Be careful what you do on the internet because someone is ALWAYS watching

Posted by Read 11 Comments

South Park’s Skankhunt42 at work. Image credit tvovermind.com

There is a universal delusion that the internet gives you anonymity. People have a tendency to do what they would not normally do, say what they would never say in person and write things that would shock those that know them in real life when they are online.

Nothing can be further from the truth. The internet does not give you anonymity unless you diligently seek it and even then just one breadcrumb is all it takes for you to be unmasked and get into real trouble. I am going to share a couple of stories to illustrate my point.

What inspired this article?

So we were having a discussion on the new proposed bill that promises to outlaw the “abuse of social media” whatever that means. “How are they going to catch me. I will just use a fake account and continue to give them a piece of my mind.”, said my not so enlightened friend, basically voicing something that most people think.

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Exposing who is behind such an account would be trivial. This story of a woman who had an anonymous Facebook sleaze tabloid from a couple years ago at UCT is a case in point.

Basically, all one needs is a beginner’s level skill in JavaScript and a carefully scripted link to a server they control to get your IP address. After this, they will just make a call to your squirmish ISP who will quickly give you up and then you will be toast.

The internet is littered with such stories of people who thought they were invincible and smarter than everyone only for them to fall into a trap and end up in prison. If I had a bond coin for every such story I would be richer than Bill Gates.

The story of the Silk Road

Ross Ulbricht was a bright-eyed twenty-something year old full of dreams and ideas when he left University after obtaining his second degree. He ventured into business briefly but his entrepreneurship venture died in its crib.

In 2011 when he was 27 he created a website called the Silk Road which was sort of an Amazon for drugs on the so-called Dark Web.

At one point $300,000 worth of drugs were being sold on the site each day with him keeping 10% of the cut leading him to believe he was living through “years of prosperity.” His site was a fort and used advanced techniques such as Tor and heavy encryption thus his anonymity was all but guaranteed.

How did they catch him then? Using Google. By making use of advanced search features they discovered an obscure post which used his handle and had his real email address and the rest, as they say, is history.

He will be in jail for the rest of his life because he thought he was smarter than everyone else but he made a very tiny mistake back when he started.

I remember a similar story of a man who ran a torrent site. He got caught because years ago he had posted a question on Stackoverflow. He was not yet proficient in PHP and was asking for people’s help and clearly mentioned the domain name of his new project. He also paid for his error.

Another briefly registered his domain name using his real details before he decided to switch on privacy on the domain name. That led to his undoing.

Artem Vaulin

Artem Vaulin is the man behind the once most visited torrent site known as Kick Ass Torrents. At one point this site probably received more traffic in one day than all the local Zimbabwean sites combined.

He allegedly made millions of dollars per month in advertisement revenue hiding behind VPNs, a flimsy DMCA policy and pseudonyms.

Ironically he got caught because he decided to buy music on iTunes (he ran a pirating site) using the same IP address as the one he used to log into Facebook. The same people who busted the founder of Silk Road were involved here.

I know what you have been downloading

This site will show you some of the torrents you downloaded

The friend I mentioned above has a broadband WiMax connection and because ZESA power outages are rare these days and he has the modem plugged in a home made UPS system it can it rarely goes offline. The result is that his IP addresses don’t  change in the interim.

To scare him straight I decided to tell him the list of all the illegal movies he had downloaded in the past two weeks without even looking at his laptop. He was shocked by how easy it was.

If you are one of the people that still believe in anonymity on the internet go to this website (http://iknowwhatyoudownload.com), enter your IP and you will discover what torrents, if any, you have downloaded.

The site works in pretty much the same way that rights holders work when they track torrent downloaders. They join torrent swarms to identify the offending IP addresses and the files they are downloading.

If you use a dynamic IP you can safely bet that your ISP keeps logs on the IP addresses that you were assigned at each given time. If someone was motivated they enough they could still find you, your name and other identity particulars.

Last words

Whatever you do online it would be safe to you to assume someone is watching your every move. Be safe unless you are really, really good rest assured you can be exposed. So, don’t do anything you would not do offline out in the real world.

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11 Comments

  1. Pedro Gorosviba says:

    INTERNET (inter-networking), obviously no privacy there since its all about connecting with others. Only guaranteed way to keep your privacy is to stay off the net. (the Obama Bin Laden way). Interesting that some cyber-security gurus like John McAfee use kambudzi. for mobile phones, to try to manage NSA hacks kkkkkk

  2. Dee says:

    I just checked my IP address at http://iknowwhatyoudownload.com/en/peer/ and was shocked to find a list of torrents which I supposedly downloaded this month! What surprised me most is the fact that between Dec 15-Dec 29 my wifi was down due to a technical fault, but during that period I noticed downloads of torrents.

    1. Shiri says:

      Tru I checked the webbie it’s a fraud
      I love my porn but all I see is ana Arrow, Gotham handione ma cartoon

    2. Garikai Dzoma says:

      The service attributes downloads to IP addresses. You can be certain on Dec 15-29 someone using the IP address that you were using when you made the check. If you are a residential user you are almost certainly getting a dynamic IP. Before you jump for joy you can also be certain that your ISP knows who was using what IP at any given time.

      1. B says:

        I just checked my IP address via the link provided and the list of “alleged” torrents I “allegedly” “downloaded” this month is not any of the ones I downloaded, not to mention my internet is not fast enough to download a 4,2gb movie in 6 hours leading me to the inevitable conclusion that the site a tad bit bogus; As I was made to understand my IP address according to my ISP is static (I asked them and when I check using online find my IP tools I keep getting the same IP) so which would mean either my ISP is not being straight forward with me, or I was hacked or the website is as dodgy as those fake prophets who can conjure up a prophecy that is broad and bound to entangle someone, like saying I see dark cloud before you, there was a death in the family, it just randomly gives popular movie titles and TV series and hope to spook you that I knew what you downloaded last summer

        ~B

        PS and for the fun of it I checked using my other ISP and got a different set of torrents but strangely enough I never use this ISP for torrents since it is an ultra limited data package.

  3. kilotango says:

    I think things are changing Garikai. since Snowden exposed everything on what the NSA “could” do.. vendors understand that their users are seriously security conscious and expect certain standards to be in place. Site hacks have made people understand why hashing and salting of passwords is now standard practice. and icloud/twitter hacks have made people aware of things like two factor authentication.

    thanks to local social movements, most people know what a VPN is, and why its used.
    HTTPS is now more common than ever before, and even becoming a basic requirement for sites that use logins.

    Security by obscurity was the way of doing things before, but not anymore.

    Its one thing if you are specifically targeted like Artem Vaulin was, that guy was literally caught, but had nothing to tie everything together with.. until his itunes purchase happened. but this guy had hawks watching every movement. it wasnt a random find and he got busted.

    1. Chief says:

      The writers concern are for reckless internet users.similar to those who terrorize people hidding their number hanzi hee ndamufiksa

  4. Chief says:

    In this age no one knows you better than the internet. Even your husband does not,just check adverts that pops at ypur browser, they say a lot about your relationship with the internet.
    Any device that connects to the internet does that using an address. Bingo that’s how the internet is created for starters. My advice If you want to post funny stuff.
    1. Buy a laptop from boys dzemustreet using bond notes.
    2. Connect to zol hotspot using bond notes make sure the cctv is not working
    3. Open only the link you want to use for your nusty stuff(no emails or news feeds)
    4. Then burn the laptop or device

    That way you may be safe, but not guaranteed.
    This is impossible for most of our level 1 computer geeks in our country.

  5. jekyll says:

    If you’re looking for anonymity TOR should be your best friend. And if you’re a mobile user you can use orbot and orfox.

  6. B says:

    Do VPNs work? ? The way I understand being an ultra low level computer geek is they hide your IP correct?correct but do they mask your IP from your ISP?

    1. Garikai Dzoma says:

      They work but you need more measures. For example disable cookie tracking otherwise if someone is patient enough they will eventually know it was you because you will make a mistake.

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