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05 Mar 2011

How hard is it to speak anonymously on the Internet? Internet

A friend (yes, really) asks that if someone sends you an anonymous e-mail message, how anonymous is it? That depends how skilled they are.

If I walked into some random cybercafé, paid $5 cash to use one of their PCs, set up an account at, say, in Finland, and sent mail from my new account which I never used again, it'd be rather unlikely that anyone could track it back to me unless they could find someone who was physically there when I was and remembered the guy sitting at PC #12. The technical mail headers would generally provide an IP address that tracks back to the café, but unless they had business records that identified the customer, which are unlikely if the customer paid cash, that's where the trail ends.

Or they might burn the info onto a CD and mail it. I don't know how much secret ID info a CD-R burner adds, so if I were serious, I'd buy a $200 laptop at Best Buy, paying cash, of course, or even better a random used laptop at the Salvation Army, burn the CD on that, then accidentally drop the laptop off the end of a long pier.

Setting up a two-way channel is a lot harder, although I suspect that if you told the other party to post the responses on a Facebook page that has a lot of active friends, it'd be daunting to figure out which of the 300 people who looked at it was the bad guy, particularly if he's looking from a different cybercafé.

posted at: 11:56 :: permanent link to this entry :: 2 comments
posted at: 11:56 ::
permanent link to this entry :: 2 comments

comments...        (Jump to the end to add your own comment)

Preferably drop the laptop into the water while it's turned on. The electronics will electrolyze. If you're really paranoid, pour some concrete around it. If the river is sufficiently turbulent with particulates, there is zero chance of divers ever finding it. Short of dredging the river, that is.

(by Russ Nelson 05 Mar 2011 12:46)

This is why Chinese Internet cafes require ID. Meanwhile, the proliferation of cafes in North Africa is likely to have had an unanalyzed but positive impact on the protests there. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, no American company is noticeably profiting from independent, shabby computers for rent.

(by Avery 08 Mar 2011 01:55)

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