One year anniversary of Dutch cyber security expert's disappearance in Norway

Arjen Kamphuis
Arjen KamphuisPhoto: Politie

One year ago today was the last confirmed sighting of Dutch cyber security expert Arjen Kamphuis. The Dutch man disappeared during a kayaking vacation in Norway. A year later, what became of him is still a mystery.

Kamphuis is something of a celebrity in the cyber security world. He is considered an authority on cyber security and espionage. His book Information Security for Journalists is one of the most comprehensive manuals for journalists on how to protect themselves online, according to RTL Nieuws. He also gave a TEDx talk on defending yourself online, which has been watched thousands of times on YouTube.

Kamphuis suddenly disappeared on August 20th, 2018. He was last seen checking out of his hotel in Bodo in the north of Norway. Ten days after his disappearance, his cell phone unexpectedly made contact with radio towers in southern Norway, near the town of Vikesa. His phone was active for 20 minutes, after which the SIM card was removed and a German SIM was placed in the device. Three weeks after his disappearance, his kayak, his identity card, and other personal items were found in a fjord near  Mount Kvænflåget, north of Rognan. Witnesses reported seeing Kamphuis in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Norway, but none of these sightings could be confirmed.

In December last year, four months after his disappearance, friends told newspaper AD that they think Kamphuis is still alive and may have gone into hiding on his own accord. He had done that before. "We take into account that Arjen might have been in a mental emergency", Ancilla van de Leest said to the newspaper, speaking on behalf of the missing man's friends and family. "His stressful life, combined with high intelligence and sitting on your own for weeks, could lead to that." Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower and a colleague of Kamphuis, believes the same. "There are indications for the scenario that Arjen wanted to disappear from the radar himself."

The police think that one of three things happened to Kamphuis - he was involved in an accident, he fell victim to a crime, or he went into hiding himself. A year later, there is still no sign of the man. Good friend Van de Leest can add little. "In consultation with friends and family, we really only want to say that we still miss Arjen immensely", she said to RTL Nieuws. 

The cyber security expert's disappearance gave rise to a number of conspiracy theories shared online. Some speculated that he was abducted by a secret service, others wondered whether he was on the brink of unveiling a major scandal, according to the broadcaster. There were also reports that he stowed away on a cargo ship in an attempt to disappear. 

In an interview with RTL Nieuws last year, Van de Leest called it "not weird" that Kamphuis' disappearance prompted conspiracy theories. "Arjen is an outspoken person and never afraid to offend people with his work." She described Kamphuis as "one of the good guys". "He is always willing to help people."