Dumb Cyber Criminals and Thugs

One of the big problems with the internet is that people seem to think they can get away with anything.   This perception of anonymity causes problems in all sorts of areas and it seems to be getting worse.  In the UK this week a group of politicians were all threatened with violence online because they voted a certain way in Parliament.    People seem to think that it’s ok to throw threats around online,  their perception I presume is that they’re anonymous and so can say what they want without consequence.   I presume it’s the same with the many youngsters who think they can try and hack into the Pentagon or try and steal files from the FBI file repository.

It’s not true!  As these people always find out, just because you’re sitting in a back bedroom of a semi-detached in Brixton does not make you difficult to find.  In fact if you want to increase your level of anonymity by thousand simply go and find a local coffee shop and login from there.   The reality is that internet and email forensics can locate most people very easily unless they take advanced precautions.  What’s more you have to constantly cover your tracks because clues can be used to locate someone many months or years after an incident takes place.  The internet exists on a huge network of shared hardware of which no-one has direct control.  There are logs and traces stored on loads of these devices, leading back to your exact location or identity.

Of course, this is why it can be tricky deciding on what’s best.  After all we all deserve a certain level of privacy when we’re online but this is so often abused.  Why should any society tolerate death threats and other digital bullying?  For most people this is of course not a real issue, we can have the best of both worlds.  First of all there are a range of security products which are available relatively cheaply which can give you some anonymity.  Take this post for example which illustrates an online IP changer that not only encrypts your internet connection but switches your IP address every few minutes.  All the servers which you connect to have no logging enabled so pretty much all your internet activity is completely anonymous.

Can you be traced using this method?  Well it’s very difficult just based on this information however for those involved in illicit hacking or threatening behaviour online it’s much harder.  For example you’ll leave all sorts of traces if you use email or messaging systems, any of these will have meta data which could lead back to your directly.  Certainly your communication can’t be intercepted if it’s encrypted using a VPN  but email and messaging accounts can be broken into either legally or via backdoor methods.   Nothing is totally secure, and there’s often ways to circumvent even the stiffest security.  Do you remember a few months ago, about the CIA trying to break into an iPhone of a suspected criminal.  The legal threats and recriminations, and yet over the last few weeks there’s several published ways to bypass the iPhone security – these all work for instance.

The balance though is fairly straightforward.  If you’re concerned about privacy and are not doing anything illegal online then a VPN service will protect you from intrusion.    If you are engaged in cyber crime, illicit hacking or cyber bullying then you need to be very careful indeed a BBC VPN in itself will not be enough.