow for any kind of regular knife, however most of them had exactly the same length, but way too long for a sharpened screwdriver, some longer as if the attacker stabbed the same place multiple times or moved the knife while it was in.

Ambulance and police arrived, and taken me to San Francisco General Hospital on Potrero. In emergency room they have cleaned the wounds, put stitches on the wounds on my arm, bandages on all wounds, gave me tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection. They checked my arms and legs, and found no serious damage -- large blood vessels, nerves and ligaments were all in place. Dmitry arrived at the hospital, and while I was waiting to be released, I was talking to him, explaining that I am ok, and I am mostly pissed at robbers for being unbelievable dumbasses, who chosen the least effective way to perform their, already not exactly intelligent actions.

Of all things they took, only camera was in any way usable for anyone but myself. Camera was an old 3.1MP Kodak DX3900 that I used to take pictures I have posted before. Zaurus SL-5500 PDA had custom firmware and needed a 5V power to remain usable after the battery will run out. Celphone was LG VX8100, locked to Verizon. Laptop, the only expensive part of their loot, had Ubuntu 6.04 (Feisty) installed on it, with Russian set as the default language and my picture by iskra_chan (same as my userpic) on the login screen. Its expensiveness was also pretty dubious considering that I have bought it scratched to Hell, and had to completely re-paint it. Robbers could snatch more expensive cameras from tourists with much less of a risk.

Dmitry taken his car to drive me home, next day went to the pharmacy to get bandages, ointment and antibiotics, and I taken over his Mac Mini to remove the laptop's keys from my servers, so laptop will not be able to get back on VPN. Igor gave me replacement phone and Zaurus (SL-6000L, two generations after the stolen one), Jon (j_b) sent me a new laptop -- everyone was very helpful in minimizing the time it taken for me to get back to my attempts to achieve something useful.

Then Dmitry got a phone call. Some woman wanted to return the laptop. The only place she could get Dmitry's phone number was my celphone, it was the last call in the history. The phone was already disabled, and my account was moved to the phone Igor gave to me, however that does not prevent call history from being seen, it's stored on the phone. She claimed that she found it, however it was pretty obvious that robbers sold or gave her the laptop and phone. And a laptop that on boot shows a single word "ubuntu" with a growing progress bar, then displays a login screen in Russian, with the above mentioned userpic for the only user in the list apparently looked extremely uninviting.

Dmitry arranged a meeting in a coffee shop, I went there, too, sitting in the back, with Zaurus connected to the Internet, ssh'ed to my server, running alpine with Igor's address filled in "To:" field, and address of the place in the body of the message, just in case something will go wrong. Someone more paranoid would probably call Igor, or schedule email about all things going horribly wrong to be sent unless cancelled, however I thought that no matter what kind of evil scheme it can possibly be, it would be reasonable to expect that I will have enough time to press Ctrl-X Y before starting to hurl chairs at people. The woman arrived outside of the shop, and to my amazement returned the laptop and a bag. Some documents including my social security card were missing from the bag, fabric was soaked with blood, plastic was turn and scratched, however laptop was just fine.

Being a sysadmin, I can't just go and login to my laptop that was in obviously hostile hands, and was returned under suspicious circumstances. I have booted the laptop from Ubuntu live CD, looked for possible changes but found no signs of tampering. I have copied the home directory to Mac Mini and new laptop, removed everything executable and did not reuse any dot files. I have found backups of my address books from my phone and Zaurus, and after installing them, I have returned all my personal devices back to the state before the robbery. Except the camera, I am going to buy a better one soon.
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From: jigenm4c Date: October 15th, 2007 06:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I guess the only thing I would have been concerned about - aside from the fact that the lady was probably in on it - was that your social security card was taken. This means that the robbers could use your name and SSN in ways to involve you with identity theft. Hopefully these guys who attacked you were too stupid to do that, or even realize it.
abelits From: abelits Date: October 15th, 2007 08:09 am (UTC) (Link)
It's possible, however considering how often SSNs are improperly used and insecurely stored, it's not significantly different from before the robbery.
j_b From: j_b Date: October 15th, 2007 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)
as before, glad you made it OK
From: nickhalfasleep Date: October 15th, 2007 08:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad to hear you're recuperating well. Carry something nobody wants in SFO, like an ipod two generations too old.
dk379 From: dk379 Date: October 15th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
you must have never been to SF (pardon my improper use of tenses.)
they would steal anything that plugs into power. it's all free money.
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