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Surf Incognito – Hide your IP Address

Anyone who thinks they’re anonymous online is of course sadly mistaken.  Indeed unless you take some significant steps then finding anyone online is relatively simple.  Think for example of the latest UK scandal where a number of politicians where sent violent messages and death threats after voting a particular way.

These threats came in variety of ways, Tweets, emails and messages sent through to the constituency accounts.  These angry people probably felt that all they had to do is use an account without their name and they could send this stuff without repercussions.  Fortunately for them, they were completely wrong as  it’s actually not that difficult to trace the senders location and identity.  For the police with access to logs it’s even simpler, it’s important to remember that anything you do online is traceable back to the computer your sitting on.

We see it all the time, hundreds of hackers, cyber criminals often just young kids.  In the news last night there was the story of a  teenage ‘computer expert’ from Stockport called Jack Chappell facing jail after carrying out a string of DDOS attacks.   It’s sad to see young lives wrecked like this, yet unfortunately you don’t need to be a computer expert to carry out these sort of attacks if you have the right software it’s literally clicking a couple of buttons.  Although they can cause much monetary damage, they are extremely simple attacks designed to overload remote systems.

Jack Chappell was paid something trivial like £1500 for his role, and he was always going to be caught.  As mentioned the attack is easy, the difficult part (and the bit that needs an expert is hiding your tracks).  It’s the same with virtually all computer based crime, mostly it’s very easy to carry out attacks but it’s much, much more difficult to hide your identity while you’re doing it.  Every few months we seem to hear about someone facing trial for hacking into some system for fun or just a challenge. Often it’s simple but to eradicate your tracks as you do this is much more of a technical challenge.

The problem is at the heart of the huge TCP/IP network we call the internet.  To communicate and use you need to register an IP address against  the hardware device you’re using.  This address is unique in the world and will be logged in loads of places including the ISP or access point you use to connect online.  Which is what most of these people who are caught fail to realise, that IP address can be used to identify your exact location and it’s logged and recorded on virtually every device you come into contact with online.

This is the single reason that people are caught, they sit in their home whilst running some software or hacking tool – all the time leaving their IP address in server and hardware logs.  You can make it more difficult, and in fact even using a simple online IP changer through a proxy or VPN can make you much more anonymous.    However you have to use it all the time, to protect any outgoing connection, any email, any message.    It takes a lot of technical know how to hide your tracks but even more so it requires discipline.

Just watch this video, even using a VPN is not completely enough because to someone looking for patterns – you can see that VPN. People may not be able to see the actual data or the remote web site, but arguably even using a VPN to encrypt and cloak your connection can tell an analyst something.

The video shows some of the settings you can use in a program called IDC to hide your VPN connection. As you can see you can rotate your connection automatically which means that it looks much more realistic when you connect to a variety of remote servers rather than a single encrypted one.

It’s not likely to change in the near future, the criminal gangs exploit youngsters with a little technical knowledge who are unable to see the real risks. The gangs operate underground from places like Brazil, Russia anywhere where perhaps the police are ineffective at investigating cyber crime and international extradition agreements are limited.

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