What was on bin Laden's computer?

People gather outside Osama Bin Laden's compound, where he was killed during a raid by U.S. special forces, May 3, 2011 in Abottabad, Pakistan.

Navy SEALs say they captured five computers, 10 hard drives and possibly hundreds of USB thumb drives in the raid that killed bin Laden. According to almost all reports, the compound was not hooked up to any kind of Internet connection, so the information contained on these drives could be incredibly valuable in the ongoing fight against al-Qaida.

We speak with Declan McCullagh, senior political correspondent at CNET.com, about what happens to all that equipment from here. Declan says the group that studies recovered gear is kept pretty top secret -- they don't have a website, they won't publicly say what they're up to.

He says the pertinent information may or may not be retrievable. A simple password block is easy to get around but if the information is encrypted, the challenge in reading it may be greater. Pentagon data sleuths can get through a lot of encryption, says Declan, but if al-Qaida was working with sophisticated, up-to-date software, it may prove impenetrable.

Also in this program, we speak with Dr. Audrey Girouard, a postdoctoral fellow at Queen's University Human Media Lab. She's one of the developers of the PaperPhone, a new microcomputer that's about as big as a smartphone but as thick as a piece of paper. You operate it by bending it and folding it.

Imagine a world where a computer and full-display screen is as thick as a piece of paper and it's floppy. That world is on the way.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.


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