Thursday, November 10, 2011

Staying hidden

It's hard to remain anonymous, unknown. In my real life and online it's difficult. There are so many little things that can tip people off, so many mistakes you can make. For an explanation of just how easy it is to find people with just a few datapoints, I recommend this fascinating New Yorker article about attempting to unmask the founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, unfortunately not available to nonsubscribers on the site but you can try googling for the full article. Here are some selections:
Kaminsky ticked off the skills Nakamoto would need to pull it off. "He's a world-class programmer, with a deep understanding of the C++ programming language," he said. "He understands economics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking."
"Either there's a team of people who worked on this," Kaminsky said, "or this guy is a genius."

Kaminsky wasn't alone in this assessment. Soon after creating the currency, Nakamoto posted a nine-page technical paper describing how bitcoin would function. That document included direct references to the work of Stuart Haber, a researcher at H.P. Labs, in Princeton. Haber is a director of the International Association for Cryptologic Research and knew all about bitcoin. "Whoever did this had a deep understanding of cryptography," Haber said when I called. "They've read the academic papers, they have a keen intelligence, and they're combining die concepts in a genuinely new way."

Haber noted that the community of cryptographers is very small: about three hundred people a year attend die most important conference, the annual gadiering in Santa Barbara. In all likelihood, Nakamoto belonged to this insular world. If I wanted to find him, die Crypto 2011 conference would be the place to start.
***
Nakamoto's extensive online postings have some distinctive characteristics. First of all, there is the flawless English. Over the course of two years, he dashed off about eighty thousand words—the approximate length of a novel—and made only a few typos. He covered topics ranging from die theories of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises to die history of commodity markets. Perhaps most interestingly, when he created the first fifty bitcoins, now known as the "genesis block," he permanendy embedded a brief line of text into the data: "The Times 03/fan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks."

This is a reference to a Times of London article that indicated diat the British government had failed to stimulate the economy. Nakamoto appeared to be saying diat it was time to try something new. The text, hidden amid a jumble of code, was a sort of digital battle cry. It also indicated that Nakamoto read a British newspaper. He used British spelling ("favour," "colour," "grey," "modernised") and at one point described something as being "bloody hard." An apartment was a "flat," math was "maths," and his comments tended to appear after normal business hours ended in the United Kingdom. In an initial post announcing bit-coin, he employed American-style spelling. But after that a British style appeared to flow naturally.

I had this in mind when I started to attend the lectures at the Crypto 2011 conference, including ones with titles such as "Leftover Hash Lemma, Revisited" and "Time-Lock Puzzles in the Random Oracle ModeL" In the back of a darkened auditorium, I stared at the attendee list. A Frenchman onstage was talking about testing the security of encryption systems. The most effective method, he said, is to attack die system and see if it fails. I ran my finger past dozens of names and addresses, circling residents of the United Kingdom and Ireland. There were nine.
How important is it that he hides?

Nakamoto had good reason to hide: people who experiment with currency tend to end up in trouble. In 1998, a Hawaiian resident named Bernard von Notllaus began fabricating silver and gold coins that he dubbed Libert}' Dollars. Nine years later, the U.S. government charged Notllaus with "conspiracy against die United States." He was found guilty and is awaiting sentencing. "It is a violation of federal law for individuals... to create private coin or currency systems to compete with the official coinage and currency of the United States," the F.B.I, announced at the end of die trial.
The moral of this story is that it is very hard to not have a presence, online or offline, that would eventually lead to your detection. Trying to keep stuff unknown is a good general strategy, but I think the only chance of real success is poisoning the well with disinformation.

59 comments:

  1. Staying absolutely anonymous online is impossible I guess. If someone wants to find you and they have the skills and access to information they will find you. A generation is growing up these days that will be sorry later for all the info they put online now. A lot of future politicians ... will have to resign in 10 to 30 years from now because of what they post today in their young years without thinking of the consequences.

    Anonymous online ... It's like people trying to flee because of a serious conviction. The FAST-teams go after people that have fled after a conviction of more than 3 to 5 years (depending on the country). Most are caught because they keep in touch with old friends and relatives. To flee successfully, you would have to start all over again.

    Nobody is anonymous online. You could only be if you would start a new life, and preferably only use the internet with great restrictions.

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  2. A lot of future politicians ... will have to resign in 10 to 30 years from now because of what they post today in their young years without thinking of the consequences.

    Not unless the Millennial generation is more tolerant of youthful online indiscretion and are therefore inclined to give future politicos a pass on that, in the same way that Boomers disregarded Clinton’s infidelity and draft dodging in 92 and the GI Generation overlooked Reagan’s divorce in 76 and 80. (Past being used to predict future… insert rueful chuckle here.)

    I do however assume that candidates who posted extensively on blogs about/for sociopaths in their misspent youth won’t be getting a pass. Ever.

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  3. Wise advice to the attendants of sociopathworld. Though I think the article includes tips on how to find people out as well. What A pot stirrer I'd guess you to be. The timing of this is amusing to zhawqs over defensive comments as to her identity and lonely loserness.

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  4. And Daniel, though I think you occasionally give the anonymi too much credibility, I was amused by your witty rationale yesterday.

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  5. I find it gross that the U.S. government wants that much control of the markets (referring to the end of your quotes.) I can see why - typically, government's attempt to manage their economies, so having a secondary currency on the market would spell danger, and a loss of control to some of them. Nevertheless, if people want to trade, their means of trading should be up to them, I think.

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  6. Ukan, can I borrow your big black lover from earlier? Or would that be intruding?

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  7. Loose ass, small dick. That's the way I like em! Where's my man at? Come here baby, let me pump that delicious butter soft ass for ya! You're daddies little bitch, aren't ya, Ukan? Yes, you are...

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  8. Yes! The Ukan abuse brigade is here!!!! :D

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  9. Oh yes! Oh yes! Give me more of that ravenous, fat, black cock! I need it so bad...I've been very bad today..I need to be punished for what I did! Zhawq, punish me! I want it!

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  10. Ukan's current muscular, pale, ginger boyfriend catches him in the actNovember 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Why would you do this to me? You big meanie!

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  11. I'm down! Defribilate me with your giant, black cock! Quick!

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  12. Missus, what do you do whilst he's with his balck lover? Are you the driver? Do you give them free rides?

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  13. "Trying to keep stuff unknown is a good general strategy, but I think the only chance of real success is poisoning the well with disinformation."

    I agree.

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  14. all this cock talk is making me hungry, for cock

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  15. Then you're in luck...

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  16. you wanna chew on my neck a little first? be gentle

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  17. Very well...*Chews firmly on neck*

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  18. What is all that?

    And i agreed with that as well. It seemed accurate. Which made mes questionable hour seem like an amusing facade. People who seek to be known through a blog are the same people who set themselves up in their real life for inevitable failures by hoping for reciprocal goodness from people in society. The people with the most desperate issues seem to be the ones most inclined to expose their truths, and information that will expose them for what they are. I assume they seek it the most, because they are the easiest to find out.

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  19. theres an interesting blend of average victims, broken denial cases, and sociopaths or otherwise amused intelligent onlookers. Group average victim wants to tell everyone everything. Group broken denial backwardly opens up with their life story, setting themselves up for exposure, and group socio onlookers laughs at what they can't help but see.

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  20. Staying anonymous online is difficult because it requires complete deception. Where you're from, your mannerisms and patterns, grammar or lack thereof, knowledge of past events, hell, even opinions can even give you away. For me, it's about pattern recognition. Why does someone do this time and again. That knowledge also helps when trying to throw someone off your scent.

    The games can get fun, too, especially when dealing with someone used to the game. You'll find fake email accounts, social network accounts with fully cultivated friends lists, and other fake paper trails like Yahoo answers, popular forums, et cetera, all using methods to make someone's distraction seem more real.

    Those approaches stop most sleuths from trying to pry harder by digitally tracking you. So long as it looks like a duck, most people don't question well crafted decoys.

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  21. It's also fun when you've run across someone who has been strolling around the web with a stolen identity. They can be almost impossible to track short of actual hacking and traps because the person they've hijacked has such a huge and established real online footprint.

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  22. in soviet russia beeper rape YOU!!!

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  23. I'm rather bummed I missed the zhawq attack. It seems a slow day after the storm.

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  24. I still haven't read much of the attack. My computer kept freezing up at work, and I'm deep in a book right now. It's just as well... we need a new retard to pick on.

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  25. I'm reading the Anita Blake series, from Laurell K. Hamilton. I'm supposed to be reading some books that were assigned to me, to help me with the revision of my memoir, but they don't have really cool Necromancer/Vampire Killers in them. Jean-Claude, is a good example of the kind of psychopath Zwank would like to be. When I read some of the wannabe sociopaths on here... it always makes me think of him, but just a very poor representation; of course.

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  26. Lol. That's cute. I'm not into the necromancer vampire stuff. I love all the stuffy boring classics. Victorian romance novels and moby dick. Thus spake zarathustra. The house of mirth. The portable Jung and man and his symbols. I'm out of reading material currently, so I'm moving through shakespeare. I'm open to suggestions.

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  27. The classics aren't boring. They are timeless because they are the very best.

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  28. I agree completely. But typically my reading selection is dubbed boring by average people.
    I love anything guarenteed to be great, though.

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  29. i loved Jane Austin, but since my disillusionment I love Edith Wharton ever more. And I'm starting to have a fondness for Fitzgerald.

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  30. I'm supposed to be reading some books that were assigned to me, to help me with the revision of my memoir,

    Ok, first of all you have already made a fool out of yourself. Assigned? Assigned to you how? I don't have to have anything assigned to me I just do what I want. Thats what makes me a psychopath and you a sociopath. I learn and function like a human being. Although sometimes people think Im part machine ^L^,

    but they don't have really cool Necromancer/Vampire Killers in them. Jean-Claude, is a good example of the kind of psychopath Zwank would like to be.

    First off, how do you know what I would like to be? I would not like to be anybody but myself. Flawed as I am as a murderer and psychopath. Think before you speak Eden because the words you say can snare you. Then my words will come and trap you in your own words and I will devour your words with it.

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  32. Zhawq

    You love digging your own holes eh?

    This SHIT is bananas... B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

    And that is one obnoxious signature smiley, btw

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  34. Whoa Zwang you've really lost it now.

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  35. I'm amused that people still think I'm my husband, too.

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  36. I disagree with everything stated here.

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  37. on topic of hidin

    standard old pointy tip pelting knife I have one wood handle the other is delrin I think wood is nicer I have used a sheet rock/utility knife a lot the last coupla times

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  38. @Zwank

    Oh that was much more fun than I originally thought. Maybe I was wrong about needing a new retard.

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  39. I don't know who wrote the above under the name Zhawq, but it wasn't me.

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  40. Whoever you are, pal, you forgot to add my avatar.

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  41. Wow, somebody really hates me, huh? Interesting.

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  42. Well, I guess I got my answer, so I shouldn't complain: It is fairly easy to hack someone's account if you bother to do so.

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  43. So that was why you didn't show up yesterday, "YouKnowWho". I knew there was something odd about that. Haha.

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  44. You still haven't answered my question.

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  45. I am not Z. This is a test of the comment system. This is only a test.

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  46. -=This Is Not Zhawq=-

    What occurred above isn't a hack, just an impersonation.

    I am sharing the following information to make this readership aware, and to undermine future trolls.

    When one attempts to comment they can select "Name/URL" as an identity option. From there you are given the chance to put in an arbitrary name and url to which clicking the name will link you.

    The impostor has simply taken Zhawq's name and paired it with Zhawq's profile url.

    (Which really should be prevented by the system, it should not allow profile links to actual accounts, but hey, blogger is crap. Get wordpress.)

    I don't know which is more annoying, the people that exploit this error or the devs who refuse to patch it.

    -Innomen

    I recommend everyone start impersonating each other until the devs notice and fix it.

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  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  48. -=Duplicate=-

    What occurred above isn't a hack, just an impersonation.

    I am sharing the following information to make this readership aware, and to undermine future trolls.

    When one attempts to comment they can select "Name/URL" as an identity option. From there you are given the chance to put in an arbitrary name and url to which clicking the name will link you.

    The impostor has simply taken Zhawq's name and paired it with Zhawq's profile url.

    (Which really should be prevented by the system, it should not allow profile links to actual accounts, but hey, blogger is crap. Get wordpress.)

    I don't know which is more annoying, the people that exploit this error or the devs who refuse to patch it.

    I recommend everyone start impersonating each other until the devs notice and fix it.

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  49. Well you can tell the difference because it's a grey icon in front of the name instead of an orange Blogger icon.

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  50. "Well you can tell the difference because it's a grey icon in front of the name instead of an orange Blogger icon."

    Except you bought it too!

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  51. Wow you have completed it again. Some wonderful details here. You have made me break my comment embargo, cheers :)

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